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Fit Expo Live Nutrition Event Transcript

Intermittent Fasting offers many benefits for fitness beginners and veterans alike. A full transcript of my FitExpo talk on the ins and outs of Intermittent Fasting

Fit Expo Live Nutrition Event Transcript

Note: This tutorial video was recorded as a live Facebook event. The text below is an edited transcript of the tutorial intended to provide members with a convenient means of referring to and further researching the topics and content detailed in the video.


For those of you haven't heard, the thing that I said about this FitExpo and what I love about it is it reminds me of the very first L.A. FItExpo. It was about this size, and I can tell you over the years it's grown exponentially. This is really how it starts. Sort of a small, nice, fit expo—you probably will not recognize it in five years. But the way we get there, by growing, is by continuing to support it—so make sure you come out each year that it's offered.

Today I'm going to talk to you guys about some nutrition, and particularly a bit about intermittent fasting. For those of you who want to ask me your questions about nutrition, I'll leave plenty of time after, so don't be shy. Any questions you have on nutrition, supplementation—now's the time to ask me. I'll give the floor to you.

Intro to Intermittent Fasting

But before we do that, I just want to talk about one of the styles of nutrition that I've landed on lately—and that I tend to focus on myself—and it's called intermittent fasting. What's really interesting about intermittent fasting is, my background is as a research scientist—for those of you who don't know my background, I have a PhD focusing on physiology and biochemistry, mainly. I did a post-doctoral research fellowship at Yale School of Medicine where I studied how nutrition and exercise influence genes: genes involved in metabolism; genes involved in energy production in the muscle; genes involved in muscle building. Everything happens at the level of the genes.

Everything we eat, every supplement we take, every repetition that we do starts at the level of the gene. The gene in the muscle. Genes in nervous tissue. It's activating those genes. And so what I found in the lab—or what we found, the team that I worked with in the lab, along with a team at Copenhagen—on fasting was sort of the opposite of what everyone thought. Everybody used to say "Well if you stop eating, your metabolism's going to slow down." Well yeah, if you just stop eating and never eat again. Your metabolism only slows down until you eat again. And then it's supposed to spike back up. Well guess what? It actually doesn't slow down at all when you fast—if you fast and feed, and fast and feed, which is what intermittent fasting is.

People confused intermittent fasting with starvation. Intermittent fasting is not starvation. So instead of lowering metabolism, intermittent fasting actually increases it. And I know this firsthand because I literally ran the samples in that research study. What we saw was what's called an increase in uncoupling proteins. Uncoupling proteins—for those of you who aren't biochemists, and most of you probably aren't—basically make your body less efficient. Now that sounds like a bad thing, right? Well it's a good thing if you want to get lean. Because the less efficient your body is, it means the more fat and carbohydrates you have to burn just to sit there; just to go through the normal things in life. Uncoupling proteins make your body less efficient, so you have to burn more of the stuff you eat just to get the same amount of energy to do the same things.

That's what intermittent fasting does—it literally increases the activity of genes that produce uncoupling proteins. And what the uncoupling proteins do—for those of you who know a little bit about biochemistry—is they poke holes in these little structures that are known as mitochondria. Now the mitochondria are where most of our ATP is produced. That's basically what our energy is in the muscle. That's what allows us to contract—ATP. That's basically energy for a muscle cell, or for any cell in the body. And most of that is produced in the mitochondria. Well, at least the amount we use during the day. When you poke holes in the membrane of the mitochondria, it doesn't produce as much ATP. So now you have to get more fat and more carbs to burn more to get the same amount of ATP. That's how uncoupling proteins work.

So it's quite the opposite with intermittent fasting. What we also found was that the meal you followed your fast with made a difference on the uncoupling protein production, and therefore how many calories you're burning. Remember, by increasing uncoupling proteins we're getting less efficient: we're increasing our metabolic rate, we're burning more calories throughout the day just sitting around. But we found that if you follow a fast with a high protein meal, it'll further boost the uncoupling protein production. So then when you eat, you get another boost after the fact. If you eat a meal that's high in carbs following your fast, it lowers the increased uncoupling proteins—but it still keeps it higher than if you weren't doing intermittent fasting. So one of the strategies that I use with intermittent fasting is to follow with a high protein meal. And I'll talk about the strategy now.

