Intermittent Fasting for Mental Clarity, Fat Loss & Health

Lifescape

Dec 11
intermittent_fasting_men

Could intermittent fasting be the secret to fat-loss success?

Think you’re going to be insanely hungry by skipping breakfast?

Intermittent fasting (IF) has been such a major key for me personally over the last year or so. It's certainly one of my favourite fat-loss tools for a whole host of reasons I’m going to share with you below.

If you think it's just another fad diet, then you are mistaken. Intermittent fasting has made getting lean whilst being able to enjoy social occasions effortless and enjoyable.

WHAT YOU’RE GONNA LEARN

  • What intermittent fasting actually IS
  • Is intermittent fasting right for you and your current lifestyle
  • A whole host of IF health benefits
  • How to optimise fat loss with a fasting approach
  • Myths and misconceptions surrounding fasting protocols
  • How to implement intermittent fasting in to your current routine
  • The BodyPhi™ IF protocol for optimal results

INTERMITTENT FASTING (IF) DEFINITION

Simply put, intermittent fasting is an amount of time where you refrain from eating anything. You can still consume any no-calorie drinks – primarily water, but can also include: tea, coffee or other drink that are calorie-free.

It sounds quite daunting or scary at first, purely because fasting or not eating are associated with hunger and that's not a pleasant feeling.

I've got news for you though, you already practise intermittent fasting right now without even realising it … how? When you sleep of course!

Going eight plus hours without any food whilst you sleep and then waking up to eat breakfast is a form of intermittent fasting! Think about it, breakfast quite literally means to break the fast.

intermittent_fasting_IF_Feast

Historically, humans have been practising IF for thousands of years. It’s only been in the past 50 or so years that we’ve “civilised” it out of existence. Our not-so-distant ancestors would have had to fast intermittently due to famine, war and inline with the seasons.

Our current food availability makes for a very comfortable lifestyle, but it’s not natural. Humans are hardwired with a “famine or feast” mindset.

Think about it … if food was harder to come by you’d feast on what you could get in preparation for a fast period until the next time. Easy to see how this primal mindset has led us to the current obesity epidemic!

We’re in “feast mode” ALL the time with a subconscious mindset of an upcoming famine driving us to ever eat more. Intermittent fasting can bring some much-needed balance back to your feast-mode lifestyle.

Before getting into the hows of IF, let's dive in and see the benefits and why you might want to consider it.

INTERMITTENT FASTING BENEFITS

“TRUE” HUNGER SIGNALS

One key benefit of intermittent fasting is getting back in tune with “real” physiological hunger. The hunger signal from your body to your brain alerting the need to refuel.Instead of linking hunger with panic or even desire, it can be newly-associated with success or pride – or simply ignored. [1]

In the West we’ve completely fallen out of touch with this feeling and eat for all the wrong reasons – boredom, feeling sad or purely out of habit when we aren’t truly hungry.

Especially in the first few weeks or so, when your body’s getting used to fasting, you soon experience what true hunger is and not simply out of habit. [2]

Again, this is nothing to fear – the more you are able to “sit” with true hunger, the more you realise that there’s no need to panic.

You're certainly not gonna drop dead just by going a couple hours without food! Learn more about true hunger and how to get in tune with it below.

FAT LOSS

So you know that to lose fat you need to eat less calories or burn more calories via exercise than your body needs to maintain its current weight. [3]

Now think about it – if there’s a period of the day when you’re purposely not eating – you’re creating a shorter eating window and that makes it that much harder to overeat and end up storing the excess as body fat.

Don’t get me wrong, intermittent fasting cannot magically override the laws of fat loss. You can absolutely still gain fat on an IF protocol if you overeat – it just makes it harder to do so.

Many guys find that eating breakfast actually makes them hungrier and thus more likely to overeat later in the day. [4]

Although somewhat counterintuitive, intermittent fasting can have quite a hunger-blunting effect, making fat loss that much easier.

