In the fitness industry, every few months, there is a new buzzword. Whether or not this new method of fat loss, muscle building, or whatever goal has been around for a long time or not, we go through cycles of certain things being popular or not. As of late, I have heard a lot of talk on the topic of Intermittent Fasting. A method where you “fast”, or don’t eat for 16 hours usually, followed by an “eating” window, typically lasting 8 hours. Although the concept of intermittent fasting is not new and has been researched in past years, as well as written about in our blogs, it has again gained traction in the new outlets and fitness community.
Intermittent Fasting, although I do think it can be an effective way to lose fat, has brought with it some pretty bold statements that in themselves don’t make sense, and we should be careful not to just jump in blindly, listening to what this person that looks fit on FaceBook says was the end-all-be-all way to eat. Let’s talk about some of the statements, and why they are not valid or are misleading.
- Intermittent Fasting increases human growth hormone (HGH), and therefore will help you to build muscle. While this sounds like it makes sense, it is wrongly stated and very misleading. HGH is a hormone in the body that enhances muscle-growing effects of testosterone and anabolic steroids. HGH is not anabolic (muscle growing) in and of itself. When you have not eaten, it is true that there is HGH released in the body, but probably more as a hormonal response, not to build muscle.
- Intermittent Fasting has anabolic properties (muscle building). Building upon the statement above, intermittent fasting in and of itself cannot be anabolic. In order to be anabolic, you must either be in a caloric surplus (more calories taken in than being bored), or be on an anabolic substance (steroid, testosterone, etc.). When we are not eating, we can only be in a catabolic state, or breakdown state. Intuitively speaking, if we were able to gain muscle by not eating, people that just never eat would be huge!
- You will lose weight just by intermittent fasting. This is not true. It all really comes down to the amount of calories taken in versus calories burned. For instance, if you burn 2000 calories per day and are trying to lose weight, you need to be eating about 1500 calories per day to lose 1 pound per week, excluding all other variables. It does not matter if you eat those 1500 calories in an 8 hour window, or spread throughout 6 meals in 12 hours throughout the day. If calories and protein are equated, studies have shown that groups on each of the above regimen saw the same amount of fat loss.
Now, let’s talk about why Intermittent Fasting may be a good idea for you!
Intermittent Fasting can increase adherence. I’ve said this over and over again to clients. Consistency is what it is all about. If being restricted to an 8 hour window each day will allow you to stay within your target calories for the day, than intermittent fasting may be a good idea for you from an adherence standpoint. We tend to do most of our snacking/binging later at night when we are bored or are winding down from a long day. So, maybe having your food cut off at 8 pm is a good idea for you so that you aren’t tempted later to blow your calories for the day.
As with anything in the fitness industry, it is important to take statements made in the mass media with a grain of salt. There are a lot of valid ways to achieve goals out there, but it is all about finding what you can adhere to; be consistent with; and make an enjoyable lifestyle with! If you can find a path to your goals that you actually enjoy and choose to do every day, you will absolutely crush whatever goals you have! There is no quick way, just hard work and dedication. And, if you don’t know how or aren’t sure about something, ask a professional!