Intermittent Fasting: 16/8 vs 2/5

With intermittent fasting, there are two main styles: we have what's known as 16/8, which is fasting for 16 hours consecutively, and then you eat for 8. Then you cycle again—16 hours of fasting, 8 hours of feeding. Another one is called the 2/5, or the 5/2, and that just means you pick 2 days—not consecutive days—where you fast for 24 hours. The other days, you don't have to do any intermittent fasting; you eat normally, whatever hour you want. Fairly looser. That works as well. I prefer the 16/8 method, because I don't like going that long without eating. Because one of the issues with intermittent fasting is muscle mass—and that's the biggest question that everyone asks.

When NOT to Intermittent Fast

Now, I will tell you that if your goal is to maximize muscle growth, intermittent fasting is not the best diet strategy for you. However, if you're trying to be the leanest, most muscular, and healthiest? You can be. It's definitely one of the diet strategies that can help you there. You hear a lot about anabolic fasting for muscle growth. You can definitely build muscle while intermittent fasting, but you can't maximize it.

You won't maximize it—in fact, there's not an IFBB professional bodybuilder out there that I'm aware of who does intermittent fasting. Because the amount of time you're fasting for when you're carrying that much muscle mass—which is completely unnatural, and I don't mean they're using drugs, I mean it's just unnatural for the human body to carry that much muscle mass—at that level, for them to literally miss a meal they would lose like 5lbs of muscle mass. It's literally eating all the time. Truly, to maximize muscle growth, you don't want to be intermittent fasting. However, you definitely can build very lean and strong muscle while intermittent fasting. So again, it depends on the main goal.

Training Inside—and Out—of your Feeding Window

I like the 16/8 because every day I pretty much—I'm fairly active, and I train almost every single day. And I'm a firm believer of training in your feeding window when you're doing fasting. We know that we need certain nutrients before we train, that'll enhance performance; and we know we need certain nutrients following a workout or a competition to enhance recovery and then provide better performance for the next workout, or the next game. So if your goal is to build muscle, maximize strength, or increase performance of any kind, you definitely want to be training while you're in your feeding window. And doing that 5/2 one doesn't allow, on certain days, for you to train in your feeding window.

I will say—for those of you who are doing intermittent fasting and the main goal is really fat loss—if your main goal is fat loss and you're just someone—people think I only work with professional athletes; I work with a lot of regular people who just want to lose body fat, feel better, look better—for those who just aren't really concerned about how strong they are or how much they can bench press, if you cannot train in your feeding window, it's ok. It's completely fine, in fact when we really think about intermittent fasting? we're already doing it.

Intermittent Fasting for Beginners

A lot of people—it sounds a lot harder, like "Wow I gotta go 16 hours a day, intermittent fasting?" That sounds like a long time without food, right? Wrong. Most of us already do a bit of intermittent fasting: when you sleep. You guys get up and eat? Some of us actually do. Most people fall around the 12/12 cycle. Most general people—if, let's say, they stop eating around 8pm and they wake up and eat at 8 am, somewhere in there—for some people, mostly it's somewhere around a 12/12.

And so what I tell people who are interested in trying intermittent fasting, and seeing if they can do it, is you can kind of get your feet wet with it. You don't have to jump right in and go "I'm gonna go 16 hours without anything but non-caloric fluids." You don't have to do that. Start out just making sure that you're getting 12 hours of fasting in, because you're probably close to it. So start right there, start making sure you're getting 12 and 12. Once you realize how easy that is—and it's really easy once you try it—then you can start increasing the fasting component and decreasing the eating period. So you go to a 13 hours of fasting, 11 hours of feeding. And then when that's easy, you go to 14—until you're up to 16/8.

