Spot Me girl: There are so many diets out there that promise to work, but might not be right for us. Even lifters can sometimes fall into buying into a fad diet from time to time. Just as there are trending workouts (HIIT, Crossfit, etc), there are trending diets. One of the biggest diet trends that people are buying into is Intermittent Fasting.
Intermittent Fasting can probably be thought of as more of a lifestyle than a “diet” per say, although everyone in the fitness community will say that they are never dieting but rather making lifestyle changes. Yeah, yeah we get it, but we all know it’s technically a diet. Anyways, Intermittent Fasting, or IF for short, is a change in your eating routine where you consume all of your daily calories in a shorter window of time. Most of us who train are fully invested in the 6 small meals a day or every 2 hours regimen. IF is completely different and throws those ideas out of the window.
How It Differs From the Norm
As previously said, the biggest difference and the reason for the name, is the fact that you eat all of your daily calories between set times and force your body to adjust to those habits. So for example, I will fast for 16 hours and eat my calories within an 8 hour window. First meal at 1pm, last meal around 9pm. Your feeding window can start at any time, and it can be as short as you’d like as well. You want to align your workouts to precede your biggest meal though, so an example of a full 24hr schedule can look like the following:
- 12pm – Lift
- 1pm – Meal 1 (50% of your daily calories)
- 5pm – Meal 2 (25% of your daily calories, taper the carbs)
- 8:30pm – Meal 3 (25% of your daily calories, taper carbs more)
The Science Behind IF
At this point, you’re wondering what the purpose of this diet…er sorry, lifestyle change, is for. Well researchers have looked at how we foraged and ate when we were civilization-ally challenged (caveman is just so offensive these days) and have taken those eating patterns and applied it to modern man. Back then, you only ate when you killed something. Their bodies became use to going without and during times of fasting, your body begins to break down the glucose that is stored in your liver and muscles into glycogen. Glycogen is what your body uses for energy along with actual body fat. When you run out of glycogen stores, which can occur anywhere between 6-12 hours after beginning of your fast, your body begins to utilize amino acids for energy.
Many people worry that eating less often means your metabolic rate decreases, but actually the opposite happens, where your metabolic rate stays the same and actually increases after 24 hours of fasting. That way, you’re burning fat while sustaining muscle mass and energy. There are more long term benefits that come from fasting, but those are outside fitness so who cares, right? Fitness is life!
Does It Work for Women?
This is the real question that needs to be asked for any woman when she is beginning a new routine or diet. What works for men may not always have the same effect on women given the hormonal spikes that take place during any given 30 days. If you had a chance to read How Your Cycle Affects Your Lifting, you already know that there are built in times for women where we burn our glycogen levels purely based off of the time of the month. There are also times that no matter what, we are prone to holding onto our fat stores. So, does this diet work for women? It can, but can lead to long term issues.
The diet does work in that it can help you shed fat while retaining muscle. The downside is that in studies done on mice and IF, the female mice began taking on traits of men. You’ll hear that sort of thing indirectly from women who do IF, where they say they have more energy and have much more intense lifts. It is true, you will have more intense lifts as a result of IF, but it is because you’re actually more masculine. The male mice didn’t have much of a chemical reaction to IF, where the female mice became much better at hunting down food. So no, you’re not making up the smell of cheesecake in your head, you’re just smelling it from a building away.
More downsides: it made the female mice more alert, wakeful during usual dormant times, and triggers your sympathetic nervous system which is in charge of your flight-or-flight response. This can lead to adrenal fatigue, hormonal shifts that delay or cease menstruation, and you’ll become more prone to binge eating. It also can decrease your ovary size thus decreasing your sex drive, which…sucks. This is all because of the necessity for fat on the female body and how fragile our hormonal levels can be. Fasting triggers a ton of chemical responses in the body, and it just happens that for men, fasting tells them to eventually find food so they don’t starve, while it tells us women to hunt food down, gorge ourselves on it, and maintain a proper fat and lean body ratio so we can pop out kids.
The F hormones?
The suggestion for women is that you need to research hard about any and all diets since so many of the ones you’ll hear about are directed at men and thus, suggested for women. This is a diet that can work off-and-on during the week for both the fat loss and the mental de-stress of not carrying around a cooler of food all the time. No matter what, you have to find what works for you, but this is a great example of how you need to recognize what is healthy vs what will make you look good. Depending on which one concerns you more, thats how you need to direct yourself. Hint: it should be healthy.
Try IF 3 days out of the week to see how you feel, then make a full decision. The best way to use IF is to first adjust your body to the time difference, then eat hearty, clean meals to see the full benefits. The more consistent you are with your workouts and your diet, the more your body will figure out what the deal is. That goes for men and women alike though, consistency is key!
Take it from me, that great physique you’re after is 50% hard work, 50% diet, 50% mental commitment. Yes, thats 150%, because thats how much you have to give to be the best you possible. Eat Smart my pretties!