Skip to main content

The Benefits of Infrequently Fasting | Nick Rana

The Benefits of Infrequently Fasting | Nick Rana
By now, everyone’s heard about the life-extending benefits of caloric restriction. Lab results show that drastically cutting food intake can nearly double longevity in rodents, worms, and flies, and a massive 20-year study on rhesus monkeys, a species closely related to humans, found that the benefits of the diet seem to be universal: a resistance to cancer, heart disease, and age-related cognitive decline.
There’s even a Calorie Restriction Society International, with thousands of members who live off roughly 30 percent fewer calories than the number recommended by conventional medicine. The downside, of course – and it’s a big one – is, who wants to live a life of deprivation? But what if there were a shortcut? What if you could get the benefits of calorie restriction without the same degree of sacrifice? Many people now believe you can. The idea is called intermittent fasting (IF), and it’s becoming the diet du jour of weightlifters, crossfitters, and the paleo set.
“When people hear the term fasting, they tend to think of a week of not eating,” says Brad Pilon, author of the book ‘Eat Stop Eat.’ “Instead, I like to think of it as taking a break from eating.”
IF is not what most people typically think of as fasting – going without food or sustenance for days. Instead, IFers believe you can reap all the benefits (and more) of chronic calorie restriction after as few as 12 hours without food. Which means that simply skipping breakfast and waiting until lunch to eat any food (most say it’s OK to put a splash of cream in your coffee) counts as IF.
It seems counterintuitive, but skipping meals helps you feel more energized, recover better from exercise, blast fat, and retain lean muscle mass, and even protects your body from heart disease, cancer, diabetes, and cognitive decline – which is why NASA is interested in looking at fasting to improve the cognitive functioning of pilots and unmanned-aerial-vehicle operators.
How does skipping meals provide these types of benefits? Because we were once hunters and gatherers who sometimes went days between meals, our bodies were designed to survive in times of feast and famine. Most Americans now live off a constant drip of processed food, which keeps blood sugars elevated and immune systems depressed.
Breaking off this continual drip of refined, high-sugar, high-carbohydrate food isn’t as tricky as it might seem, say proponents of IF, who swear the diet’s protocol is simple and easy to follow. “Once you get through the first couple of weeks, it’s easy,” says John Olson, former director of the Strategic Analysis and Integration Division in Human Exploration and Operations at NASA. “If you have a healthy diet going into it, it’s not really that big of a deal,” he adds. “If you have a junk diet, it’s going to be hard. For me, it’s been transformational. I would say, anecdotally, the cognitive improvements are noticeable almost immediately.”
Weight loss and fitness gains
We learned in high school biology that the body’s fuel source is glucose – blood sugar. We get it in abundance by eating sugar and refined carbohydrates like bread, pasta, and sports drinks. But our body can burn another type of fuel known as ketones. These molecules are created when your body runs out of glucose and starts to burn fat, which happens when you fast. Your system switches fuel sources from sugar to fat without breaking down muscle.
If you exercise during your fasted state, you can supercharge your body’s fat-burning potential. Studies show that growth hormone, which has serious muscle-building properties, surges during fasts. The spike of this muscle-molding hormone proves that fasting is not simply about calories in and calories out. The human body appears to have adapted to thrive during short bouts of going without food.
That’s not to say, though, that you should attempt a marathon during a fast. Most people do a short stretch – around 45 minutes – of moderate exercise like strength training or bike riding that can run through their blood glucose and turbocharge ketosis. “My clients find fasting not only increases fat burning, but they feel better and feel stronger as they get used to it,” says Jon Haas, owner of functional fitness gym Warrior Fitness in Hainesport, New Jersey. Proponents also say the notion of not having to eat three square meals a day is freeing and makes you feel more in control of your body. “It provides another level of mental toughness,” says Haas. “This is how your body was designed to function.”