In fact, for some a higher-meal frequency can cause more hunger, making it harder to stick to a fat-loss plan. [5]

LARGER, MORE SATISFYING MEALS

It was commonly touted in the fitness industry up until recently that eating frequent, smaller meals would “stoke the metabolic fire” and get you burning more fat by doing so.

This has in fact been debunked by more up-to-date research finding meal frequency has absolutely no affect on fat loss. [6]

This means that if you so chose, you could graze on tiny meals and snacks throughout the day or have 1–3 bigger more satiating meals that actually fill you up and leave you feeling satisfied afterward.

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Now, which of those two scenarios sound more appealing to you? Of course I have used both extremes and a “normal” meal frequency of 4–6 meals per day (snacks included), can work well for many people.

However, in my experience as a physique coach, I can tell you unequivocally that being hungry is the biggest killer of any fat loss plan.

If, however, you knew that every time you ate, it you would be big satiating meals – you could enjoy with your loved ones – it often makes the process so much easier to stick to.I don’t know about you, but when I eat, I like to eat ... not like a mouse.

There is good research to suggest that in fact a decreased meal frequency might help you feel fuller than the typical “eat little and often” mantra you here in the weight-loss community. [7]

TIP-TOP TESTOSTERONE

Keeping levels of the “male” hormone, testosterone (T), on point is vital for a whole host of reasons such as, sex drive, weight control, brain fog and muscle wasting – read all about optimising it below.

Great news – intermittent fasting has been shown to have beneficial effects on T levels for non-obese males in just a single short-term fast. [8]

Short-term fasting can increase serum testosterone levels by 180%

ENHANCED SLEEP

I can’t overstress how essential adequate and good-quality sleep is for optimising all aspects of your life – fat loss, T-levels, mental focus to name a few. Check out below for everything you need to know.

Well, guess what? Yea – intermittent fasting comes to the rescue here too. Studies back up the beneficial effects it has for your sleep. [9]

ANTI-AGEING

Human growth hormone (HGH) is naturally produced by our body and is described as the “youth hormone”, keeping us looking young and beautiful.

An unfortunate part of the ageing process is the decline of HGH. Fasting however, significantly boosts natural HGH levels with some very promising anti-ageing effects.

A simple 24-hour fast can boost HGH levels by 2000%! [10]

It’s what all the Hollywood stars such as Stalone are always getting busted for smuggling in at the airports – fasting is your natural HGH shot! Not that you can get the same levels naturally as you can with drugs of course!

MUSCLE MAINTENANCE

Human growth hormone isn’t just awesome for looking and feeling young – keeping it on point is a surefire way to optimise your muscle. Who doesn’t want decent muscle development?

There’s also some promising evidence that adopting an intermittent-fasting approach for losing body fat may be more beneficial for preserving your muscle, compared to the consistently eating a little bit less approach. [11]

In fact, a very recent 2016 study supports this – subjects lost more fat and gained a tiny bit more muscle using an IF approach. [12]

This is key – remember, at BodyPhi™, we aren’t just about “losing weight”, we want to target body fat and hold on to muscle to avoid the dreaded “skinny fat” look.

UPGRADED IMMUNE SYSTEM

If you want to get the most out of life, the last thing you want to be doing is recuperating in bed from illness due to a weak immune system. Don’t know about you, but I can think of better things to be doing in bed!

The number-one way to take care of your immune system is to look after your gut health, as a huge part of it is a reflection of how good your digestive health is.

Digestion is affected by WHAT you eat, HOW MUCH you eat and HOW OFTEN you eat. Here in the West, we pretty much get it all wrong – low-nutrient value foods, too much of them and too often.

Yea … killer for your gut … inside and out!

IF makes things super-simple. By taking food completely out of the equation for a larger part of the day than just sleep time, you give your digestion time to do its job and keep your immune system strong.

Think about it … when you’re really ill, do you fancy a slap-up meal with all the trimmings? Yea … not so much. Fasting is the most natural way to get back to 100%. But, why get ill in the first place – IF keeps your immune system firing on all cylinders. Prevention is better than cure!

