The Best Tool For Fat Loss You Are Not Using

Posted on 13. Jan, 2012 by in Lifestyle, SUPERHUMAN30 Challenge, What to Eat

“Eat 6 times a day to keep your metab­o­lism high.”
Break­fast is the most impor­tant meal of the day.”
You should be eat­ing every 2–3 hours.”
A good pre-workout meal is impor­tant for max­i­miz­ing your workout.”
A big post-workout meal is nec­es­sary for recovery.”
You should be eat­ing MORE whole grains, MORE low-fat dairy, MORE fruits and vegetables….”

If we are told that we are fat because we EAT TOO MUCH and EXERCISE TOO LITTLE, then how come most of the spe­cific dietary advice that you hear revolves around eat­ing more food, more often.  We under­stand that we need to eat less over­all to lose weight, but no one seems to ask the question…”How are we sup­posed to eat LESS, by eat­ing MORE?”

The Ther­mic Effect of Food.  How Food Impacts Your Metabolism.

Does eat­ing food really stoke the meta­bolic fire?  Yes, actu­ally.  Every time you take a bite of food your metab­o­lism increases in order to digest, store, and uti­lize that food.  This is known as the Ther­mic Effect of Food (TEF).  What food com­pa­nies don’t want you to know though is that this ther­mic effect is based off the total num­ber of calo­ries ingested, not the tim­ing of those calo­ries.  The TEF is the same whether you con­sume 2000 calo­ries in one meal or 2000 calo­ries in 6 meals.   If you con­sume 2400 calo­ries instead of 2000 calo­ries in a sin­gle day, the TEF will be higher, but the addi­tional TEF will not come close to mak­ing up for the extra 400 calo­ries that you just ingested.

Don’t believe me?  Here are 3 research stud­ies that deter­mined meal tim­ing had no effect on meta­bolic rate or increased weight loss: Here, here, and here.

And here’s another study that found that your meta­bolic rate wouldn’t even decrease after 72-hours straight of not eat­ing!  One of the other find­ings of the study was meta­bolic rate actu­ally INCREASES after 36-hours straight of no food.  It makes you won­der why you ever both­ered to try to eat every cou­ple hours in the first place.

Now that we’re armed with this knowl­edge, let’s see how we can use it to our advan­tage, wel­come Inter­mit­tent Fasting.


What is Inter­mit­tent Fasting?

Wikipedia defines Inter­mit­tent fast­ing (IF) as a pat­tern of eat­ing that alter­nates between peri­ods of fast­ing (usu­ally mean­ing con­sump­tion of water only) and peri­ods of non-fasting.  I like to think of IF as ‘eat­ing a lot of food when you are hun­gry, and abstain­ing from food when you are not hun­gry’, but there is cer­tainly more strat­egy and sci­ence to it than that.


What Inter­mit­tent Fast­ing is Not.

IF is not starv­ing your­self.  It is not the anorexic teenager that eats 500 calo­ries a day in an effort to get as skinny as pos­si­ble.  It is not extreme, and can actu­ally be incor­po­rated into just about any diet and way of life.  Many of the ben­e­fits of IF can be achieved with­out decreas­ing aver­age or total caloric intake.


Why Haven’t I Heard More About Inter­mit­tent Fasting?

The best expla­na­tion is that there’s no finan­cial gain for busi­nesses to tell you to eat less.  10 bil­lion dol­lars are spent every year to do the exact oppo­site, to adver­tise and pro­mote food, so food com­pa­nies will do what­ever it takes to get us to eat more food, more often.

Amer­i­cans are now con­sum­ing 23% more calo­ries (almost 2700 calo­ries) per day than we were in 1970 and our obe­sity rates have more than dou­bled over that 30-year time frame.  I can’t even imag­ine the finan­cial impact this has had for pack­aged food com­pa­nies like Nes­tle, Pep­siCo, Kraft, and Gen­eral Mills.  There’s big busi­ness in con­vinc­ing an Amer­i­can pub­lic that they need to eat every 2 hours, and very lit­tle finan­cial ben­e­fit from edu­cat­ing peo­ple about Inter­mit­tent Fasting.


The Ben­e­fits of Inter­mit­tent Fast­ing: Fat Loss, Mus­cle Reten­tion, and The Foun­tain of Youth. 

