Intermittent Fasting: Effective for Both Men and Women?

22 10 2013


I’m often asked by people what they can do to lose some weight or what they can do to shake up their current routine. It’s incredibly hard to give advice on such a matter without asking a ton of questions and without truly understanding the unique lifestyle of the individual at hand. Recently, I’ve had a few people ask specifically about trying Intermittent Fasting (IF). For those of you unfamiliar with the concept of IF, the protocol is fairly simple on the surface: choose a set period of time in which you don’t eat. IF can be done once in a while with a 24-hour fast every month or year or it can be as committed as a 16-hour fast done daily.

As I wrote earlier this year, I’ve dabbled with IF and had some good results. I was already in good shape before using the strategy, but IF helped me get leaner; the downside was that I found it hard to gain strength while on this protocol, which is why my eating window is now closer to 14 hours than 8. I’ve also stumbled across a few IF success stories on the internet written by reputable sources such as John Berardi of Precision Nutrition, but I’ve yet to come across an article on IF written by a woman- something that I realized when discussing IF with a female friend of mine last week. I’d never really thought about how fasting could affect women differently than men, but since we are so hormonally different, have different levels of muscle mass and different metabolisms, I decided to scour the web for more info.


My findings? Well, there are far more negative things said about IF by women than there are by men. Seems as though most women have success at first but eventually start suffering negative consequences. Two articles found in my search really stuck out to me:

The first, Shattering the Myth of Fasting for Women: A Review of Female-Specific Responses to Fasting in the Literature, uncovers that most studies on IF revolve around the successful results of men and that the major results of most studies show that the metabolism of women actually suffers on an IF protocol. These results don’t necessarily surprise me, as we already know that caloric restriction wreaks havoc on the female metabolism as well; now, IF doesn’t necessarily equate to caloric restriction, but it is far from shocking that prolonged periods of fasting can cause women to hang on to their fat stores rather than burn them.

The second article, Train Like A Man, But Eat Like A Woman!, is filled with the personal IF stories of a handful of female fitness coaches, and the results are quite staggering. Most of the women experienced some success followed by increased levels of stress and subsequent weight gain; one women even went as far as to say: “I became a hormonal crazy-person”. If you’re a woman and are considering giving IF a shot, please take a look at these articles before you begin.

Something we all want to avoid...

Something we all want to avoid…

Now, before we jump to any conclusions, there are definitely women out there who have had success with IF; don’t take this article as me condemning the strategy for all women. We are all individuals and different strategies will work for different people. If you would like to try IF, I would simply advise that you have your ducks lined up in advance:

– Ensure that you know your required macronutrient requirements and plan your eating window to ensure these needs are met.

– Listen to your body! If you feel stressed, light-headed, have trouble sleeping or stop menstruating, please take a step back and alter your eating patterns.

– Be realistic about your capabilities; if you’ve had disordered eating problems in the past, something like IF might not be a good choice.

Finally, the one thing that continues to stand out is that IF is still a very new phenomenon and the body of studies is still quite thin. As a diet strategy that has shown some promising health benefits, more and more studies will surely be done and we should have a much better grasp of the effects of IF in another decade or so. In the meantime, it seems as though IF can be a good strategy for men, but one that should be generally avoided by women. As with most things, a sporadic fast every now and then will certainly not hurt you, so don’t stress if you find yourself in an extended fast every now and then. In the end, my message to women must once again read: Don’t be afraid to eat!!! Do your best to avoid extended fasts and binge episode, and to stay consistent with small meals full of quality food. Life is short and we all need to indulge every now and then, but if you’re consistent with your actions you’ll have earned the right to indulge!

For more information on IF or other nutritional strategies, don’t hesitate to drop me a line!

Happy Monday!



The 8-Hour Diet

30 03 2013

8-hour-diet-thumbMuch to my chagrin, I came across a great article on Intermittent Fasting in Men’s Health yesterday; yes, the same Men’s Health that I’m consistently so very disappointed in. This says two things to me:

1) Even a blind squirrel finds a nut once in a while

2) The mainsteam media might finally be catching on to new and effective fat-loss techniques, in spite of conventional wisdom

I’m not holding my breath on #2, but one can dream!

One passage from the Men’s Health article really hit home for me:

“Until Mr. Edison lit our evenings, we rose with the sun, worked, ate, played, and slept. That’s what your hormonal cycle is designed for. Now, our schedules are more like eat-work-eat-work-eat-sleep.”

This simply makes too much sense. Sure, we had fire before Mr. Edison, but people certainly weren’t staying up past sundown to watch their favourite late-night television shows and crush back sugar and trans fat.

I’ve been using my own IF techniques for a few months now with great results. I essentially use a 12-hour diet, eating for the first time a few hours after rising, and eating my last meal a couple of hours before going to bed. I take it a bit further and plan my macronutrient intake around my workout schedule as well, in an attempt to further optimize my hormonal peaks and valleys.

Diet Meme 8

I encourage all of you to read the Men’s Health article (this hurts my soul a bit), and the associated links that explain the program in greater detail. One thing I would like to make clear though (and where Men’s Health misses the boat in my opinion): Don’t view this as a temporary diet. Fad diets do not work. If you try the 8-Hour Diet for 52 weeks and then go back to your old ways, you will lose weight, and then gain it right back. Fat-loss techniques like IF should not be seen as temporary, they should be seen as a lifestyle change. If you are serious about your health and fitness, find a sustainable fat-loss technique that works for your lifestyle and understand that this is how things are going to be for an extended period of time. It is difficult at first, but the results will keep you on track; and it makes vacations and temporarily breaking habits so much more gratifying!

Intermittent fasting is a great idea if implemented properly, and if you’d like to see how it can fit into your lifestyle, I’d be happy to help walk you through it!

Again, Happy Easter and enjoy your long weekend!


Intermittent Fasting

2 01 2013

A few months ago I came across a new phenomenon that is now a heavily-debated topic in the fitness community: Intermittent fasting (IF). Long story short, recent studies have been conducted to see if periodical fasting (not eating for an extended period of time, usually 12-24 hours) can help lead to weight-loss, performance enhancement, or health gains.

There are many different IF strategies- one 24-hour fast per month, one 24-hour fast per week, a 16-hour fast each day, etc.- and the best strategy may be different for you than it is for me.  Early research has shown very promising results for weight-loss, muscle gain and disease prevention, but we are still years away from having the full body of research needed to make concrete claims.

I could regurgitate the details of IF here in this article, but there are other experts that have already done this (and in more detail that I can explain). Here are a few great links for insight into IF:

Precision Nutrition’s Experiments with IF

Lean Gains: an online resource for everything IF

Bulletproof IF: a How-to guide

As with most fitness/weight-loss strategies, I personally believe that IF can have it’s place in any training regimen. It can stimulate fat-loss and lead to muscle gain, so why not give it a try!  If you’d like to discuss how to safely and effectively use IF in your training regimen, I’d be happy to help.

Happy fasting!