Intermittent Fasting Is It The Secret To Losing Weight And Keeping It Off Forever

Intermittent Fasting Is It The Secret To Losing Weight And Keeping It Off Forever

I constantly get asked about fasting, especially intermittent fasting, usually by people looking to shortcut the initial stages of acquiring better health or trying to lose weight quickly. Fasting and intermittent fasting are often used by those trendy personal trainers or supposed health experts as a quick fix technique without knowing the theory and premise behind these strategies. There is a physiological reason why fasting works and is a natural progression in The Simple Life Healthy Lifestyle. That is, if it is done correctly.

This topic is usually very confusing, especially for those just starting a weight loss or exercise program. That is why I never recommend that beginners incorporate or start an intermittent, periodic, or any, fasting program. That being said, I do think such a program has many benefits for those who have mastered the basic principles of the Primal lifestyle.

I have personally experimented with fasting over the last several years and consistently use intermittent fasting as a way to stay in fat-burning mode. This being said, I do not do it every single day, but I do it a majority of the time depending on my physical exercise exertion and how I feel.

What I discuss in this article will be a far departure from the usual information concerning proper nutrition, which is also why I created the Primal Power Method. For those of you unfamiliar with this concept of fasting, I only ask you to keep an open mind, as there is no specific program that works for everyone. When it comes to health and wellness, this is simply another tool to add to your knowledge base.

What is intermittent fasting?

So what is intermittent fasting? It is often called periodic fasting, and both terms are interchangeable, as they basically refer to the same concept: Periods of not consuming any foods (usually only consuming water or unsweetened tea) followed by eating fewer larger or smaller meals than usual, during a certain time frame. This is not to be confused with actual fasting, which is when you do not consume any food for 24-36 hours.

There are many theories of how to schedule eating during intermittent fasting, but we will stick to the most basic and widely used schedule of 16-8. 16-8 basically means 16 hours of fasting, followed by eating all your meals in an 8 hour window. Usually people who follow this type of schedule eat their last meal anywhere from 5-8 PM, then fast until late morning usually between 9-12 PM, or until roughly 16 hours of fasting completed. Everyone schedule is different, so you have to figure out what works for you.

How does intermittent fasting work?

The basic premise is that intermittent fasting kick starts your metabolism by keeping your body in a fat-burning state for longer periods of time. By not eating for 16 hours, your body will burn through its glucose stores and will use available glycogen (when needed) and stored fat as the body’s main source of energy. Of course, this only works if you are eating a healthy diet. If you are eating a diet high in sugar and processed white flour or carbohydrates, you will never obtain your health and weight loss goals, no matter what type of fasting or exercise program you follow. If you have constantly elevated blood sugar, thus elevated insulin levels, you will store more and more body fat over time.

In 2011, researchers at the Intermountain Medical Center Heart Institute demonstrated that routine periodic fasting burns body fat and is good for your health:

“Fasting causes hunger or stress. In response, the body releases more cholesterol, allowing it to utilize fat as a source of fuel, instead of glucose. This decreases the number of fat cells in the body,” says Dr. Horne. “This is important because the fewer fat cells a body has, the less likely it will experience insulin resistance, or diabetes.”

In order to get the full benefits, people should combine intermittent fasting with a solid exercise program. Upon waking, instead of eating breakfast, you go to the gym or incorporate some type of exercise prior to your first meal of the day, which is technically lunch. By exercising near the end of your 16-hour fast, you kick your body into fat-burning overdrive, as you no longer are using readily available blood glucose as fuel. The concept is this: When you eat consistently throughout the day, you are constantly dumping glucose in your blood stream, never allowing it to drop low enough for your body to go after your stored body fat as an energy source. In order to avoid going into a prolonged catabolic state, which is breaking down muscle for fuel, I do recommend you consume a recovery meal 30-90 minutes after you exercise, especially if you are trying to build muscle. This can get a little tricky if you are exercising first thing in the morning, so you will need to plan your fasting hours accordingly by properly timing your last meal of the day.

I usually carry a protein shake in my gym bag, consisting of high-quality protein powder, coconut/almond milk, almond butter, and some fruit. This recovery meal contains a quick-digesting protein, healthy fats, carbohydrates, and fiber. These vital macronutrients give my body what it requires to maintain and repair muscle and restore energy levels. If you feel you have low energy before your workout, I recommend eating a small snack or drinking some green tea with a teaspoon of coconut oil; this will ensure you have enough energy for a good workout. It is essential you eat something before exercising if you feel lightheaded; even I have experienced this from time to time, and I have years of fasting experience.

Can Intermittent Fasting Slow the Aging Process?

In the last several years, more research has been done on 24-hour and intermittent fasting and how it relates to stomach fat loss, anti-aging, increased HDL levels (good cholesterol), reduced blood pressure, reduced blood sugar, and improved insulin sensitivity.