”Every liv­ing crea­ture since the begin­ning of time has gone hun­gry now and then. Inter­mit­tent fast­ing is embed­ded in our metab­o­lism.”  Art De Vany, in the The New Evo­lu­tion Diet

IF and Fat Loss:

Insulin is one of the key hor­mones that effects whether we burn fat or store fat.  When insulin is high, we are in stor­age mode, when insulin is low, we are in burn­ing mode.  Fast­ing for only 24 hours was able to bring insulin lev­els down more than 70%.  Reduc­ing insulin is a nec­es­sary com­po­nent of weight loss, and just as impor­tant for avoid­ing dis­eases related to chron­i­cally high insulin, like diabetes.

IF and Mus­cle Retention:

This study com­pared fast­ing with a reg­u­lar calo­rie restric­tive diet.  What they found was the fast­ing group actu­ally was able to burn more fat, and retain more mus­cle than just a nor­mal calo­rie restric­tive diet.  Another study showed that just 3, 30-minute resis­tance train­ing exer­cises per week was all that was nec­es­sary to not lose any mus­cle mass while still drop­ping body fat.

IF and the Foun­tain of Youth:

The most impres­sive find­ing for IF is its effect on growth hor­mone.  Growth hor­mone has been pop­u­lar­ized for every­thing from fat loss to anti-aging, and it seems to be the real deal.  This study actu­ally showed a 5-fold increase in growth hor­mone pro­duc­tion after only 24 hours of fasting.


Why I Love Inter­mit­tent Fasting.

I have always been a fat kid at heart.  If the aver­age male thinks about sex every 7 sec­onds, well the aver­age fat kid (aka me) thinks about food every 3 sec­onds.   So about 10 years ago, when mag­a­zines and books started to con­vince me that eat­ing smaller meals, 6 times a day, would help me burn fat, I thought my prayers were answered.   I could finally have my cake and eat it too, except for my cake looked more like chalky pro­tein bars, sugar-filled yogurts, and lots of pack­aged grain products.

Over the years, I became a mas­ter of eat­ing small meals every 2–3 hours.  I was the poster boy for keep­ing my metab­o­lism high.  I ate first thing in the morn­ing, I ate before work­outs and after work­outs, I ate 6 times a day, and I ate lots of com­plex carbs and low-fat dairy.  I wouldn’t even leave the house for more than an hour with­out fig­ur­ing out where my next meal or snack was com­ing from.  I was so great at eat­ing every 2–3 hours, my friends even gave me the nick­name “snacks” (true story).

But I would soon real­ize that what I thought was a bal­anced diet, was really just a false sense of con­trol.  You don’t give a drug addict their favorite drug and tell them to mod­er­ate the dose.  My results were not even that good to show for it.

About a year ago, I was intro­duced to a con­cept called inter­mit­tent fast­ing and EVERYTHING changed.  I went from eat­ing 5–6 times a day, then 4–5 times a day, then 3–4 times a day, and now I rarely eat more than 3 times in a sin­gle day.  I was burn­ing fat and build­ing mus­cle at a rate I had never expe­ri­enced in my entire life and it felt eas­ier than it ever had.

**This also hap­pened to coin­cide with a lot of the paleo prin­ci­ples I was adapt­ing at the same time, so the com­bi­na­tion of reduc­ing wheat and sugar in my diet with inter­mit­tent fast­ing was a com­plete turnaround.**

The funny part is, I actu­ally felt like I was eat­ing MORE food than ever before.  When I would sit down, I would eat a ton of food, and actu­ally feel full after.  Some­thing I had never really expe­ri­enced in the pre­vi­ous 10 years, except for the occa­sional binge that left me feel­ing just as sick as it did full.  And because I wasn’t wor­ried about my metab­o­lism stop­ping or los­ing all of my mus­cle, I could eas­ily go 5, 6, 7, or even 24 hours with­out hav­ing to think about or worry about my next meal.

It had extra ben­e­fits that I didn’t even con­sider until after I had expe­ri­enced them.   The qual­ity of my food got bet­ter because I no longer had to rely on pack­aged foods, nuts, and fruit to get me through the day.  I could take more time to cook a good meal, because I knew I only had 2 or 3 meals to make instead of 6.  Food started to taste bet­ter because I was actu­ally hun­gry when I was eat­ing instead of mind­lessly shov­ing food in my face.  I even became more pro­duc­tive since I wasn’t wast­ing all my time try­ing to fig­ure out where my next snack was com­ing from.

