Fasting can be traced back to at least the 5th century BC to Greek physician Hippocrates. The “Father of Medicine” recommended abstinence from food and drink for patients when showing certain symptoms of illness. Intermittent fasting (IF) as a dietary regimen appears to have started back in the 1940’s here in the U.S., when research studies initially looked at IF in animals.
Intermittent Fasting Basics
Basically, IF is a pattern of eating, not a diet. There are different types of fasting. “Research shows that intermittent fasting is a way to manage your weight and prevent — or even reverse — some forms of disease.”
This article will look at variations of the 16:8 method only. In this method, the goal is to give yourself a window of time to eat. This is typically an 8 hour period of time between 12pm to 8pm. No food is eaten for the remaining 16 hours. You can have plenty of water, black coffee and tea though. The good news is eight of those fasting hours are when you’re asleep. When you wake up drink water and coffee (no cream or sugar) or tea. Your next meal is lunch and then dinner.
Following this method takes in less calories because you skip breakfast and end up eating less. Looking at the big picture, that means about 20-40 percent less overall calories. Personally, I’m not a big fan of this format of eating. Why? if you’re strength training and trying to add lean muscle, it can be difficult to meet the protein requirements for this to happen. Why not separate your meals out a bit. Meaning, eat a late breakfast followed by a later lunch and dinner. Stop eating at 8 pm. Therefore, you have a better chance of hitting your daily protein number. It’s your call.
Can You Eat Enough Protein in Two Meals?
The simple answer is yes, but it will be more challenging not to mention, a tough task to follow long-term. Protein requirements should be increased when strength training. Eating the recommended 1-2 grams of protein per kilogram of bodyweight can be a challenge. Try doing this eating only two meals and snacks! The goal is to eat approximately 25-30 grams of protein with each meal (and protein drinks). It is doable when following a three meal format. Cutting out a full meal like breakfast changes the odds less in your favor.
Health Benefits of Intermittent Fasting
There is plenty of research showing the benefits of following an IF eating format. An overview from Malinowski and colleagues (2019) reported IF “decreases body mass and has a positive influence on lipid profile parameters—it reduces the concentration of total cholesterol, triglycerides, and LDL cholesterol.” A more recent study published in 2020 by Wilkinson et al. in Cell Metabolism also showed promising results. During a three month study, “subjects lost weight, lost fat, decreased their waist circumference, lowered their blood pressures, (and) lowered their bad cholesterol levels (LDL). They also “lowered their hemoglobin A1c levels (a measure of diabetic control), and slightly increased their sleep length.”
While there is plenty of evidence of the benefits of IF in the general population, testing on athletes has occurred less often. A 2016 study published in the Journal of Translational Medicine showed promising results though, reporting:
“Our results suggest that an intermittent fasting program in which all calories are consumed in an 8-h window each day, in conjunction with resistance training, could improve some health-related biomarkers, decrease fat mass, and maintain muscle mass in resistance-trained males.”J. Translational Medicine
Growing Body of Evidence Suggests
Additional research needs to done but to date there is evidence suggesting IF offers some of the following benefits:
- Improves blood lipids and glycemic control.
- Reduces circulating insulin.
- Decreases blood pressure.
- Decreases inflammatory markers.
- Reduces fat mass (in 8-12 weeks).
- Muscle mass is maintained while on IF.
- Promotes weight-loss.
Final Thoughts on IF
As with anything else, following a 16:8 eating format is not for everyone. Certain populations, like those over the age of 70 as an example, should avoid IF. Check with your physician to see if it could be an appropriate tool for you. The best news is it’s free, simple to follow, and gets results!
Intermittent Fasting: What is it, and how does it work? Johns Hopkins University.
Malinowski, B., et al. (2019). Intermittent Fasting in Cardiovascular Disorders—An Overview. Nutrients, 11(3), 673; https://doi.org/10.3390/nu11030673
Moro, T. et al. (2016). Effects of eight weeks of time-restricted feeding (16/8) on basal metabolism, maximal strength, body composition, inflammation, and cardiovascular risk factors in resistance-trained males. J. Translational Medicine. 14:290.
Wilkinson, M. et al. (2020). Ten-Hour Time-Restricted Eating Reduces Weight, Blood Pressure, and Atherogenic Lipids in Patients with Metabolic Syndrome. Cell Metabolism. 31:92-102.
Intermittent Fasting: Transformational Technique. Cynthia Thurlow. TED Talk.
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