When you incorporate fasting into your health and wellness program, you need to realize that you are putting your body into a catabolic state, which means your body is feeding off its tissues to maintain energy and life-supporting needs. Research shows that when you combine fasting with exercise, your body is forced to break down its tissues, and it always prefers to sacrifice its damaged proteins and old or sick cells (such as cancer cells) first. Immune cells will tag damaged proteins and old, sick and cancerous cells, and those cells will be digested and recycled back into new cells and tissues. As a result, you are fighting the main cause of aging, which is the failure of your body to repair or replace damaged cells. This does not mean the aging process stops; this process slows down the proliferation of damaged or aged cells in your body.

During the same above referenced study in 2011, researchers at the Intermountain Medical Center Heart Institute found the following:

“This recent study also confirmed earlier findings about the effects of fasting on human growth hormone (HGH), a metabolic protein. HGH works to protect lean muscle and metabolic balance, a response triggered and accelerated by fasting. During the 24-hour fasting periods, HGH increased an average of 1,300 percent in women and nearly 2,000 percent in men.”

We now know that healthy levels of HGH are important to the anti-aging process. I’m sure you have seen those commercials peddling HGH level optimizing supplements, because companies know the importance of HGH as well. Now, that is not to say certain natural-based supplements can’t be used to assist with HGH levels; however, most of the ones you see advertised, making outrageous health claims, are pure junk. I can guarantee you will not lose drastic weight and gain hard, lean muscle by taking their magical health supplements.

Helpful Suggestions

1. Work your way up to the 16-hour fast. First, try going 4 or 5 hours between meals and then work your way up.

2. Remember you naturally go into fat-burning mode while you sleep; this is the reason you fast from your last meal in the evening until the 14-16 hour mark is reached the next day. The main concept of intermittent fasting is to prolong the natural fat-burning mode that occurs during your sleep cycle.

3. Coconut oil is your friend during fasting. It is comprised of medium-chain triglycerides, which are easily converted into ketone bodies and have a glycemic index of 0 (all healthy fats have a 0 glycemic index)—thus no insulin response—but are used for quick energy.

4. If you feel light-headed during your fast, eat something. This could mean your blood glucose is extremely low (hypoglycemic).

5. If you are pregnant or trying to conceive, you shouldn’t use fasting techniques.

6. Yes, it is safe for athletes to use intermittent fasting, you will not bonk if fully fat adapted. I often road or mountain bike for several hours without carb-loading or sucking down packs of sugar-filled goo, just water that is it. But being a competitive athlete has far different macro-nutrient requirements than the everyday Joe and Jane, so you will have to experiment and adapt to your level of training.

Remember this is not for Beginners

Why don’t I recommend beginners use intermittent fasting? Here is the simple answer: The average American is a pure sugar-burner for the most part. Meaning, they have continuously elevated insulin levels, thus inhibiting their ability to release the hormone glucagon. Glucagon is responsible for releasing stored glycogen (stored glucose in the liver and muscles) and converting stored triglycerides (fat tissue) into usable energy. So when a sugar-burner tries to use intermittent fasting or fasting to lose weight, their body goes into starvation mode because they no longer have the constant glucose in their bloodstream. Your body has to first become fat-adapted, meaning it takes time for your metabolic pathways to be able to readily use fat as a more constant energy source. So the result is you go into ketosis, which is when you have too many ketone bodies (fat used for vital organ and brain function in place of glucose) in the bloodstream that your body cannot use. This is what causes strange breath odor in people who are not fat adapted. The results are twofold: First, sugar-burners become ravenous when they attempt intermittent fasting because their main fuel source (sugar) has now been cut off and they cannot use their stored fat to take its place. Second, they go into severe detox mode, experiencing headaches, achy joints, moodiness, fatigue, and mental fog.

With any program that uses fasting, you have to be very careful. If you do not follow the principles correctly, as outlined in this article, you can do a great deal of damage to your body and health. Only people with advanced knowledge in health and nutrition should attempt this technique. This article is intended for educational purposes only. Those interested in intermittent fasting should seek the advice of a healthcare professional.

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21 thoughts on “Intermittent Fasting Is It The Secret To Losing Weight And Keeping It Off Forever”

  1. I do IF 20/4 ,5*times a week along with fasted hiit cardio I’m kinda confused about the timing of my post workout meal and what I’m supposed to eat post workout?

    1. Well it depends what your goals are. Are you just doing HIIT cardio, no resistance training? Getting a meal in 30min to 2 hours after workout is important when trying to gain muscle, but not as important for maintaining or weight loss. May I ask why you are only doing a 4 hour eating window? That is a long fasting time for 5 days a week, most people only do that type of prolonged fast a couple times a week. I would need a lot more info to try and figure out, when and what you would need to consume macro wise.

  2. Linda McCone, FL

    As to the coconut oil, does this mean that I can take it at any time during the sixteen hour period?

