Tuesday, July 31, 2012

Is Intermittent Fasting Right for You? Pt. 2

In Part One, we listed some of the supposed benefits credited to intermittent fasting. In Part Two, we’ll continue with more of those, and discuss some of the ways to help you decide whether IF is right for you.

Here are some more of the stumbling blocks to watch out for if you undertake IF:

      8. Don’t consider IF the best option if physique is your primary goal.
If you’re on a fast-track program to get shredded for a photo shoot, intermittent fasting isn’t the best way to go about it. You’ll be better off tapering your caloric intake down gradually, while continuing your intense workouts. Those workouts need fuel to be optimally effective, and if you don’t provide enough of that fuel, your performance will suffer. That means your physique won’t get to the point you’ve set as your goal.

If you train when fasting, your body mass is bound to gradually decrease. Yes, there are some seriously ripped guys out there that promote 36 hours of fasting every other day. But a person has to wonder how intense their training really is for them to be able to sustain that. Intense workouts require increased calories and nutrition, or the only thing you’ll get is tired. If those guys are really working at it and are getting muscled up, then they’d be getting even more muscled up if they weren’t fasting (and they probably had a lot of body fat to begin with).

9. If you’re trying to bulk up, IF may be a good tool for you.
Skinny guys trying to bulk up can sometimes find themselves packing on more fat than muscle, at least until they’ve worked up to an intense workout level. Fasting isn’t best used as a band-aid, but fasting for one day a month might be a useful technique to help you manage such fat gain. The better option, of course, is to taper your caloric intake upward gradually, to avoid the fat gain from the beginning.

10.  Make your fasting day meaningful.
Anybody can fast for 24 hours, with just a little willpower. Fasting from 5pm Sunday until 5pm Monday is too easy. Besides, you may be prone to overdo that Monday night meal. A better option would be to fast from Sunday night until Tuesday morning. Then, when you begin eating again, you’re immediately getting into your training, rather than into bed.

11.  Schedule your fasting when it’s easiest to forget you’re hungry.
If you schedule your fast days for your busiest day of the week, you’ll get a double benefit. First of all, you’ll have an opportunity to get more accomplished, without having to spend time cooking, eating or cleaning up. Second, when you’re busy, you’ll find you get so wrapped up in what you’re doing that you forget you’re hungry. A win-win situation!

12.  Combine fast days with exercise for the best results.
If you’re out to lose a fair amount of fat – say 25 lbs or so – then this may be just what you need. If your body fat percentage is already down in the single digits, don’t bother with this, but if you’re up in the range of 10-15% or more, this could be just what the doctor ordered. Work out on your fast days two or three times, and watch that fat disappear quickly!

13.  Remember that the research is sparse on this topic.
There really has been very little research involving humans on the effects of IF. Most of what can be found involves animal testing, and that’s not reliable in predicting what will happen with humans using intermittent fasting to lose fat and build muscle.

Take what is said about IF with a grain of salt, and test it for yourself before committing in a big way. What works for one person may be a waste of time for someone else. There are a lot of variables that make each person’s situation unique, so don’t assume that you’ll get the same results as anyone else… as the saying goes, your mileage may vary.

Dr. Berardi also points out a couple of important problems with intermittent fasting that you probably won’t see mentioned on sites that promote IF:

·        First Problem – an absence of data. As mentioned above, most of the IF research that exists (and there’s not a lot to be found) deals with testing using animals. That’s a bit like testing a motorcycle and trying to apply the results to a car. There may be some similarities, but there are sure to be some major differences, too.
As with any experiment, the structure of the study is critical, if the results are to be considered reliable. Conditions must be uniform, there must be a valid control group, measurement and recording methods must be standardized and a standard deviation must be identified. In the laxness or absence of any of these factors, the reliability of the data is questionable, at best.

Once the criteria are properly established and adhered to, a large enough study group must be observed and repeatability of the results must be verified. Only then will we have reliable indications that we can use to guide us.

Because such studies take time and money, as well as willing participants, we find ourselves with more questions than answers surrounding the pros and cons of IF. Volunteers expect to be well-paid, especially if they’re being required to fast for a day or more. And finding study sponsors to fund not eating is more than a little challenging.

·        Second Problem – faulty comparison to “normal” diet. When comparing an IF case with a non-IF case for body building users, it’s critical that the users in both instances are eating not only the same food when not fasting, but also that they’re following a body building diet. If not, the results are virtually useless.

For instance, the typical North American eats more than his body burns. That eventually equates to weight gain.  But an IF user is actually eating less than he burns. So even if both participants are eating the same, if they’re consuming a typical North American diet, we’ll have effectively skewed the results in IF’s favor.

The question is raised, then, whether the apparent benefits of intermittent fasting aren’t actually benefits of fasting, but rather, simply a benefit of burning more than we eat.

Some Advice on IF

Transforming your body is part science and part art. But it’s important to master the science first, before venturing into the artistic side. Control your nutrition levels properly, establish a regular pattern of appropriate workout levels and allow your system to acclimate itself to those regimens. Only after you have a handle on those essential elements should you consider trying IF. Otherwise, any benefits that you do realize from IF will only last as long as you continue to use the technique. Stop fasting, and you’ll soon revert to your earlier state. And you’re after lasting results, right?

How to Determine Whether IF is right for you 

There are many reasons that people look to IF as a tool to achieve their goal. They may be seeking bodybuilding, longevity, disease prevention or fat loss… but everyone is simply sharing their experience and their own best guess (including me). So don’t base your decision upon what you read… base it upon what you try. Above all, remember that your results will probably differ from others’… you need to find what works for you.

Eventually, intermittent fasting will get the attention necessary to provide reliable guidance. Until that happens, start with an appropriate diet and activity level, and then, if you’re so inclined, try IF, tailoring it to get the results you seek.

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