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MORE MENTAL CLARITY & PRODUCTIVITY

Intermittent fasting’s affect on your mental outlook and focus can’t be underestimated.

When I’m in the groove of fasting consistently, I am mentally more alert, can focus on tasks for way longer and productivity takes a noticeable increase. I am a morning person anyway, so AM-fasting complements this nicely.

This effect is probably partly due to the fact that fasting can increase levels of brain-derived neurotrophic factor (BNDF) – a protein important for the creation of new neurons, responsible for things like memory, learning and higher cognitive function. [13]

Anecdotally, caffeine in the fasted state helps boost these positive effects even further. Just make sure you opt for a black coffee – Americano or espresso … skinny if you must.

Stay away from a bunch of frothy cream, sugar-laden drinks disguised as coffee – as you’ll break the fast before it’s even begun.

BETTER MEMORY & MOOD

Low levels of BNDF are also linked to Alzheimer’s – and whilst no one is claiming a cure for this horrible disease just yet, there does seem to be some emerging evidence that lifestyle factors can help prevent it. [14]

Another horrible condition many struggle with is depression. Well … antidepressant drugs actually increase BNDF signalling synthetically. [15]

intermittent_fasting_testosterone

Coupling the facts that low BNDF levels and depression are linked, one could deduct that by increasing BNDF naturally through strategic fasting – there could be some possible benefits against fighting depression. [16]

Worth a shot in my book and no need for a prescription! It’s ironic that most who battle depression reach for comfort food, such as ice cream or cakes etc., when it’s actually plausible that practising IF would be more helpful.

SIMPLIFIES LIFE

Quite simply put, the discipline of fasting frees up so much more time to focus on what needs to get done in life. Less time spent eating equals less meal planning, preparation and clean up.

IF is the ultimate “keep it simple” hack with a boat-load of perks and little-to-no downsides, apart from the discipline of actually getting started and doing it.

BUILDS MENTAL TOUGHNESS

Initially, fasting can be a challenge due to the social stigma and alien concept of deliberately going without food. But, as you’ve read so far, the benefits are massive!

Amping up your mental toughness is yet another reason to take up the practice and I’d encourage you to build the fasting discipline into your life.

Mental toughness and discipline are key to getting shit done in life and practising intermittent fasting is an awesome way to go about this. Check out this article for more on the life-changing mindset of Discipline = Freedom

HOW TO DO INTERMITTENT FASTING

Okay … it’s a no-brainer to get intermittent fasting into your schedule, but how do you get going.

IF is a skill and like any other new skill, it takes time and patience to get into the groove. Don’t expect to be perfect out of the gate.

MINDSET

Hopefully having read this far you’re clearer about what IF is and less worried about any of many misconceptions about fasting. But just so we’re on the same page:

  • NO! … you’re not going to starve – going without food for hours let alone skipping meals isn’t going to have any negative impact on your body, in fact, quite the opposite!
  • NO! … you’re not going to lose muscle.
  • NO! … you’re not going to be lacking energy or lethargic.
  • NO! … breakfast is not a compulsory meal for health and physique goals.

In my book, mindset is massive to success in everything – intermittent fasting is no different.

GET REAL

Given that eating in a smaller eating window encourage eating less, the quality of what you do eat is super-important. Shifting to an 80–90% “real” food plan is key to getting the most out of an IF style of eating.

Read all about how to do that below.

START SMALL

As with all BodyPhi™ strategies – starting small with “small-win” tactics is key. Initially commit to incorporating IF a day or two a week. It might simply mean pushing breakfast back by 15 minutes – then keep increasing the time from there.

Another tactic from there could be to reduce the “heaviness” of breakfast down to a piece of fruit of or something liquid like a smoothie or tea/coffee.

TIMING PROTOCOLS

There are many types of intermittent fasting popularised in recent years. You may have heard of The Warrior Diet, where all calories are consumed in a four-hour eating window in the evening.

Eat Stop Eat, Brad Pilon’s popular book, promotes an alternate-day fasting approach.

