The Fitness Industry, being no different than fashion, often swings from one extreme viewpoint to another. For years we have been told that you absolutely have to eat every 2-3 hours to stoke the furnace, to the point where people began eating every hour; whereas now, intermittent fasting is one of the hottest topics being discussed.
The first thing that I would like to point out is, that both eating patterns will do more harm than good. Yes, I said it, there is no need to eat every 2-3 hours, but back to intermittent fasting (IF).
What does IF stand for?
The term IF covers a wide array of diets, anywhere from fasting for 4 hours a day to going for a full 16 hours without food, followed by 4 hours of more or less controlled overeating.
The claim is that the body’s insulin sensitivity goes up during the fasting hours, ergo nutrients are better used during the eating hours thus leading to fat loss and muscle gain.
In reality there are several issues with IF, let’s start with the positives:
- Insulin sensitivity is indeed improved
- Blood glucose levels are stable and fat loss is improved (note: all this could be accomplished with exercise along with a healthy diet)
- Training whilst fasting may have a negative impact on muscle building (no gains…)
- Hunger is more pronounced during long periods of fasting
- In a fasted state, performance and concentration are generally lowered, as evident in the higher number of car crashes, and diminished endurance of soccer players during Ramadan (it’s a tough one as those effects could also be caused by dehydration)
- The actual research on humans is scarce, most studies are done on mice.
- Training in a fasted state is not optimal, try to avoid it.
- The potential benefits of IF are not worth the negatives, I do not recommend it.
- Meal timing matters, especially around the workout, but overall, calories matter more
Ultimately, every diet plan has to fit the needs of the athlete, I am just trying to present the science.
Till next time…