  3. Hi Gary,

    Great article, thanks. I spent almost a year keto-adapted and the healthiest I’ve been in my life before going on holiday and having it all fall apart. After gaining back the 14kgs I’d lost I stayed that way for about a year and half before realising how awful I was feeling mentally and physically! Long story short I have been about 3 months now eating clean and feeling great again but I have hit a weight loss plateau half way through to my goal. I’ve been the same weight for about 3.5 weeks now, despite trying less calories, more calories, less dairy, etc. etc. I also use intermittent fasting much as you’ve described (usually from 6-7pm to 10-11am but I will have a coffee with a tablespoon of coconut oil around 9-10am. I do a half hour circuit video 3 times a week and try to be as active as possible in the day with things like always taking the stairs (I work on the 4th floor so this can be several times a day) but I have some lower back issues so I have to be quite careful with vigorous exercise. I can see my body shape changing which is great but I have 7kg or so to go.

    I’m at a bit of a loss now (no pun intended) how to get myself back on track and was wondering if you had any suggestions?

    Many thanks,

    1. Hey Susan,

      One thing I’m seeing you are missing is doing some resistance training. Add in some weights, pushups, pullups, air squats, dips 2-3 times a week. That should boost your metabolism, and get you past your plateau.

  4. sixteeneightfaster

    hi ,

    i have started 16/8 method for weight loss ….. my concern is i have pcos and take a 1g RIOMET (glucophage)everyday ………i have atleast 35 kgs to lose…pls advice if i shld continue the glucophage or stop it altogether..and how to adjust macros to look for max weight loss…..

    1. For people who have blood sugar issues and/or type diabetes 2, I do not recommend intermittent fasting until you get your blood sugar (diet/exercise) under control. As far as taking glucophage, that is something you will have to work with your doctor in order to decide if you need to take this drug or not. I will say this type 2 diabetes is a lifestyle issue unlike type 1 which is a genetic/autoimmune disease. The macro ratios I recommend for weight loss in the beginning are (calorie ratios) 50% protein, 30% healthy fats, 20% carbs. These ratios are then modified depending on progress. Being healthy and losing weight to be healthier are permanent lifestyle changes, not quick fixes.

  5. I have a question about coffee. Can I drink black coffee in the morning and still have that considered fasting?

    I have a baby in the house and coffee/caffeine is the only way I’m able to function at work after so little sleep at night.

  6. Confused, you suggest exercising upon waking and eating a post workout meal within 30-60 minutes of your workout but then suggest, when practicing 16/8 fasting, that your eating window begins at noon(ish). What time are you waking up?? 10 am? Like most people I wake up at 6 -7am, so clearly, if I exercise after waking for an hour and am done at 8am I still have 4 hrs before I break my fast. How does this jive with what you are suggesting?

    You made no mention of BCAAs. I have read to take 10gm of those every 2hrs post workout until you break the fast.

    1. Andria, you simply have your last meal of the day at the time to get you in the 16 hour fasting window. I made some corrections to the article to make it more clear. I was trying to give people an idea of what is the way most will do it, not factoring all the variables of schedules. Everyone’s schedule is completely different, so I can only give basic guidelines, but I think the article makes more sense now.

      BCAA’s are not a complete protein source, so I really don’t think it would much of a help while in the fasting state. You need a complete protein source in order to maintain or build muscle. BCAA’s are great as an addition of amino acids proven to help with recovery for competitive athletes, but again they would be consumed with a meal containing a complete protein source to get the best results.

    1. First, I would recommend your last meal is between 6-7pm that way by the time you eat breakfast, even if it is as early as 6am you are getting at least a 12 hours fasting period. For those who are looking to get a little leaner or just can’t seem to lose those last 10 pounds I recommend you fast for 14-16 hours after your last meal of the day. If you are going to have your last meal between 8-10pm your first meal will be between 12-2pm, which I don’t think is realistic for most so I would adjust your last meal time as discussed above.

  7. You say coconut oil is your friend, but do not explain how to use it. Is it ok to take a tablespoon during the fast? Is it ok to chew gum during the fast? I have just begun to try IF. I notice I get a headache during midafternoon (within my food window). I feel great during the fast. I would not say I’m a beginner (sugar burner). I am female, 46, about 22%BF, and eat pretty darn clean during the week. I weight train and run. What’s with the headaches?

    1. Hey Rina,

      Taking a tablespoon or two of coconut oil during your fast is completely fine. It has a glycemic index of 0, so it will not mess with your blood sugar levels. Gum is also fine, a good gum that is clean with no sugar is Pur. The headache could be a couple of things: 1st if you are a caffeine drinker and are not consuming caffeine during your fast day, or it could be simply you are detoxing as you are burning stored fat. Remember fat stores toxins, so they could have been there for a long time, and you are just now starting to release them into your blood stream during your fast. The headaches should go away after a couple of weeks, if not if could be low glucose levels, but I don’t think so.

      1. Thanks Gary! I’ve been doing great, btw. I love the energy I feel during my fast. The coconut oil really helps take any edge off. I only do 1 tbsp. And I enjoy doing my weight workout in the fasted state. Woot!

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