Breakfast… The most important meal of the day. Especially if you want to lose weight, right?
That metabolism boost your first meal offers will give your body the energy to start the day firing on all cylinders.
This combined with eating many small meals spaced throughout the day serves as the perfect combination for losing weight and living an overall healthy lifestyle.
This is not really news. The importance of a hearty breakfast has been ingrained in many cultures. But what does science say about skipping breakfast?
Perhaps you weren’t given the full story.
I want to share with you the health benefits of this simple technique that throws a lot of conventional “wisdom” right out the window!
What Is Intermittent Fasting (I.F.)?
It’s not a diet, it’s an eating cycle.
Simply put: you eat during a specific window of time and refrain from eating outside of that window.
This is often in the form of daily 16-hour fasts but several other popular options exist which we will get into in a moment. With this fasting schedule you would have 8 hours to consume all your calories (2,000 to 2,500 on average) for the day.
This eating pattern has been used by various notable intellectuals throughout history, including Plato, Mark Twain, Benjamin Franklin, and Hippocrates.
Additionally, general fasting continues to be a common practice within numerous world religions.
Like many things that are vital to healthy living, this concept stems from our upbringing as a species. Our ancestors experienced food scarcity on the account of illness or injury, violent weather conditions, seasonal shortages, and just plain bad luck.
Not to say meals of the past were not plentiful—what they were, however, was unpredictable.
This was a fact of life and our bodies evolved accordingly. As a result, periods without food are anticipated and embraced by our brain, digestive system, and other organs.
So What’s the Difference Between Fasting and Starving?
The primary distinction is the length of time you choose to implement this practice. If we look at fasting in general, a 24-hour period is another common duration and is well within the safety zone for the average person.
Just for assurance, an article in the British Medical Journal stated that humans can survive 30 to 40 days before the effects of starvation set in.
“The earliest evidence for lowered metabolic rate in response to fasting occurred after 60 hours (-8% in resting metabolic rate). Other studies show metabolic rate is not impacted until 72-96 hours have passed.”
-Martin Berkhan (Nutritional Consultant)
Although I would never intentionally test this, it should offer some perspective and peace of mind that short periods without eating are not something to be afraid of.
Even so, you should never implement fasting of any kind without the consent of your doctor. Most medical doctors will support your desire to work this into your lifestyle.
However, their expertise comes into play in regards to pre-existing conditions or medications you may be on. Circumstances like these have to be taken into consideration when deciding whether this is safe and/or how long of a fasting period is best for you.
How Does Intermittent Fasting Work?
The weight loss game is about getting our body to use our fat-stores as energy. Our eating patterns often make us miss this opportunity. Every meal we eat, once processed, is turned into instant energy within the blood.
And this is our body’s preferred fuel source, not the fat you’ve stored.
When you’re in a proper fasting state your body doesn’t have any food to convert into energy, therefore you’re more likely to burn fat as fuel. If you workout while fasting, your fat cells will be especially targeted to provide the necessary energy to keep you going.
So what’s with the idea that we should be eating six meals a day?
The concept is based on the idea that if you eat often you will burn additional calories due to your body having to process food six time a day as opposed to two or three.
This is a common misnomer. Our bodies use the same amount of energy to process our calorie intake regardless of how we break it up.
If weight loss is a goal of yours, meal frequency can have a big impact, but you have to be eating quality foods first and foremost. A whole foods meal plan is something we highly recommend.
[Related Post: 5 Science-Backed Weight Loss Tips to Try Today!]
Will Fasting Make Me Lose Muscle?
Absolutely not! It’s actually been shown to help increase your gains. Muscle is not created to be used as a primary energy reserve, that’s what fats are for. Our bodies are really very skilled at preserving muscle tissue.
During sleep your glycogen levels (a form of energy stored in the cells of the liver and the muscles) become depleted and are further drained with exercise.
[Related Post: How to Get Quality Sleep and Improve Your Health! (Infographic)]
What this means for you is that the meal directly following your workout will be processed incredibly efficiently. Your body will use the energy to aid in the recovery process and to replenish the glycogen in your muscles. This reduces the amount of energy left to be converted into fat.
Additionally, this eating pattern has been shown to significantly increase human growth hormone which directly impacts your potential for muscle growth!
One concern many people have initially in regards to fitness is giving up their pre-workout meal. I will admit that your workout will feel different, without a doubt. You will quickly get over this though and soon understand that it is not a hindrance. I actually like the feeling much better. It’s hard to put into words but I feel more “burn” even with heavy lifting.
What Are the Benefits of Intermittent Fasting?
Well, I wouldn’t be writing this article if the benefits weren’t enticing and certainly worth looking at! Here are a few of the excellent benefits researchers are seeing that you should know about.
1 It increases your cellular repair.
Current data leads us to believe that sporadic fasting may represent a safe, simple and inexpensive means to promote cellular protection and repair. As a result, the body is better enabled to defend against malignancy and infection.
2 It may be a key to longevity.
A study of lab rats at the National Institute on Aging has shown some compelling results in relation to fasting and longevity. The research centered around a group of rats that could eat food at will (as most people do) and another group that fasted every other day. The mean lifespan of the second group was 83% longer than the rats without a fasting meal pattern.
3 It reduces insulin resistance.
IF has been shown to have a notable effect on reducing visceral fat mass, fasting insulin, and insulin resistance. It’s viewed to be a possible “healthier” alternative to calorie restriction.
