You’ll build the best physique of your life eating only one meal per day.
If someone told me this in 2010, I wouldn’t have believed them. I couldn’t have believed them. All the mainstream diet wisdom floating through the ether…
MUSCLE WILL MELT IF YOU DON’T EAT EVERY SIX MILLISECONDS.
TAKE THIS SUPPLEMENT WITHIN 30 SECONDS AFTER YOU TRAIN, OTHERWISE YOUR BODY WILL FORGET THE ENTIRE TWO HOURS WORTH OF STRESS YOU DRUG YOURSELF THROUGH.
…how could it be possible?
But I should have believed them.
Sometimes I eat two meals per day. Most days I eat one meal per day.
Yes, yes, yes, and yes once more: I strength train on an empty stomach; I play ultimate frisbee on an empty stomach.
I haven’t eaten many breakfasts since January 2011. Unless, of course, it’s breakfast for dinner — my favorite.
Not saying you have to (or should) follow in my footsteps. Results aren’t guaranteed. Sanity is also subject to seesaw.
But I’m here to give you everything I can to help you decide whether or not intermittent fasting is right for you.
I know how to get lean. But muscle mass is elusive. Every bulk I’ve done = disaster. This one = no different. I’m 232 pounds of bad news.
It’s 2009. I’m an intern. Doing a bunch of strength and conditioning work with the University of Pittsburgh. Current stint is with Buddy Morris and James Smith.
I read an article online. Some Swedish guy that’s all ripped and jacked talking nutrition. I want to be ripped and jacked. I read.
The Swedish guy tells me I can’t eat breakfast. What? Breakfast is my favorite meal of the day. I wake up at 4:30AM just to cook breakfast.
I stop reading.
This event is a footnote in my life until 2011.
I go to a cheer gym to trick. I feel especially spry. I set up for a trick known as a 720 double. I own this trick.
My takeoff was wrong. I bail. No biggie. Bailing a 720 double is harmless. It’s like bailing a vertical jump.
But I jump too high high high thanks to feeling spry spry spry. The leg I am supposed to land on misses the ground. Then this happens.
Great toe avulsion fracture. Fractures in every metatarsal but my third. Cast and crutches for eight weeks.
I crutch around all day to teach. Broken foot swells. Ugh. Getting up to pee is a chore. I dream about a hole in the couch cushion that’s connected to the commode. (I Googled the word “commode” and found out that it doesn’t inherently mean “toilet,” which is what I always thought it meant. I would change it, but I’m a sucker for alliteration.)
Cooking breakfast? Ha! No. Never. This is when I remember the Swedish guy. I Gewghoul. His name is Martin Berkhan. He runs a website called Leangains. I read all about Leangains.
Martin Berkhan pops my intermittent fasting cherry.
Leangains is one intermittent fasting strategy out of many, albeit (perhaps) the most popular in the body composition world. In order to clear this up I’m going to go broad before I go narrow — a decision that’ll prove to be semantically futile, which is exactly why it needs done.
Look at teh Gewghoul definitions of each word.
Intermittent: occurring at irregular intervals; not continuous or steady.
Fast: abstain from all or some kinds of food or drink, especially as a religious observance.
Fasting is all about avoidance, with the pinnacle being no food and no drink for a certain period of time. This is Ramadan during the day. This is the most clear way to define fasting: no soup for you; you get nothing.
(absolutes are fun)
Most intermittent fasting plans aren’t Soup Nazi strict. Leangains allows zero calorie beverages like water, coffee, and tea. Ori Hofmekler (often considered the grandfather of intermittent fasting) even allows some foods.
(Told you this wouldn’t be easy.)
The word “fast” is too ambiguous. I stop eating Doritos and say I’m fasting from Doritos. Started my fast yesterday bruh, no orange fingers for me anymore.
Add the ambiguity of the word “fasting” with the ambiguity of the word “intermittent” and here’s the child that squeezes out from between the legs: intermittent fasting is the sporadic avoidance of food or drink.
That’s about all you can deduce, Sherlock. Sometimes I don’t eat or drink certain things.
Saying “I do intermittent fasting” is like saying “I play a sport.” It says something, but not much. (Especially if you consider bowling and darts to be sport.)
So don’t be one of those goobers that says, “I started intermittent fasting and I have a couple of questions…” You have to be more specific, okay? MORE SPECIFIC <<<!>>>
OTHERWISE IT’S SEMANTIC SUICIDE.
(did i prove my point? capitalized words always win.)
Intermittent fasting is a feeding framework based around purposeful and sporadic elimination. That’s all. Okay. Good. Got it?
If you want to get more specific, you have to be talking about a specific intermittent fasting strategy.
I’m not here to talk about Jebus and religious fasting, so I’m taking a leap and connecting intermittent fasting dots to fitness dots.
What’s all the hubbub? Does intermittent fasting have magical properties that help you look good naked?
But, first, a superficial look: intermittent fasting can reduce your calorie intake and be a breath of behavioral fresh air.
Think of most diets. Change this. Adjust that. Avoid this. Add that. It’s behavioral suicide. Flip every food variable you’ve been used to since forever upside down. No big deal. One of the reasons most diets fail :::: behavior change is hard.