This is a 24-hour fasting period: e.g. if your last meal is 8pm on Friday, then you don’t eat again until Saturday 8pm … can be done 1–3 times a week, with two being the most common.

And in more recent years, the LeanGains approach advocates a 16:8 ratio of fasting to eating window, has become very popular, and for good reason.

Another option is the 5:2 regimen, here for five days you eat your regular food plan, then on the other two days you significantly reduce calories down to 600 calories.

The BodyPhi™ Intermittent Fasting Protocol

I’ve sifted through all the current IF research and blended it with plenty of real-world experience to give you my personal recommendations for how to implement intermittent fasting to optimise: health, fat burning, mental clarity, muscle gain and still have an awesome social life.

FASTING WINDOW

• Wake up when you normally do and neck two pints of water- Wait 30–90 minutes and have a large coffee – black Americano or skinny flat white

• Go about your normal morning schedule

• Have another black coffee or Skinny Flat White with some sparkling water

• Between 10 and 12 o’clock (depending on when you wake up) have 20–30 grams of protein with a minimal amount of carbs and fat. This could be anything such as a whey shake, a few egg whites, some Greek yogurt or some turkey or chicken.

FEEDING WINDOW

• Train

• After you train I suggest two evenly-spaced mixed-meals of protein, carbs and fats with the quantities needed to reach your goals.

I have chosen to include a very small amount of protein in the fasting window to maximise muscle growth/retention – recent research suggests somewhere along the lines of 3–5 spaced out portions of at least 20 grams at a time is optimal. [17]

The black coffee is there to blunt appetite. I really don’t recommend caffeine in the feeding window – if you must drink coffee, I suggest decaf as it still does a good job of blunting hunger. [18]

One of your largest meals should be at night as your last meal of the day. This allows for social eating with loved ones and friends without sticking out due to weird eating practices.

Having some carbs in your last meal is really important for a good night’s sleep due to the serotonin release. [19] Lastly having a big meal to look forward to at the end of the day when naturally willpower is lowest is also a big plus.

TIPS FOR EFFORTLESS INTERMITTENT FASTING

KEEP OCCUPIED

One of the biggest tips I can give you for the fasting window is to stay busy – sitting around with nothing to do and waiting to eat is a big no-no.

Boredom and habit eating are the two biggest killers of any fasting strategy.

Work days are easiest to start with as that routine should keep you occupied. Schedule plenty of activity, chores, shopping etc on the weekends or other downtime to avoid the “waiting to eat” trap.

STAY HYDRATED

This is super-key for your success – your body is up to 70% water and dehydration is commonly mistaken for hunger. Plain old water is best, but you can add some lemon slices or go for sparkling if you’re not a big fan of the plain variety. Herbal teas work too.

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BE MINDFUL

Even when you’re drinking in the fasting widow – stay present and mindful of the experience. Savour your hot drinks too … enjoy coffees and teas by sipping slowly and staying aware of the process.

Particularly important is your “break fast” meal – stay in control and really appreciate your food. Notice how food tastes so much better when you’re eating for “true” hunger reasons.

CHEW GUM

A super-simple tactic that’s been shown to increase concentration, chewing gum is a win-win for both mental focus and something-to-do in the fasting window. [20]

GIVE IT A CHANCE

As I’ve said above, IF is a skill and takes time to master. Give it 3–6 weeks to allow your mind and body to get used to the idea.

IN A NUTSHELL

• Intermittent fasting is a schedule of deliberate no-food periods mimicking food availability in nature.
• Fasting is completely normal for humans – already do it daily while asleep
• Benefits include:Better hunger signals

• Fat Loss
• Boosts testosterone naturally
• Better Sleep
• Anti-ageing effects
• Boosts human growth hormone (HGH)
• Improves immune system
• Better memory and mood
• More mental clarity
• Simplifies life
• Builds mental toughness
• Myths and fears of going without food are the most common obstacles to trying IF
• There are many intermittent fasting protocols:
The Warrior Diet
Eat, Stop, Eat
Lean Gains
5:2
BodyPhi™

References