As far as I’m concerned, the debate is over and the verdict is in.
Intermittent fasting is an incredibly powerful fat loss strategy because it provides structure frustrated dieters need to lose fat, yet provides the freedom to have a social life, and enjoy larger meals. In other words, it allows most people to lose fat while living a life improved, not consumed by fitness.
So, what is intermittent fasting?
Intermittent fasting is a diet strategy used to alternate intervals of eating (fed state) with not eating, or fasted states.
There are a number of different fasting protocols, like the popular 16/8 lean gains protocol or Eat, Stop, Eat, which you can read more about here.
Regardless of the protocol you choose, the methods or more or less the same–you set a time-restricted feeding window to control calories. Looking specifically at fat loss, intermittent fasting leverages a time-sensitive eating window to create a caloric deficit, which is the most factor for fat loss.
Which brings me to my next point: if the most important factor to help you lose fat is creating and maintaining a caloric deficit, we should focus on the method to that creates a caloric deficit most effectively. Given I work primarily with busy, hard-charging men and women, intermittent fasting provides the structure to create a caloric deficit and the freedom to have more flexibility with their diet.
If you deal with a chaotic work schedule and are constantly on the go, you’ll probably find the same benefit: a simple plan that’s easy to stick to for long-term fat loss.
Here are eleven reasons to try intermittent fasting.
Reason #1: Convenience
You’re busy. You’re stressed. Your life pulls you in a million different directions. With intermittent fasting you won’t need to take the time to wonder: “is this healthy?” and prepare meals every morning. By removing this simple obstacle and simply sipping coffee or water, you’ll save time and optimize your morning with a fast.
In the evenings, you’ll have more calories to work with, meaning you can still knock out a business dinner or enjoy a meal with your wife without eating chicken out of a tupperware container. Working with hundreds of clients over the years, the more convenient the fat loss diet, the better it is for long-term success. Chalk up a win for intermittent fasting.
Reason #2: Improving Brain Health
Intermittent fasting has been shown to increase Brain-Derived Neurotrophic Factor – or BDNF. BDNF is a naturally occurring growth hormone that is responsible for neurogenesis: the creation of new neurons.
In short, studies have shown intermittent fasting increases BDNF and the number of neurons in your brain. Obviously, this is a good thing. Increased BDNF may boost intelligence, mood, productivity, and memory along with decreased risks of neurodegenerative diseases like Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s.
Couple the improved convenience of fasting and brain-related benefits, and you have a winning combination for maximizing productivity early in the day.
Reason #3: Eating Big Meals At Night
The problem with most diets is they’re inconvenient. Sure, you can eat l five small meals a day. But if you have a bigger meal in the evening when you’re more likely to enjoy your social life, it’s easy to overshoot your calories and gain fat.
And that’s despite eating unsatisfying meals all day. Fasting makes it more convenient to enjoy big meals without failing at the most important component of fat loss: creating a consistent caloric deficit.
Reason #4: Flexibility
Fasting is not a license to eat junk food. But by restricting your eating window to 8 hours or less, you can eat higher calorie foods that are normally off-limits during a diet as long as you stay in a caloric deficit.
This means you can occasionally have pizza, dessert, a Great Divide Titan IPA or a glass of bourbon and still lose weight. Again, none of these should be an everyday event. But fasting gives you the flexibility to have some of your favorite foods and drinks without getting fat.
Reason #5. Resetting Hunger Signals
Intermittent fasting helps reset your body’s hunger signals and addiction to food. Hedonic hunger, the increase in eating due to our habits rather than the actual need for food, is a serious problem. It has us reaching for food every few hours out of habit, not need.
Now, breaking this cycle isn’t fun nor easy. then again, what worthwhile thing is fun and easy (beyond sex?)
The truth is you need to break this cycle to reset the hormones related to appetite (leptin and ghrelin) if you’re serious about looking better naked and optimizing your health, your body, and your life. If you don’t think that’s worth being hungry for a few days while your body adapts, then I can’t help you.
Reason #6: Decreasing Food-Related Stress
Classic dieting advice focuses on eating many small meals throughout the day. This leads to constant stress about food. You need to prep a ton of meals ahead of time and be a macro-counting, Tupperware-carrying dweeb or you’ll find yourself reaching for another snack-pack or snickers.
When food is constantly at the top of your mind because of the lies you’ve been fed, it becomes far too easy to overeat, stress about food quality, and fail at your fat loss diet. Intermittent fasting removes this stress by applying limits to your day. These limits are necessary to reset and optimize your body for fat loss.
Reason #7: Optimizing Hormones
Busy men, especially those in their late 20’s and above, should pay particular attention to this section. After all, it’s been shown that men have testosterone levels nearly 25% lower than men of the same age generations ago. To be the strong, lean, dedicated, confident, and determined men our families and societies need, we need to do better. Fasting is one tool to do so.
Studies have shown intermittent fasting increases growth hormone. I know what you’re probably thinking. Isn’t growth hormone the stuff athletes keep gettin’ popped for? In short, yes. But your body produces growth hormone naturally when you’re sleeping and fasting.
Growth hormone is essential to rapidly burning body fat. It also helps you recover from injuries and exercise, improves skin elasticity, and potentially slows the aging process. For this reason, growth hormone is often referred to as the youthful hormone. This is why beat up athletes and Hollywood starlets want to get their hands on the synthetic stuff to optimize performance and aesthetics.
