Not So FAST

Intermittent fasting is one of those topics that evokes strong emotions and argument in the health, fitness, and nutrition worlds. You likely think it can save the planet or lead to an early grave.

Last summer I wrote a post on intermittent fasting (IF) and my final statement was: “Even though there are some impressive intermittent fasting results I think I’ll be happy to wake up and eat breakfast tomorrow morning.”

Not so fast, though, on that fasting conclusion. Today I am now on day 9 of intermittent fasting! I haven’t bought any of the current popular books on the topic yet ( I do have Ori Hofmkekler’s, The Warrior Diet from years ago) but I’m loosely following Martin Berkan’s Leangains plan.

Martin has a massive site that I’ve scanned. His plan is more detailed than what I’m doing. Basically, I eat dinner around 7:00 and don’t eat again until around noon. So, I’m fasting about 16-17 hours each day.

I eat a light lunch and then a piece of fruit before my 5:00 pm workout. My biggest meal is dinner which is also my post-workout meal. I’ve also cut my coffee consumption down considerably. I now only drink 2 cups/day and none after noon. (The purpose of this post isn’t to give you the details of what I eat every day!)

One year ago I tried IF and it simply didn’t work for me. I felt awful. Actually, I couldn’t do it! Now, I’m doing it and feel great. I have much more energy. My workouts are great. I sleep better and feel much trimmer.

But what about that research I quoted in that post last year? You know the one about the increased risk of heart attacks!

Last year I had a bad experience with IF and set out to find research that made me feel better about my dogmatic conclusion that it wasn’t  a good thing to do for my health.

I found the research to back up my claim. And that’s the problem with “scientific” research. Rarely does science come completely on one side of an issue. There’s almost always a dissenting voice somewhere. It’s easy to find a scientific voice to agree with your conclusions.

This is especially true with nutrition and exercise. But it’s also true in most other areas. Most people don’t realize that even medicine isn’t an exact science.

intermittent fasting

This is illustrated in a recent discussion I had with a surgeon. He was discussing a case with one of his partners. His colleague presented the details of his patient’s case and his proposal to perform a major surgical procedure as the optimum treatment.

“Not so fast!” said my surgeon friend. Hold that scalpel! The newest research proposes a much more conservative treatment. After further discussion his partner decided not to remove a certain portion of his patient’s body!

You can argue for or against IF and have plenty of “science” behind you. That’s just the way it is. So what do you do?

When it comes to nutrition, exercise, and fitness in general I think you really do have to “listen to your body.” I know this is an overused phrase but there is some truth in it. Some truth.

I say some because if you try IF you’ll have to ignore some things your body “tells” you. For example we tend to think a little grumbling in our tummy is a bad thing that we have to extinguish with a cheeseburger. Don’t fret over a little grumbling. It won’t kill you and it goes away quickly.

On the other hand if you’re feeling light-headed, dizzy, and can’t focus you’re probably needing some nutrition. Just be sensible!

My point in this post is not to convince you to try intermittent fasting. It’s simply to say that when you’re condemning something based on “scientific research” you need to stop and realize that there may be conflicting data to consider.

I’m still researching the research on IF. In the meantime, it’s working very well for me.

I hope to write posts in the future on the details of the various programs. I’ll probably try to follow one of the popular IF plans closely in the future. If you have experience with any of these I’d appreciate your input.

Here are some of the plans I’m considering:

  1. Leangains – As I said, I’ve spent some time on Martin’s site. I really need to explore the details of his plan.
  2. Eat Stop Eat – This is a very popular plan by Brad Pilon. I’ve read where some people combine Leangains and Eat Stop Eat. 
  3. Renegade Diet – This is written by Jason Ferruggia, the chief training advisor to Men’s Fitness Magazine. Based on the description of this one it really appeals to me.
  4. The Fat Loss Troubleshoot– This is written by Leigh Peele whom I’ve just come across. I’m not sure if this book has anything to do with IF but it looks like it might have some good information about fat loss.

There are many more IF books but these are on my radar today. Speaking of radar, just remember: NOT SO FAST when jumping to conclusions based on today’s scientific research.

You might be thinking, “None of these books/programs were written by scientists. I only follow sound science.” That’s fine. We learn much from scientists and their laboratories. But science changes. Here’s an example.

For years the scientists told us that skipping breakfast leads to obesity.

But this article published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition reports a study that disputes this claim. The researchers found that the conclusion that skipping breakfast leads to obesity distorts the scientific data.

So, HOLD THAT SCALPEL before you cut out intermittent fasting as a possible means to staying trim and healthy.

 ** Don’t start Intermittent Fasting, exercising, or anything else for that matter before consulting your physician!