So you don't have to jump right in. Like I said, we're already doing it, and our bodies sort of designed to work that way. Our bodies are designed to survive. If you hear me talk about training, I laugh when people ask about overtraining. Sure, an athlete who's training several times a day and isn't getting the right nutrients can overtrain. But typically most people are undereating, under-providing the right nutrients.

Our bodies are designed to go all day—we wake up, we hunt. We look for food. Without it, we'll die. There's no rest until you get that food, or the night comes. So can you train while you're fasted? Of course you can. Our bodies are designed to go all day until we get something to eat. If your main goal is fat loss? Yeah, train. It doesn't matter if you're training in your feeding window. However, if you truly want to maximize performance, strength, muscle mass, then you want to be a little more specific with when you train with your fasting and feeding periods.

Beyond Fat Loss—The Many Benefits of Intermittent Fasting

The benefits of intermittent fasting—I talked a lot about health benefits—it's not just fat loss. Obviously losing body fat is healthy. We know that. We know that carrying extra body fat creates a different environment that isn't healthy. There are different chemicals circulating in the body when the body has higher levels of fat: things that increase inflammation, lead to heart disease, type 2 diabetes, other metabolic disorders—even neurological disorders—all from carrying too much fat. So we know that getting lean is healthy.

But that's not how intermittent fasting helps you be healthy. Believe it or not, there's a lot of research on intermittent fasting. This isn't some crazy diet strategy of the day here. The research that my lab was doing at Yale School of Medicine—that was back in 2000—looked at the way that fasting changes the metabolic processes in the body. Now a lot of the research is focused on the health benefits. Immune function—research is showing that intermittent fasting can actually enhance the way the body protects itself. That's what our immune system does: it protects us from bugs, from viruses, bacteria. It helps us fight foreign invaders. That's what our immune system does.

Intermittent Fasting—Full-Time Immunity Boost

Intermittent fasting—that cycling of not eating, eating, not eating, eating—seems to regulate the body better, and allow cells to function better. It’s even found to enhance the recovery of skin cells from things like sun damage. And again, it has to do with the cycling—of that feeding, the not feeding, the feeding—that helps the body, the way that the body cycles. It helps those cells function better. Better immune function, they said. Better skin health. It's even been shown to help fight jet lag. It's one of benefits that I get out of the intermittent fasting—other than enhance immune system—when I travel on planes all the time, I rarely, rarely get sick. Intermittent fasting. I'm also rarely jet lagged. Intermittent fasting.

Fighting Jet Lag with Intermittent Fasting

Now how does intermittent fasting work? Well it has to do with what we call our cues. We have what we call light cues—that's basically how our body regulates our 24-hour clock, right? It gets light at a certain time; it gets dark at a certain time. I'm from L.A. It gets dark 3 hours later in L.A. than it does in Ft. Lauderdale. So when my body arrives here in Ft. Lauderdale and it's getting dark 3 hours earlier than my body is used to, my 24-hour clock is going "What is going on?" And then the next day, the sun comes up 3 hours earlier. The next day that happens—and the next day—and each day that goes on, my body starts going "Oh, alright" and it starts shifting my light cycle. But that could take over a week to really get—especially depending on how big of a time difference you're going through. Well, light cues are just one cue that our body uses.

Another cue is feeding, especially if you're eating at the same time. And most people typically do—we have breakfast, we have lunch, we have dinner. With intermittent fasting it's even more specific, because you have a time when you're not eating and a time when you're eating. I eat at 4 pm every day, that's my window. 4 pm comes around—it's party time. I'm waiting for 4 o'clock. Prior that I've got black coffee, or water, or plain tea. But at 4 o'clock, that's my time to eat.

So when I travel and I land in Ft. Lauderdale and at 4 pm I put down some Pre JYM and Pro JYM, my protein powder, because I want a high protein meal as my first meal, right? 4 o'clock, no matter where I am, my body's like "It's 4 o'clock". Pre JYM and Pro JYM time. Been waiting for this all day, it's 4 o'clock. And then I typically train right around then, which is another cue that your body can use—if you're eating and training at the same time when you travel to that new time zone, it's going to help your body go "Oh, right—it's 4 o'clock".