Now imagine this:
I want you to skip breakfast on Monday, Wednesday, and Friday. Make no other adjustments. Don’t compensate and eat more the night before. Don’t compensate and eat more during your lunch after. Just wake up and don’t eat breakfast on those three days.
(Not saying this is the incarnation of most intermittent fasting schemes [or any one specific one].)
Suddenly you’re cutting a chunk of energy you’re used to gobbling up and all you have to do is
become anorexic and not eat go without breakfast a few times per week.
For the past ten years, the dominant belief system within fitness: you need to eat smaller, more frequent meals to “stoke the metabolic fire” and keep your metabolism running high.
Smaller frequent meals requires some lifestyle adjustments.
You have to prepare your food in advanced. Not many people can cook six different times in one day.
You have to think about different kinds of meals, unless you have (or build) a palate that allows you to eat the same thing for multiple meals every day.
>>>> I have said numb palate. I built it. People are sissies when it comes to changing their palate. Am I being too nice here? ANGER. Probably not. I think the people “naturally” lean are those that actually listen to their palate and don’t self-sabotage themselves with mindless eating. (For more on mindless eating, see this. I talk about mindless eating and the effects of nutrients and flavor on satiety inside of this, if you want to take the dive.) <<<<
You have to transport your food. You need Tupperware.
It was a lot of work.
But what if you didn’t have to eat six meals? What if eating two or three meals had the same effect as eating six meals?
You no longer have to prepare meals as if the apocalypse were upon civilization. You don’t have to turn into Emeril Lagasse to keep your palate happy. You don’t have to strap Tupperware to your body like a suicide bomber.
Intermittent fasting lends itself to behavioral, cognitive, and lifestyle ease. It’s a breath of fresh air compared to eating nineteen meals.
The pendulum has swung. Pendulum swings tend to sway the masses.
Most people try intermittent fasting for reasons more complicated than “it’s a lot easier to skip a meal a few times a week than it is to change my entire life” which isn’t surprising, and not just because intermittent fasting seems like Anorexia Lite.
Humans like to complicate. I complicate. Make me sound smart. Please. All I want is sound smart. All I want to do is become a cog in the same system I’m revolting against. Sponsor me. Photoshoots. All I want is
I don’t care about anything.
Most intermittent fasting strategies look to achieve what’s known as the “fasted state.”
You technically begin fasting the moment you stop eating or drinking whatever you’re fasting from (deep dish chocolate chop cookie sundae), but you won’t hit a fasted state until much later.
Consider the fasted state to be the point where all of your food is digested and your body is forced to use it’s own stash of internal materials (like body fat) to keep you ticking and tocking.
The fasted state opposes the fed state, the latter being when your body is undergoing digestion and processing food. The fed state (and the proceeding post-absorptive state that I’m conveniently glancing over in order to avoid barraging you with unnecessary photons) lasts around 12 hours.
This is why most intermittent fasting plans have a “fasting window” that starts at 12 hours and work their way to 16, 20, and 24+ hours.
Opposing the fasting window is the “feeding window.” If your fasting window is 12 hours, your feeding window is 12 hours. Because, this.
Leangains is often referred to as 16/8 intermittent fasting because the fasting window lasts for 16 hours and the feeding window lasts for 8 hours.
When these windows occur within the day aren’t always set in stone. An 8 hour feeding window can be from 10AM to 6PM or from 1PM to 9PM, but the specific window itself is held consistent on a day-to-day basis.
Days per week can also vary. Some people use intermittent fasting every single day. Others use it a few times per week.
The fasted state is fat loss magic from a mile high view. Your body uses fat to fuel low intensity activities. When you’re done digesting and absorbing food, you’re using mostly body fat to fuel low intensity body movements.
Also, extended fasts kick you into a state of ketosis. Your brain’s primary fuel source (liver glycogen) gets used up and your brain is forced to use ketones (from the breakdown of body fat) for fuel.
Most intermittent fasting plans won’t have you swimming in the deep waters of ketosis (fasting window isn’t long enough), but KNOWLEDGE IS POWAHAHHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHH
(i have the power)
OH WOWWW THE FASTED STATE IS MAGICAL WOW YES YES YES>!eqewfwe (did i just subconsciously write “queef” in there somehow…?)
What the body does one second can be undone not long after. You can fast for a day, use up some body fat, and then put back everything you lost (and more) in the day(s) to follow.
It’s like going to the casino and gambling away $500 in cash. You lost money in the short-term. But if you stay at the casino and win $700, then you’re up $200 and in a surplus in the long-term.
This is why intermittent fasting is a vehicle, not a direction. It can take you anywhere you want to go. It doesn’t inherently determine a location.
You can lose fat with intermittent fasting. You can build muscle with intermittent fasting. You can lose fat and build muscle at the same time with intermittent fasting.
You can do all of these things without intermittent fasting, too. (Especially if you take steroids!)
Intermittent fasting sounds pretty shitty right now. Behavioral, cognitive, lifestyle benefits. The damn pendulum pushing around the mindless masses? Is that really what this is all about?
