The benefits of intermittent fasting make a persuasive argument for their approach. But is it the best for you and your goals? We break it down for you and give you a modest middle ground for maximum muscle growth.
Eating schedules are definitely subject to the dramatic mood swings in the fitness world of what’s hot and what’s not! Eating every 2-3 hours to stoke the metabolic fire and stay anabolic or go as long as 16-20 hours straight without food. Both have their benefits and disadvantages and we’re not here to tell you which is right and which is wrong. However, let’s look at both of them and decide what will work best for you.
When we examine the idea of eating every 2-3 hours we have found that meal regularity shows little to no difference in fat loss when calories are controlled to the extreme. There seems to be no differences in hunger change with meal frequency and the metabolic rate seems unaffected by meal frequency. This may seem profane to the devout followers of the 6-8 meals per day, but its worth noting this in is regard to fat loss. When we discuss strength and muscle growth as the goal, three meals a day may not provide enough protein dispersal. Depending on your preference, we promote protein dense meals 4-5 times per day. We find that any less than this and you’ll be left packing insane amounts of protein into each meal may not be the best idea either.
So, if 8 meals a day is just out of the question it may lead you to believe that intermittent fasting may be the best for you. Wait just a moment!
The most important factor for long term success when changing your eating habits isn’t when you eat but rather devotion. People don’t fail because they don’t have the perfect timing or food sources; they fail because they simply don’t commit themselves to make the change.
Studies have shown that people who lose a significant amount of weight with yo-yo diets will regain the weight they initially lost AND THEN SOME! This is a huge problem and to solve it we should look at utilizing strategies that improve lifestyle commitments.
Therefore, if intermittent fasting allows an individual to better commit themselves to lifestyle change and stick with it, that a good enough argument for us, at least for that individual. We’ve known many people who were able to fast certain parts of the day for either lack of hunger at those times or busy work schedules. This doesn’t mean it’s the answer for everyone.
There are some advantages. Say you spread 2,500 calories over 6-8 meals and you may end up with pretty measly portions. Some individuals may prefer holding out a bit longer for larger meals. Can you take this too far? Of course! Many people find they can’t go 12 hours or more without becoming ravenously hungry and this may make them more likely to binge eat. For others with disordered eating tendencies, they may start getting loose with their eating windows or hoarding food.
Let’s break this down. A normal intermittent-fasting protocol is typically 16 hours fasting with 8 hours of feeding. But some people will slide into, say, 22/2, and even go days without eating in order to justify a massive binge. That is not a fault of intermittent fasting itself but definitely means that it isn’t appropriate for everyone. Therefore, understanding your food tendencies and what you like is very important.
So, if you prefer fasting and it helps you adhere to a lifestyle change then by all means do it. But, keep in mind that it’s not a magic cure and it can be done wrong. Ultimately, fat loss is a matter of calories and not clocks.