And again I'm not giving you my anecdotal reports here—I am, but there's research proving this. As long as you provide at least a 16 hour fast prior to your feeding when you travel, it will essentially erase your feeding cue. You can't do that with light. You can't really erase your light cue unless you put yourself in a dark chamber for several—you can't really erase your light and dark cues the way you can with feeding cues.

And so what the research has shown, like I said anecdotally, if you fast for at least 16 hours and then start eating in the new time zone when you normally eat you will notice a remarkable difference in the way that your body handles travel. And trust me, when I travel I don't just travel and go to the beach and put my feet up—I have to get up on a stage; I have to train; I have to shoot; I have to look my best and feel my best. Without the intermittent fasting, I'd be a wreck. It literally helps me be at my best, no matter what time zone I'm in. One of the many health benefits.

The Convenience of Intermittent Fasting

Benefits in convenience as well. My days are busy. When I get up in the morning I've got social media. What am I going to teach you guys? Every day I wake up, you're my bosses. So what am I going to teach you? What workout are we going to do? What am I going to teach you about nutrition today? Supplements? I've got a busy day. I don't have to get up and cook, or meal prep. I just get up and get going. Survival. Get up and and get going. I don't have to stop and cook breakfast, prep my lunch—I don't have to think about eating until 4 o'clock. It's pretty damn convenient, trust me. And quite frankly I'm too busy to even think about eating prior to 4 o'clock. So it's easier than you think.

The other convenience is the mental break you get. You know, the hardest work you do on a diet is the mental work. You go to Starbucks, and you're just going to get a black coffee. And then you're looking at that pumpkin bread. And you're like "Damn, it's October already? They've got pumpkin bread out again? Okay, if I just have one slice—and I'll just eat half now, and half later—I won't have the black beans that I was gonna have with my dinner tonight." You're always doing this mental bartering, all day long on a diet. "Oh crap, there's bread on the table." When I go to Starbucks and I'm standing in line—and I love that pumpkin bread; I ordered a piece yesterday because it was my high carb day, and I enjoyed it—but when I'm standing there and it's 8 am or 10 am? I just look at it and there's a big "No" that flashes in my head. There's no debating, there's no bartering—it's done. I don't have to waste any energy re-figuring out my diet. The answer's no. It's yes or no. Is it time to eat? No. Nope. It's that simple.

Intermittent Fasting as a Lifestyle

So for those of you who like to be relieved of that constant mental fight when you're on that diet, you might want to give intermittent fasting a shot. Like I said, convenience, fat loss benefits—and I've been working with clients at all levels, from the average Joe to world-class athletes, and I can tell you I've never seen a diet strategy that—where you have someone who's literally tried almost everything, and when they start how easily and almost immediately they start seeing results. Works very well, like I said it's not something—you know a question people ask me is "Well how long can you intermittent fast for?" It's a lifestyle. Your body's already doing it anyway. It's pretty much the way our bodies were designed. We didn't get up and have someone make breakfast for us. No, we had to go out and get that breakfast. And it might not be breakfast—it might be lunch. Or it might not even be lunch. It might not come until dinner time—and we didn't get a break until we got it.

So it's really not that hard. Your bodies are designed to function that way. And with the research showing the health benefits due to the cycling—the no feeding, feeding, no feeding, feeding—having those cycles versus just random feeding throughout the day—little short break when you sleep, feeding throughout the day—it appears to allow the way that the cycle of the cell works. Which makes sense when you think about light and dark cues and the 24-hour cycle and the way the body works—the cells are aware it's all happening. So consider intermittent fasting.

What time is it? What do we have left, how many minutes? 15? Alright, I'm going to shut up now so that you guys can come up, we've got a mic here. Any questions you want—they don't have to be specific to intermittent fasting—anything you guys want to ask me on nutrition, supplementation, and even if you have a training question I'll accept that as well, so don't be shy. Come on up.