4 It may help prevent or increase the survivability of cancer.
An interesting lab study showing the effects fasting has on tumors revealed some positive numbers. 12.5% of diet-unrestricted tumor-bearing hosts survived the study period whereas 50% of diet-restricted tumor-bearing hosts survived.
5 Believed to increase brain function.
The cells responsible for learning, memory, and recovery from injury have been shown to be increased by a dietary restriction (DR) feeding regimen.
6 May help prevent Alzheimer’s disease.
A recent study on Alzheimer’s included fasting as a key practice for patients. Nine out of 10 people in the study displayed improvement in cognition beginning within 3-6 months. Although fasting alone was not responsible, it is believed to have been a supporting element to the positive reversal/slowing of the disease.
7 It may protect against Parkinson’s disease.
I.F. is shown to extend the health-span of the nervous system by impacting metabolic and cellular pathways that regulate lifespan. Sounds technical, I know! The key takeaway is that IF looks to be very good for the nervous system.
8 It can massively increase human growth hormone.
HGH, produced by the pituitary gland, helps regulate body fluids and muscle and bone growth. Lab tests have shown a significant increase in growth hormone activity among test subjects as a result of fasting.
[Related Post: 7 Ways to Increase Your Testosterone Levels Naturally.]
9 It works really well for weight loss.
IF has been studied a lot in recent years resulting in the notion that is can prevent weight gain, promote weight loss, and prevent weight regain.
10 It simplifies your day and saves you a lot of time.
This one is more of a practical benefit. To fast successfully just stick to your eating window. This frees you up from having to shop, plan, and prepare for six meals a day. No extra dishes to do and cooking to monitor. Two main meals a day and you’re done!
How To Do Intermittent Fasting
Many specific variations exist but I would like to outline the three most popular methods. All three are viable options and at least one of them should integrate well with your existing lifestyle.
1 Alternate-Day Fasting
Created by: James Johnson, M.D.
Best suited for: Disciplined individuals with a specific weight loss goal.
How It Works: This is very simple in concept and just involves a basic “every other day” pattern. The first day you would consume 1/5th of your optimal daily caloric intake, followed by a day reaching your full amount of calories. Based on a 2,000 calorie diet, you should be consuming 400 calories the first day, then 2,000 calories the following day.
People have reported impressive weight loss benefits associated with this method. More specifically, I have heard as much as one to two pounds per week. If you goal is weight-related, you need to make sure to not overeat on the “normal” day in order to get these benefits.
2 Eat Stop Eat
Created by: Brad Pilon
Best suited for: Healthy eaters seeking an additional energy boost.
How It Works: Fast for a full 24 hours once or twice a week. During the 24 hours only water is consumed. After the fast period continue eating as you normally would.
When first attempting this you don’t need to reach the full 24-hour mark. Just fast as many hours as you can and be satisfied with that. If you do this every week, you will increase your tolerance slowly with time.
This method is often associated with feeling “lighter,” more energetic, and alert.
Created by: Martain Berkhan
Best suited for: People who regularly exercise and want to lose body fat and build muscle.
How It Works: Fast for 14 to 16 hours each day, and then use the remaining eight to 10 hours for normal eating. The specific hours of your fasting period will likely be dictated by your existing schedule but many people choose to have this end six hours after waking up. Within your meal period, you can space your intake apart in any way that works well for you.
If intermittent fasting is something you would like to try, make sure to stay hydrated by drinking lots of water, exercise to optimize your results, and consider fasting at night to make things a lot easier on yourself.
And don’t stress over following every little nuance perfectly. If you want to end your fast an hour early, go ahead. If you need to eat a banana in the middle of a fasting period, don’t worry about it. Just do your best! 🙂
Also remember that you’re going to feel pretty hungry at first. That’s the way we all feel initially. Your body is in anticipation of your previous feeding schedule and will have to undergo a brief adjustment period before it can adapt to eating less frequently.
We’re all unique, which is something I admire about every person I meet. As true individuals, different health and fitness strategies affect us all in diverse ways.
At the end of the day, self-experimentation is really about self-discovery, which is what will help determine what lifestyle choices are best for you.
I hope you find this information helpful and I wish you a lot of success in your journey to healthier living. Thanks so much for reading!
Have you had any experiences with I.F.? Please share any tips you may have with our community in the comments below!
1. Increased meal frequency does not promote greater weight loss in subjects who were prescribed an 8-week equi-energetic energy-restricted diet.
2. Intermittent fasting does not affect whole-body glucose, lipid, or protein metabolism.
3. Short-term fasting induces profound neuronal autophagy.
4. Effects of Intermittent Feeding Upon Growth and Life Span in Rats
5. Intermittent fasting vs daily calorie restriction for type 2 diabetes prevention: a review of human findings.
6. Effects of short-term dietary restriction on survival of mammary ascites tumor-bearing rats.
7. Dietary restriction enhances neurotrophin expression and neurogenesis in the hippocampus of adult mice.
8. Reversal of cognitive decline: A novel therapeutic program.
9. Caloric restriction and intermittent fasting: Two potential diets for successful brain aging.
10. Fasting enhances growth hormone secretion and amplifies the complex rhythms of growth hormone secretion in man.
11. Fasting for weight loss: an effective strategy or latest dieting trend?
*DISCLAIMER: Always consult a medical professional before applying the advice given throughout this website. While the articles on HMM are thoroughly researched, it is important to speak with your medical provider before starting a new exercise routine or introducing something new to your diet. We ourselves are NOT doctors, so the information we feature should not be used to replace any of your medications or lifestyle choices that have been recommended by your doctor. Read at your own risk and read our full disclaimer here.*