Intermittent fasting, compressed eating windows, insulin hacking, and calorie cycling - these concepts aren’t commonly covered by the talking heads in traditional media. But there’s a monumental difference between “common” and “normal.” Today, more than 67% of us in the U.S. are overweight or obese. Being fat is common. But it’s not normal.
Intermittent fasting, on the other hand, is historically quite normal, but isn’t common in a world abundant with drive-thru’s, protein bars, and “eating 6+ times a day is healthy” dogmatism. Just because fitness magazines, TV, and doctors say that constantly shoveling food down your gullet “improves your metabolism” doesn’t make it true.
Here’s the problem: eating more frequently doesn’t prevent hunger or stop the urge to binge. Your brain has evolved to prepare for times of famine so that, when you ingest food, your body is ready to feast.
When you’re eating all day but never quite filling yourself up, you think about food all the time. But when you simply have dedicated hours of the day when you eat and others that you don’t, hunger is almost completely avoidable.
Since the 1930’s, animal studies have been telling us that restricting calories improves health and longevity. For many decades, most believed that it was necessary to “starve yourself” to reap the benefits. Recent science has shown us, however, that you can actually trim your waistline, improve your biomarkers of health, and increase your longevity without the pain, suffering, and hunger that comes along with restriction. Intermittent Fasting works, too.
When you look to our ancestors as a guide for how we should live, going without food for some hours of the day starts to make sense. Our ancestors hunted and gathered, often going many hours or even days in between meals. We’re meant to withstand at least a portion of our day without food. But want to know my favorite part of fasting? The feast.
A few nights ago, our feast included chipotle lime chicken, a fresh salad from the farmer’s market, sautéed squash, and cabbage-wrapped Russian Meatballs with greek yogurt. Dessert included homemade peanut butter carob brownies, dark chocolate with figs, and French cabernet to round out the evening. It was epic.
The craziest part? I had a photo shoot the next day and I didn’t look like a fatty.
If you could put all the benefits of intermittent fasting into a pill, one lucky pharmaceutical company would make billions. But the truth is that you don’t need any gimmicky product to reap all of the metabolic benefits of fasting – you just need to give it a whirl.
Eating more frequently, while it certainly works for some people, can also provoke an insatiable urge to binge. Eating more often trains your body to be hungry. How often have you stared at the clock eager for the next mealtime?
Fasting and feasting keeps us lean largely because it forces the body to metabolize fat for energy more efficiently. And by limiting spikes in blood sugar because there’s no incoming food to digest, your insulin sensitivity can improve dramatically.
Another benefit of fasting and feasting: by eating less often, it gives the opportunity for our bodies to repair themselves, without being distracted by needing to digest food. The result is less inflammation, more muscle growth, and of course, more fat mobilization.
Studies support that fasting then feasting, or having less frequent meals, doesn’t decrease your metabolism. And eating every few hours, including breakfast, doesn’t increase your metabolism, either. Hunter-gatherer meal patterns, with large dinners and little to eat during the day, seem more natural. That’s why skipping breakfast often comes so easily. (Check out my show with Ori Hofmekler, author of the Warrior Diet to hear more.)
Some studies also show that breakfast boosts hunger throughout the day. I can vouch for that. I tend not to get hungry until I start eating.
They’ve found that cortisol is the main culprit. It’s highest in the morning as a normal process of getting you to wake up and prepare you for the day ahead. Often called “circadian cortisol,” the urge to eat in the morning can actually be a response to cortisol flooding our system and not because we are actually hungry.
Simply, when you have high levels of cortisol and eat, you’re likely to experience an insulin spike and a decrease in insulin sensitivity. That’s why you might be starving a mere 1-2 hours after breakfast.
And if you’re worried about wasting away if you don’t suck down a protein shake every 2 hours, fasting won’t make your muscles fall off… It’s not the best picture below, but in this particular experiment I put on nearly 20 pounds and maintained <10% body fat while consistently skipping meals. (Believe it or not, that’s not a sunburn, I just really get that red when I work out. Probably the Irish in me.)
Fasting and feasting, if you’re up for the experiment, is the bee’s knees. Enjoy the clarity of digestion-free workdays and evenings rejoicing, carrying on, and feasting on some of the best foods you’ve ever tasted.
Interestingly, the more experienced you are with fasting the less you think about food. And if you can get through your day without the distraction of constant hunger, you can get a heck of a lot more done.
I’ll be talking about Intermittent Fasting, Fasting and Feasting, and other fun topics to help you reach your highest potential on my next live call for the Fat-Burning Tribe. Check it out!
What do you think about Intermittent Fasting? Did it work for you?