Modifying the Length of Feeding and Fasting Windows

Question: "I do intermittent fasting myself, typically 16/8. I was wondering would it be better to increase it to like 18 or 20? Because I'm starting to notice with 16—"

Your body starts getting used to it again, right? Ok yeah, I'll answer that. So the question he asked is: he's been doing 16/8, but over time his body sort of adjusted to it, as anything. This is one of the reasons why I'm not a huge keto guy. Yeah, I'm a guy who believes in manipulating carbs, but if you remove all your carbs—if you take a person who's eating 300-400g of carbs and just remove all those carbs? They're going to see some amazing fat loss results, right? But eventually the body's going to adapt, and now you can't remove any more carbs from their diet because they've all been removed. What do you do? The body adapts to anything. So you always want to have room—you should be eating as much as you can and still be losing body fat, always.

So with intermittent fasting and the 16/8 window, your body is going to start adapting to the window, to your macros. So you've got a few things you can do. And if your goal is to get a bit learner—I'm assuming, right? And obviously with as much muscle mass as possible, right? But you always want to be leaner—you have a couple options. You could play with your macros—you can lower your total calories, maybe lower some carbs—or you can decrease your feeding window. Just like I said with the baby step of getting into it from 12 and building up, you can build down.

I use that in two ways for myself. I shorten my feeding window when I know I'm going to be really, really bad. If I'm going to go to a crazy dinner where I'm literally not going to hold back anything—I'm going to eat as much carbs and fat in every variety possible, donuts and ice cream—I will increase my fasting window and shorten my feeding window so that, even though I'm eating not the best foods at the end of the day, I'm not way out of at least my calorie window. My macros probably aren't ideal, but—I always focus on protein, even when I'm eating garbage—so I'm still getting good protein, probably getting extra carbs or whatever, right? But it minimizes it, versus "I'm gonna eat crazy for 8 hours". So that's one way that I do it.

The other way is that when, if I'm getting ready for—you know I pretty much live photo shoot ready, but sometimes you want to be just a little sharper. Maybe it's like "This is a special shoot, I'm really going to dial this in". I will play with my feeding window and shorten it, and I'll often do an opposite—I'll switch it over to like 18/6. But I typically won't go any lower than 5—you just can't, it's hard to get in enough consistent protein within that short of a window. For me, 6 is my limit. I can eat a lot in 6 hours, of protein at least. So you can definitely do that as well. Thank you, great question.

Modifying the Timing of Feeding and Fasting Windows

Question: "I tried intermittent fasting and I loved it, but between class and work it's hard to get on a consistent schedule. I was wondering if you have any tips on how I could work it in day-to- day. It's totally different schedule-wise for me."

The best thing about intermittent fasting for someone with a normal schedule is that it doesn't matter what time of day—like I said unless your goal is muscle, if really you want to maximize that, you want to eat when you can train. Other than that, it doesn't matter if you wake up and start eating, and stop 8 hours later and then fast and go to sleep. Do it that way. Or you do it like me. It doesn't matter if you start eating at 12. So you can bounce it around, you can change up your—

"You can change your time?"

Yeah, you can change it up. So if you just find that—sometimes due to a shoot, I might want to be eating prior to the shoot. I'll change my window. And what I'll do is—don't worry like "ok last night stopped eating at midnight, but tomorrow I'm going to start eating at 10 am, that's not"—don't worry about that. Just make sure that after that feeding window you're including at least 16 hours of fasting fairly regularly. If every once in a while it's only 12, don't kill yourself. Break it up as it changes, and then that way you can keep the same 8 hours at least. It doesn't matter what time of day it is. Thanks for the question, great question.

Intermittent Fasting and Carb Cycling

Question: "How does carb cycling work, and would it be ideal for me?

Carb cycling in general or with the intermittent fasting?

"With intermittent fasting."

I'm a bit instinctive. With carb cycling, I have a diet called the Intermittent Fasting Carb Cycle diet. And it specifically breaks down where you have 3 days of low carb days within your 8-hour window: they're going to be low carb days somewhere around half your bodyweight—so if you weigh 150lbs you're going to have 75g of carbs, that's a low carb day. 3 of those a week; doesn't matter which 3. And that's just a ballpark—I'm just giving you ranges here, it's going to depend on your diet. Then you have a moderate carb day: 3 of those, where you're around maybe 1g—so if you're 150lbs you're allowed about 150g of carbs within your 8-hour feeding window. And then you have one high carb day where you're at 2g or above.

