Here’s a very gross oversimplification: Your body is either feeding or fasting. There is either insulin in your blood or glucagon. You’re either storing energy or you’re accessing it.
When you consume calories or artificial sweetener, this triggers your pancreas to release insulin. Insulin is the hormone that tells your body to take up and store any energy that it doesn’t need to use immediately. Your insulin level will stay up after you’ve finished eating, because your body is still processing all the food that you just ate. Because your levels stay up after you’ve finished eating, it means you’re still in energy storage mode, even when you are no longer eating. Until you burn through the glycogen storage in your liver and muscles and work through the glucose in your blood, you really can’t access the energy that’s been stored in body fat.
After a while your insulin level finally comes back down, and once the insulin is out of your bloodstream that’s when glucagon comes in. Glucagon serves the opposite purpose of insulin: It tells your body to bring energy out of storage. That’s when you finally start using body fat.
So if you’re eating every three hours, it means you keep pumping your insulin levels up. And once they’re up, you can’t access the stored energy in your body fat. This is a great way to gain mass. It’s a great way to add weight, but if your goal is to lose body fat this is not going to be effective. Another caveat for people who are trying to get rid of body fat is that if you eat small meals throughout the day, there is the chance that you will never feel satiated. You might binge and eat more calories that you would have otherwise.
What’s great about fasting is that it gives your body a chance to come out of insulin mode. And that’s important! You want your body to shift gears. You want it to have a rest from all that insulin, because you don’t want to develop insulin resistance. Over the course of time this can lead to problems like diabetes. It is good for you to fast. It allows you to burn through all the sugar in your system and to start accessing body fat. You don’t want to fast too hard or too often, because you can lose muscle mass.
Intermittent fasting is not a diet. It’s an eating schedule. The two most common types of intermittent fasting are called 8:16 and 5:2. My personal preference is for 8:16. This means that for eight hours a day I consume all the calories I need in that narrow window.
This is something to remember: You’re not restricting calories, you’re restricting the timeframe within which you eat all of them. You can set this up to fit your schedule any way you want. I personally like to start eating at noon and stop eating at 8pm. This is important to remember as well: If you’re eating all your calories, you won’t get hungry during the 16 hours that you’re fasting. Half that time you’re going to be asleep, and the other part of the time when you’re awake, you’re full, and you shouldn’t need to eat again. If you do, it means that you didn’t eat all of your calories.
The other format that’s commonly used is called 5:2. This means that you eat normally on a regular schedule five days of the week, but that on two days you do not. Those two days cannot be back to back. Let’s say that you want to fast on Tuesday and Friday. You still get to eat every single day, but it works like this: If you’re going to do a 24-hour fast on Tuesday, you would put your fork down at 8 p.m. on Monday night and then pick it up again at 8 p.m. on Tuesday. Then on Wednesday you would go back to eating normally again. You would eat normally on Thursday, put your fork down at 8 p.m., and then on Friday you would pick your fork up at 8 p.m.. On Saturday, Sunday and Monday you would eat normally again, but remember you do not put the two fasting days back to back.
Contrary to what the supplement and food companies tell you, you will not go into starvation or famine mode within three hours of not eating. Honestly, they’re just trying to sell you more food and supplements. I mean, think about it: If we couldn’t go more than three hours without eating, we would never have survived as a species.
So to sum it all up:
1. You’re either feeding or fasting.
2. Even after you’re done eating, your insulin levels stay up, and you stay in energy storage mode.
3. You cannot access body fat until insulin is out of your system and glucagon comes in. That takes time after you’re done eating.
4. Eating every three hours is a great way to add weight. It’s a great way to build muscle. It’s not an effective way to burn body fat.
5. Whichever pattern you choose, it should be aligned to your goals.
To learn more, check out my YouTube video at youtu.be/rd09gq32PtQ.
info: Jack Kirven completed the MFA in Dance at UCLA, and earned certification as a personal trainer through NASM. His wellness philosophy is founded upon integrated lifestyles as opposed to isolated workouts. Visit him at jackkirven.com and INTEGRE8Twellness.com.