Intermittent Fasting FAQs

Intermittent fasting
Does fasting really work? Is it healthy? Can I still maintain muscle while doing it? Yes, yes and yes. And here are answers to four other burning IF questions.

I believe in thoroughly enjoying life and enjoying delicious foods, but I’m also passionate about maintaining a lean, muscular physique. Those two pursuits, by the way, are extremely difficult to balance.

That’s why I’ve been following an intermittent fasting (IF) eating plan fulltime for a while now. IF lets you eat the foods you want – within reason, of course – and still possess a shredded physique. But I’m not just now hopping on the IF bandwagon; I’ve been a proponent of it for many years.

In fact, more than a decade ago researchers from Yale along with colleagues at The University of Copenhagen explored fasting and fat loss, and the results in the lab directly helped in my own pursuits for a lean physique. Below are a handful of tips that could be useful in designing your own IF program.

But first, here’s a quick rundown of what intermittent fasting is and how it’s commonly used:

One of the main points here is this: You don’t want to undereat during your feeding window, lest you compromise your performance in the gym and your ability to build or at least mainating muscle mass. Get in all your nutrients, particularly protein. In theory, you’ll be taking in the same number of calories and macros per day, just with a different meal schedule than a typical eat-every-few-hours nutrition plan. Of course, you can always tweak calories and macros if and when your physique and training goals change.

As much research has shown, fasting for relatively long periods will result in greater fat-burning even though calories remain the same, and most people find that they’re able to have a few more of their favorite “cheat” foods during the feeding window and still see great results in getting (and staying) lean. This is why IF is such an appealing diet for many people.

Other reasons why so many individuals love IF are that’s it’s relatively easy to get used to and stick with and it’s a diet you don’t have to go off of – ever. You can do it long-term with no adverse health effects. Rather, you’ll see health benefits.

With the basics under our belts, here are four “burning” questions I often get regarding specific issues when implementing IF:

IF FAQ #1: How exactly does intermittent fasting enhance fat burning compared to a standard diet of eating every few hours?

The Yale/Copenhagen group published several papers showing that one of the key mechanisms in fasting-induced fat loss has to do with an increase in the activity of genes that increase the number of calories the body burns and the amount of fat it burns. When you fast, your body turns on genes that encode for certain uncoupling proteins and enzymes that increase fat burning. The uncoupling proteins basically “poke holes” in the mitochondria inside muscle cells. The mitochondria are where most of your energy is derived from, especially at rest. By poking holes in them, they produce less energy and thus have to burn far more calories to produce the same amount of energy in the form of ATP.

Many other studies suggest that fasting also provides numerous health benefits, such as lowering cholesterol and triglyceride levels, increasing HDL (good) cholesterol levels, and even greater longevity. One study found that intermittent fasting in men increased red blood cell and hemoglobin levels in the blood. Hemoglobin is the protein in red blood cells that carries oxygen in the bloodstream to the muscles. Increasing red blood cells and hemoglobin levels is what endurance athletes like cyclists are trying to increase when they illegally “dope” with EPO (erythropoietin). And yet IF may do this naturally!

IF FAQ #2: What should I eat as my first meal following a fast? Or does it not really matter?

Yes, it does matters. IF allows you to be somewhat loose with your eating, but that doesn’t...

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