One intermittent fasting strategy is known as Time-Restricted Feeding (TRF). Time-Restricted Feeding’s dad is Dr. Satchin Panda.
Yes, Time-Restricted Feeding is all capitalized. Yes, there’s a hyphen in the middle of “Time” and “Restricted” (for god knows what reason). Maybe Mr. Panda wanted his strategy to be totally Internet unfriendly.
Yes, I want my last name to be Panda.
Time-Restricted Feeding uses a 9-12 hour feeding window, which applies to anything but water. If you have a coffee, your feeding clock has begun. Time-Restricted Feeding is more on the Soup Nazi side of restriction.
The logic behind Time-Restricted Feeding = humans are diurnal creatures, and our body evolved to work with the natural rise and fall of the sun. EVERYTHING THE LIGHT TOUCHES IS OURS, SIMBA.
Every organ inside of us has its own clock. I’m now deleting the sixteen paragraphs I wrote about Time-Restricted Feeding because this isn’t about dissecting any one specific intermittent fasting strategy.
Panda’s research shows that mice undergoing Time-Restricted Feeding show a decrease fat mass and increase muscle mass regardless of what food is being eaten.
In other words, you eat ice cream, pizza, and, of course, your fish oil capsules. Because fish oil without the fish itself has to be a good idea, right guys? Reductionism is always reliable within the biological interface.
In our universe, eat all of this in a 9 hour span. In a parallel universe, you eat all of this in a 14 hour span.
You’ll be leaner and more muscular in our universe.
The reason why this happens isn’t quite understood. (Phenomenon > Phenomenology) If nothing else, it begins to debunk prevailing bodybuilder logic of muscles melting away if not fed every three hours.
Did you hear that Mickey? You don’t have to parade around Disney Land looking like schlub anymore. Just condense your feeding window, man. Minnie will love your new bod.
Panda has data showing similar results in humans, but the mechanism is even less clear. Mice tend to eat the same amount regardless of feeding window length. Humans eat around 20% less if they condense their intake to the 9-12 hour window.
In Mindless Eating, Dr. Brian Wansink says that humans can eat 20% more or 20% less without knowing. Funny how the number pops up in two different (but related) situations.
THE UNIVERSE IS FIGUREOUTABLE. MATH. IT’S ALL MATH. KEEP GOING, GUYS. AHHHHHHhhhHhHhhhHHH.
There are more studies, including a “Leangains study.” You can read the findings here. You have the bread crumbs.
More human research will decide whether intermittent fasting is magical or mythical. The same thing that can be said for 99% of the things we already apply to our bodies. Anti-bacterial soap was pulled from the shelves, guys.
The (honest) empirical evidence is all I need. It has worked for me. It has worked for Berkhan (apparently). It has worked for many others.
No one can deny the physiological and metabolic shift that happens when you fast. The question is: what kind of an impact does it really have?
Fasting makes some people wet their willy in worry, but fasting has been around for a while. I referenced Ramadan earlier. Fasting is common in a lot of religions. It’s also common in, uhhh, you. Right now. Intermittent fasting is built into your biology.
For 6-9 hours (or however long you sleep), you don’t eat or drink anything. That’s where breakfast gets its name: you eat in the morning and break your fast.
Old school folks recommended fasting when sick. Not saying we should take medical advice from BC era or anything, but they might have been onto something.
Everyone has a physician inside him or her; we just have to help it in its work. The natural healing force within each one of us is the greatest force in getting well. Our food should be our medicine. Our medicine should be our food. But to eat when you are sick is to feed your sickness.
Instead of using medicine, rather, fast a day.
Some research ties fasting with (a) longevity and (b) cancer.
bow chicka wow wow
wee ooh wim o weh
I don’t have the testicles to say intermittent fasting will help you live longer and prevent cancer. Rats aren’t humans. I don’t want you to find me and kill me if you get cancer.
I guess I don’t need to worry if you try intermittent fasting and subsequently die (from an unrelated cause), so I should be more vehement about intermittent fasting’s benefit to longevity.
I do, however, have the testicles to speculate why intermittent fasting may be beneficial for cancer and is definitely beneficial for longevity.
The process of breaking down and digesting food is stressful. It’s like giving Peter Gibbons a stack of TPS reports to file at the office.
If Gibbons is constantly filing papers, he can’t step back and take care of non-work related functions. He can’t clean his increasingly messy desk, he has to work late, which means he sleeps later, which means he wakes up groggy…
What is intermittent fasting? The sporadic avoidance of food or beverage.
Why is intermittent fasting special? It’s easier to manage from a behavior, cognitive, and lifestyle perspective. It (somehow) seems to make rats jacked. It might help cancer. It most absolutely certainly definitely will help you live longer.
Maybe now you’re compelled by the mountain of aforementioned research on mice and all two of the humans I’ve mentioned (one of which being myself, surely free from any and all biases) that have lost fat and built muscle using intermittent fasting.
(Or maybe you just broke your foot and can’t cook.)
You want to give it a go.
Do I recommend intermittent fasting? Maybe. There are some things you should know before you start intermittent fasting.
(Another article coming soon to follow up.)