Now, the nice thing is it doesn't matter what order. So you can adapt it as your day goes. Instead of going, "Oh Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday are my low carb days" and then somebody says "Hey, you wanna get a pizza?" "Crap, that's my low carb day. I wish it was my higher carb day, I could have a cheese pizza. It wouldn't blow my macros too bad, I'd get some ok carbs." No, if you're invited, make that your high carb day, or whatever day you can fit that in. If you can fit that into your moderate carb day? Make that your moderate carb day. Now you know you only have 2 left that week. So that's the basis of the carb cycle, it doesn't matter what day.

If I'm going to be working all night long, and I'm not even going to have time to think about food tonight, it's probably going to be easy to do a low carb day. I'll get some beef jerky, I'll have some Pro JYM, sit at my desk, and get the thing done. Make it your low carb. And that way you know on Friday you don't have to worry about Friday being your low carb day because you got your low carb day out of the way. So it's very—I'm intuitive with my diet, and it's just sort of a way for me to teach you guys to be a little more intuitive, but still have guidelines for you. That's sort of the basis of—does that explain?

For me personally, I'm a little more intuitive on mine. If I have an event like this, I'll have higher carb days prior to the event because when you eat low carb you have low muscle glycogen. And when you have low muscle glycogen, your muscles aren't as full. When your muscles aren't as full, you don't appear to be as big. And so people will see me on social media, they'll be like "Did you lose all your muscle?" one day, and then the next day "Why do you look so huge?" It's literally just changing my carbohydrates, because when you have high glycogen in muscle it pulls water into the muscle and that keeps the muscles fuller.

However if you're eating high carbs all day you're eventually going to start getting fat. So if you're someone like me who needs to stay lean year round, I manipulate my carbs by knowing when I have an appearance, when I have a photo shoot, so I'm getting high carbs prior. But prior to that I'm eating very low carb or moderate carb, and then after—so today I'll literally start, at 4pm will be my—because I'm going back to L.A. now after the show, I'll go back to a low carb or moderate carb day. Whereas yesterday and the day before I was up in the 2g range. I can do that because I'm able to—it's like if you could just call me at any second and be like "What should I eat?" I'm able to do that to myself—it's easy for me to be able to do that. But it's just sort of a way—one of my diet strategies to sort of help you guys learn it on your own, and figure out how you can do it. "Oh I can do it this day, and I can change it on this day." But great question, thanks.

What Does—and Does Not—Break a Fast

Question: "What stops your fasting period, besides time? Like if you have like 2 calories or 10 calories of something?"

What's the threshold, right? If you drink—let's say you pick up a no-carb energy drink, and it says 1g of carbs on there, and you're like "Wait a minute, it says no carbs, how is there 1g of carbs on here? And is that going to ruin my fast?" Likely, no. It's probably not. That threshold—it's probably not. We don't really have a definitive answer right now. I always try to go as close to zero as possible. In fact, it's debatable whether you should even have artificial sweeteners during your fast, because fasting really happens in the brain. Few people realize this, it's not just in the stomach. Fasting happens in the brain, and things like leucine, for example, will actually tell your brain that you're in a fed state. So if you're fasting, do not have branched-chain amino acids because it's sort of the same thing. But with artificial sweeteners, there are receptors in the mouth for sugar that react to artificial sweeteners, and what we don't know is if it's enough to trick the brain into going "Oh, I think we're fed right now." So I try to avoid artificial sweeteners as much as possible. Every once in a while I'll have a Coke Zero. I hope that helped.

I've got to end. For those of you who want to come see me, get some pictures, autographs, I'm going to be over at the Bodybuilding.com booth right after this until 3 o'clock. So come on over and I'll see you there. Thank you guys again for coming out to see me and thanks for supporting the FitExpo, we really appreciate it. Thank you all. Thanks for the questions guys, great questions.


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