So, you want to be a fat-burning beast? Let’s be honest: who doesn’t?
One of my favourite fat-loss strategies is Intermittent Fasting.
It’s not a full-time strategy. After-all, I have a busy life and a business to run. But if I’m on a mission and want to shed body-fat quickly: then it is definitely one of my go-to methods.
The only real caveat is that I must ensure I’m adequately hydrated and pay attention to electrolyte balances – I may add some salt to my water-bottle.
Isn’t Intermediate Fasting a Gimmick?
While it’s certainly not a gimmick, many people apply the principles incorrectly; practically starving themselves for a couple of days a week.
Sensible and structured Intermittent Fasting simply means consuming all your calories and macros within a compressed eating window; thereby extending the period during which the body is primarily burning its fat stores.
Say you ate your last meal of the day at 6pm. Once the body has finished processing the carbohydrates you most recently ate (it’ll utilise what it can and store any excess as fat) it will still require energy to function; burning calories as you sleep.
Where does this energy come from? Your fat stores!
If you extend your fasting window, to midday for example – ensuring you stay hydrated – you also extend the period during which your body is able to more easily access its fat stores.
It’s still important to consume all your necessary calories and macros. Easier said than done when you eat as much as I do. Which is why I only do it on certain days.
Let Intuition Be Your Guide:
Want to know the best time to eat? When you’re hungry!
Wait, what? How does that statement fit in with intermittent fasting?
The reality of this rule means that some mornings I may wake with the full intention of fasting; yet by the time I’ve walked to the kitchen, I’m ravenous!
Surely I ought to apply some good ol’ will-power and forge on regardless?
Nah, not going to happen. If I’m this hungry, then it’s for a good reason:
My body is screaming out for nutrients and I’m not going to deny it’s call.
I could ignore the hunger and push through it; willpower not being an issue. However, listening to the body and being smart is the key to maximising progress.
When fasting feels right, I love it:
- I feel super-energised
- Wide awake
- Extremely focused and cognitively sharp
- In tune with my body
In short: I feel alive. Not to mention a really flat stomach.
Yet, if I were to attempt a fast when my body clearly required nourishment:
- I’d feel as weak as a kitten
- My head would be foggy
- I’d be grumpy as hell
- My decisions wouldn’t be anywhere near as good
- I’d risk overeating later
- I’d suffer constant cravings
- And I’d be pretty crap to be around.
Definitely not a situation that’s conducive to a healthy lifestyle; mental health included.
That’s why it’s so important to take an intuitive approach to intermittent fasting. Plus, it prevents this strategy from becoming a source of obsession – an easy thing to happen within the realm of nutrition and dieting.
Can You Work-out Fasted?
Short answer: yes. Whether or not it’s the right approach for you is another thing.
Low-intensity exercise can certainly burn extra calories when you’re already in a fat-burning state.
Increasing the intensity, however, can change the playing field somewhat. New studies suggest that the thermogenic effect from intense stimulation of the muscles is greater following an adequately fuelled workout; the body maintaining a higher metabolic rate, for longer.
The jury is still out on this one.
From experience: I feel amazing when I train fasted and lift heavy. Extended high intensity exercise, however, has left me nauseous, faint and feeling like hell. A result of too much stress being placed on the central nervous system.
Personally, I’m gonna go with how I feel on the day, and I suggest you do the same. A one-size-fits-all approach is never going to work for everyone.
Feel free to experiment, but don’t force yourself to try something that doesn’t feel right. It used to be impossible for me to train on an empty stomach. Whereas now I have more metabolic flexibility, it’s easy.
Don’t Forget About Protein:
Strictly speaking, as soon as you have anything to eat, you’ve broken your fast. I love some coffee before a fasted workout; it’s a part of my routine. If it’s black: no problem. If that coffee contains my usual shot of cream, then technically I’ve broken my fast.
In reality, I’ve not ingested enough to completely ruin the fasting effect; but I will have blunted it to a degree. The thing is: don’t get in my way if I need coffee in the morning!!
The other consideration is how you time protein intake. For low-level cardio, it’s no real issue.
When it comes to heavy lifting or more intense exercise, there are proponents who advocate a complete continuation of the fast. I take a different approach.
Having put blood-sweat-n-tears into every single ounce of muscle, and I’m not going to risk the body catabolising my hard-won gains to fuel my latest workout. Therefore, I either consume protein soon after a heavy session, or during in the form of a fast absorbing whey-based source.
As far as I’m concerned: preserving your lean muscle must take priority over fat-loss. Will it take slightly longer to achieve? Maybe.
However, fat-loss should never be an overriding goal that compromises healthy body-composition.
Is Intermittent Fasting Right for You?
The more metabolic flexibility you develop, the more you may benefit from intermittent fasting.
Alternatively, you may be someone who just can’t bear to eat anything before midday. If this is you, then you can certainly leverage Intermittent Fasting to your advantage; always being careful that you don’t under-eat.
Bottom line: this is just another tool that you can try.
It’s one I employ when appropriate, but it doesn’t suit everyone.
The only way to be sure is to give it a try!