The basic premise of IF is to periodically extend the amount of time between meals by choosing fresh, unprocessed foods and naturally reducing overall calorie consumption. Chances are, you already practice IF—it’s called sleeping. If you have your last meal of the day at 7 p.m. and the first one on the following day at 7 a.m., you break a 12-hour fast with breakfast.
The theory of IF exactly counters what we’ve all been told for years—that eating small, frequent meals is the best way to increase metabolism, maintain stable blood sugar levels, and burn body fat. But new data suggests that paradigm may not be as well-founded as previously believed. In fact, a research analysis of meal frequency and energy balance published in the British Journal of Nutrition found no difference between nibbling and gorging.
As with the Primal Blueprint (see previous slide), proponents of IF suggest that varying calorie intake aligns with our evolutionary history. During times of plenty, our ancestors feasted on the available food supply; during lean times, their bodies utilized stored energy for fuel and eliminated cellular waste through a process called auto-phagocytosis. Some research suggests that in the absence of fasting periods, our modern metabolisms are no longer able to shed the accumulated cellular chaff, and that the unhealthy buildup of debris contributes to many types of disease.
John Berardi, Ph.D., C.S.C.S., founder of Precision Nutrition, a nutrition coaching company, says that it’s not only possible to lose body fat by skipping the occasional meal (or meals) while preserving muscle mass and strength; it may actually improve your overall health. In his free e-book, Experiments with Intermittent Fasting, Berardi says that IF followers may have decreased triglycerides, LDL cholesterol, blood pressure, systemic inflammation, oxidative stress, and risk of cancer. There are endless ways to approach IF, but here are a few common protocols:
● Warrior Diet: 20-hr fast + 4-hr feed
● Lean gains: 16-hr fast + 8-hr feed
● Alternate-Day Fasting: 36-hr fast + 12-hr feed
● Eat, Stop, Eat: 24-hr fast, once or twice weekly