Having done intermittent fasting or IF as it is often shorted for probably close to 5 years I find myself quite capable of listing pros and cons and giving advice on whether it is a good idea or not. You could perhaps think that having followed it for 5 years I would recommend it to everyone as I must find it great and useful otherwise I would just have abandoned it, right!?
Well yes and no. I’m not bound by religion to fasting and I haven’t signed my life away to an employer legally keeping me from spending time on eating breakfast – so yes – I can abandon it anytime I see fit – which we will get to. But that does not thereby mean that I think everyone should adopt intermittent fasting. It is absolutely not for everyone. There are very good reasons for following a IF schedule, but there are as good reasons for not.
The primary reason for why you should keep away from IF is because you probably expect it to be some magic pill that suddenly will make you young, slim, muscular and energized.
Yes that is just some of the highlights from the almost mile long list of benefits of IF I have encountered from various sites. Of course if you are looking to make money of products relating to IF and you don’t care that much about your integrity, then you should by no means present a balanced view on IF shedding light on both sides of the arguments. But as I don’t stand to gain anything from your choosing of lifestyle I have no need to present anything else than what I have experienced and believe in myself.
Some of the things advertised as effects of IF are true. BUT if you are looking at doing if because of those, then for 9 out of 10 you are looking for a quick fix for a problem you don’t really want to face and you will not find it with IF either. A lot of the things ascribed to IF comes from “regular” fasting as research in this area has been more thorough than IF. Regular fasting where you fast for several days has been used quite a lot to help heal different types of ailments. But exactly how many of those benefits you can have by say fasting 16 hours out of each day isn’t really that well documented.
Perhaps it is a good idea to somewhat loosely define what constitutes intermittent fasting. The fasting part is quite easily defined – no calories. You can drink water, coffee or tea with nothing in it, that adds calories. There are some strong proponents of what they call “bulletproof” coffee fasting where you put like 5-700 kcal worth of butter in your coffee and still call it fasting because you aren’t eating anything. Well it might be good for your and fit your goals and schedule perfectly, but fasting – it is not. Intermittent implies cycling on and off. You could imply that over a long enough timeframe all fasting is intermittent, it is not like anyone keeps fasting and not gets back to eating – or if they do they won’t be redoing that experiment..
But exactly how you implement this “intermittent” part is up for debate. You could again argue that we already have some sort of intermittent fasting as we don’t eat from dinner till breakfast, which as the name implies breaks the nightly fast. But implementing anything that could be considered daily IF probably start at around a 16 hour fast window give or take. That’s the schedule I have been doing for the past 5 years. There are other implementations where you fast for 1 whole day each week or 2 days a week etc. Again there are many ways to do this, do your research and determine for yourself what you might want – or just ask, I’ll be happy to answer any questions.
The second reason why fasting isn’t for you is if you are considered a “hard-gainer” and are looking to put on weight. If you have problems eating enough by having 16 hours a day to eat, then it sure as hell won’t help to only have 8 hours to do the same. That is not to say that you cannot put on weight while doing IF – I have done it several times, but I am by no means considered a hard-gainer – I have the appetite of a full pack of grown up lions putting their teeth in a zebra after 6 weeks of licking salt from rocks in the baking sun.
I have seen way to many skinny guys wanting to do IF because they have seen guys doing IF that are very muscular and lean and want to look as them. The problem here is linking correlation with causation without taking all factors into play. Yes, they may look that way because of doing IF, but most likely they will have had a different starting point than a skinny kid. Most likely they will already have build quite a bit of muscle mass doing just regular bulking paradigms. Again not to say it is impossible for them or anyone to put on weight with IF, but have a honest look on yourself in the mirror and tell whether you have a hard time putting on weight or not. If you do, then IF probably isn’t the answer.
The final point I will bring in this post is probably one I will cover more in detail later on as I am not really totally settled on the answer myself to be honest, but still deserves a mention is what I will term environment. Not the one you try to save from global warming as I’m pretty sure IF has no play in that, but environment as in work, school, family etc. The environment you live in everyday.
The consequences/concerns here are somewhat split into two parts. One is explanation. Even though if you do 16/8 fasting you could probably time it to be when everyone else eats lunch and just not mention you don’t eat breakfast, unless of course you want to talk about it. But you will most likely end up in situations where you will have to explain why you aren’t eating breakfast and situations where you perhaps should consider breaking your fast and just eat. I have mentioned this before both in terms of competitions and in “family-situations” where for instance your grand mother has spend a lot of time on preparing a nice breakfast for you, then just break your fast and eat. Don’t be a over-religious prick.
The other concern is also to do with family. If you live with a girlfriend/boyfriend then he or she should be understanding even though you still can take some days off to serve breakfast in bed etc. but it gets more complicated if you have kids. Because on the one hand you could just keep up your lifestyle and don’t eat breakfast but my concern would be how would this impact the kids general view on food and eating. It could be possible but it could might as well be negative.
As said earlier I don’t have all the answers to this and won’t go into further detail, but just to say that there are some things you should consider before deciding upon IF as the answer to your dieting questions. But all in all it is a great protocol for the right types of people, otherwise I wouldn’t have kept it for all these years. It keeps me lean, sane and performing as I want so no complains here. But once I find myself in a family setting with kids I might take it up for consideration.