Fortunately, you can naturally boost growth hormone with fasting — and without doling out thousands of dollars for the synthetic stuff.
Even more important, you may be able to boost testosterone with fasting. This study found fasting increased luteinizing hormone, a testosterone precursor by up to 67% and overall testosterone by 180%. Now, I have yet to find other studies with the same dramatic benefits, but those numbers are alarming.
The truth is the less sensitive your body is to insulin (more on this below) the more likely you are to store body fat and the more difficult it will be to build lean muscle. Also, the more body fat you have, the less testosterone you’re likely to have.
Intermittent fasting improves both insulin sensitivity. This you lose fat and build muscle. You create a caloric deficit to reduce testosterone-zapping body fat. So pretty easy to see how intermittent fasting can help you improve the most important male hormone: testosterone.
Reason #8: Increasing Insulin Sensitivity
Insulin sensitivity, how responsive your body is to insulin, is a key factor in helping you lose body fat and build muscle, not to mention preventing type two diabetes and heart disease.
Here’s how it works. When your body is not sensitized to insulin, commonly termed insulin resistance, your body does a poor job of breaking down and storing nutrients. In a way, it’s similar to ordering pizza delivery, but never answering the door.
The signal (knocking at the door) is there, but you’re not opening up the door (your cells) to receive the glucose (pizza) When this happens, sugar stays in your bloodstream and if it’s not used, gets stored as body fat.
So, where does fasting come into play?
Your insulin rises in response to eating, especially carbohydrate-rich meals. Research has clearly shown intermittent fasting to be one of the best methods to improve insulin sensitivity.
By taking 16+ hour breaks from eating, you’re reducing the number of insulin spikes throughout the day. This improves your sensitivity to insulin over time. When coupled when accelerated fat loss when following a calorie restricted intermittent fasting diet, your body is well equipped to become hypersensitized to insulin. This helps you torch body fat and build muscle much more easily.
Benefit #9: Autophagy
Autophagy is the natural cellular cleansing process in your body, a daily tune-up much like a tune-up you’d give to your car.
So, what happens when you don’t tune up your car?
Performance decreases, and it breaks down quicker, leaving you with a mechanic bill larger than your mortgage or rent.
When autophagy is limited, your internal environment is damaged, you’re more likely to suffer from chronic disease, you age faster, and yes, you’re more likely to incur massive bills from your doctor rather than a car mechanic. Frankly, that sounds about as fun as walking on broken glass.
Luckily, fasting has been shown to accelerate autophagy. According to this study, short-term food restriction induces a dramatic upregulation of autophagy.
Because you’re giving your body a break from constantly digesting food and figuring out what to do with it, you’re able to increase autophagy for better long-term health. Now, I’d be a bullshitter to say autophagy is a unique benefit to intermittent fasting alone. It occurs all the day. But you if you can accelerate autophagy via fasting to potentially reduce disease, slow down the aging process, and boost longevity, you should.
Benefit #10: Increased Productivity
Whether you’re an entrepreneur, busy parent, or college student you’ll find intermittent fasting a powerful tool to supercharge your focus and make you more productive.
First, intermittent fasting eliminates distraction-based eating. Think about it for a second, how often do you eat meals because you’re bored? Or more likely, how do you feel after a big lunch? You probably want to curl up under your desk and catch some z’s. In both cases, the structure of intermittent fasting eliminates this decision for you.
Second, intermittent fasting can increase cortisol. Increasing cortisol may sound bad from the outset, but when it comes to productivity, increased cortisol gives you the “in the zone” focus and clarity to do deep work. It’s important to keep cortisol without reason, though. If you’re chronically over-stressed, fasting may not be the best for you. Otherwise, as long as you’re sleeping and partaking in a mindfulness practice like meditation, the increased focus you’ll get from fasting will help you do more high-level work.
Third, dramatically increases neural autophagy. This is the clearing of dead brain cells for new ones to potentially reduce your chance of getting Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s disease.
As crazy as it sounds, you’ll find better focus and clarity during your fasts.
Benefit #11: Reducing Inflammation (And Disease)
Systemic total body inflammation is one of the key components of many diseases. Luckily, extensive research has shown intermittent fasting to reduce total body inflammation. This is often measured by analyzing circulating proinflammatory cytokines (interleukin [IL]-1β, IL-6, and tumor necrosis factor α) and immune cells (total leukocytes, monocytes, granulocytes, and lymphocytes).
Fasting activates AMP-activated protein kinase (AMPK), which turns on when the nutrient is insufficient due to a period of fasting.
AMPK lowers chronic inflammation, which is tied to damn near every single disease. Insulin resistance is closely associated with high levels of inflammation. In this case, fasting kills two birds with one stone, lowering inflammation and improving insulin sensitivity, which further reduces inflammation.
Medical mumbo jumbo aside?
Fasting appears to be a natural way to reduce all causes of disease.
The Bottom Line On Intermittent Fasting
If you’re a healthy adult who’s looking to accelerate fat loss and improve your health, intermittent fasting might be the perfect diet for you. That said, intermittent fasting isn’t a magic, no diet is. If, however, you find yourself struggling to stay consistent and would prefer to eat larger meals and have an active social life, intermittent fasting could be the right fit for you.