**I actu­ally didn’t even come across this study until recently, but this val­i­dated all of the things that I was expe­ri­enc­ing.  Eat­ing more often, even when total calo­ries are equal, actu­ally makes us feel hungrier. **


How to Get Started with Inter­mit­tent Fasting.

Most of the ben­e­fits of inter­mit­tent fast­ing appear to occur some­where between 12 and 24 hours of straight fast­ing.  The good news is, these hours can coin­cide with the time you spend sleep­ing so it’s prob­a­bly best to time your fast so you will be asleep dur­ing the most dif­fi­cult part.

My favorite resource on inter­mit­tent fast­ing, Eat Stop Eat, advo­cates a 24 hour fast where you would have your last meal around 6 pm on one day, and then you wouldn’t eat again until 6 pm on the fol­low­ing day.  You can repeat this 2–3 times a week until you reach your desired weight and about once a week there­after.  I should men­tion that even though I love the Eat Stop Eat guide, and do believe there may be addi­tional ben­e­fits to a 24-hour fast, I find the Lean­Gains 16/8 fast­ing sched­ule a lot more prac­ti­cal for me.

The 16/8 sched­ule means for every 24 hours of a day, you are fast­ing for 16 of them and feed­ing for 8 of them.  This usu­ally means hav­ing my first meal at 11 am and my last meal at 7 pm.  You can tech­ni­cally eat as often as you want dur­ing the 8-hr feed­ing win­dow, but I have found 2–3 meals dur­ing that time to be the most practical.

When I first started exper­i­ment­ing with inter­mit­tent fast­ing, I stuck pretty strictly to the 16/8 sched­ule.  I would usu­ally have my first meal post-workout at 10 am, and my last meal of the day would come around 6 pm.  It was easy to stick to and the results were great.

These days, I don’t even think about inter­mit­tent fast­ing in the for­mal sense, all I think about is eat­ing when I am REALLY hun­gry and not eat­ing when I’m not very hun­gry.  This usu­ally means wait­ing a few hours after I wake up before I have my first meal and not eat­ing very late at night.  But some days I will wake up starv­ing and eat right away and not worry about the fact that I didn’t last the full 16 hour fast.  Some days the fast may only be 10 or 12 hours and other days it will be as high as 16–20 hours, but most impor­tantly, I am only eat­ing when I am REALLY hun­gry.  Its actu­ally pretty amaz­ing how often I come close to the 16/8 approach with­out even really think­ing about it.


I know inter­mit­tent fast­ing may sound like a rad­i­cal con­cept in today’s world where there’s always a rea­son to eat, but it truly is the sim­plest and most prac­ti­cal diet­ing strat­egy that I have ever used.  Hav­ing food avail­able to us at all hours of the day just doesn’t make sense with our genetic past.  If we want to max­i­mize our genetic poten­tial, we need to start work­ing with it, instead of against it.

For more infor­ma­tion on Inter­mit­tent Fast­ing, check out Eat Stop Eat and Lean­Gains.

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2 Responses to “The Best Tool For Fat Loss You Are Not Using”

  1. pat

    08. Jul, 2012

    Yes! The thought of eat­ing 6 mini meals a day was over­whelm­ing for me. I am a stay-at-home mom of 5 and just the thought of meal plan­ning beyond what I was already doing was crazy. I get up around 5am, but am not ready to eat until 10am or later. but accord­ing to many nutri­tion­ists I should have eaten within a few hours of wak­ing up. As I Chris­t­ian, I prac­tice inter­mit­tent fast­ing and have found it to be very ben­e­fi­cial in help­ing me to avoid emo­tional eat­ing and help­ing me to truly enjoy the gift of food.

    • LivingSuperhuman

      09. Jul, 2012

      Great point pat. Many stay at home moms find them­selves in a trap of mind­less eat­ing snack­ing every hour on foods that are far from opti­mal. Some of the most worth­less “foods” like yogurts, snack bars, or meal replace­ment drinks are over-exploited to this mar­ket.  Real food + mind­ful eat­ing is an amaz­ing com­bi­na­tion that could lead to a level of health most peo­ple don’t even know is there. 

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