The downside of IF is that research shows people who fast are much more likely to reach for high-calorie, carbohydrate-rich foods when they eat again. These foods were never a problem, evolutionarily speaking, until the advent of soda, hoagies, and all-you-can-eat pasta buffets. Still, the research makes sense: If you haven’t eaten in 20 hours, why wouldn’t your body go for the biggest bang for the caloric buck? But IFers go a step further and claim the science behind bingeing after a fast is faulty. “To my knowledge,” says Mark Sisson, author of ‘The Primal Blueprint‘ and a proponent of IF, “these studies are not done on people adjusted to burning fat, so it’s not surprising that someone on a moderate- to high-carbohydrate diet is going to go for the carbs when they start eating again – the brain of a sugar burner is always expecting sugar.” Sisson’s comments mirror the reports of the legions of people who claim there’s an adaptation period as the body becomes more efficient at converting fat into ketones – or, as Sisson calls it, “becoming a fat-burning beast.”
Cancer prevention
An extensive body of research conducted by institutions like the University of California at Berkeley, the University of Southern California, and Chicago’s Mount Sinai now shows that IF may help prevent and treat cancer. During a fast, the cells in our bodies go into a protective mode, while cancerous cells continue their metastatic, robotic growth. But the fasted state is hostile to cancer cells in part because their fuel – glucose – disappears from the bloodstream. The same is true of precancerous cells – the type that lead to cancer – says Valter Longo, director of the University of Southern California Longevity Institute. “Imagine someone who has precancerous cells,” says Longo. “The process of developing cancer could take years, but if that person fasted, those cells could be killed before they had a chance to spread.” Longo, who has shown that the act of fasting itself can kill cancer cells, is now working with the Dr. Otto Buchinger Clinic in Germany, an institute that has promoted therapeutic fasting for almost a century, to develop more human studies to better understand why IF may be beneficial for treating and preventing cancer.
Longevity and neuroprotection
Fasting challenges your brain in a way that’s similar to exercising muscle, says Mark Mattson, of the National Institute on Aging. “When the brain goes under energy restriction, we see neural activity that’s associated with protection against degeneration from stroke and aging,” says Mattson. “Fasting increases BDNF, a protein that’s crucial for learning and protection against age-related cognitive decline.” There’s also evidence that ketone bodies converted from fat and used as fuel during fasting may protect against neurodegenerative diseases like epilepsy, moderate autism, and Alzheimer’s.
Master the fast
When Brad Pilon, a major guru of the IF diet, dropped out of his job in the supplement industry to attend graduate school, his goal was to create the ultimate diet. He was astonished to learn the key to longevity was to regularly skip eating. He developed what’s since become the main reference title of IF followers: ‘Eat Stop Eat’. It’s updated annually, and it recommends two 24-hour fasts a week. But it’s by no means the only protocol in the world of fasting. While most IF adherents have their own method for restricting food, the most popular seems to be skipping breakfast, which allows you to include sleep in your fasting cycle. If you eat dinner by 9 p.m., for example, all you need to do is skip breakfast and then resume eating at 1 pm for a solid 16-hour fast, or push it longer. “Fat loss starts happening at about 12 to 13 hours and plateaus around 18 hours,” says Pilon, who also has a master’s in human biology and nutritional science from the University of Guelph in Ontario.
Though we’ve been told for years to fuel up before working out, IF loyalists report that doing strength training midfast provides them with more energy than they would have had if they’d eaten breakfast. It does take some getting used to, however. You’re essentially switching fuel sources from glucose to ketone molecules, and your body becomes more efficient at doing so over time – something IF advocates call being keto-adapted. It’s like tapping into a tank of different fuel, and people report having greater concentration while burning ketones. As with so many things in the health sphere these days, what’s old seems to be what’s new. Many of the world’s great religions call for fasting regimens; Socrates was a fanatical proponent; and Benjamin Franklin may have said it best: “To lengthen thy life, lessen thy meals.”

Want more?

Sign up for our newsletter to get the latest adventures, workouts, destinations, and more.


Popular posts from this blog

Build Muscle and Burn More Fat 20-Minute Workout | NICK RANA

It would be great if we could all spend a full hour in the gym each day. Then again, it would be great if our bosses would stop with the last-minute assignments, if there was no rush-hour traffic, and if you didn't just waste 15 minutes of your potential gym time watching YouTube fitness fail videos. The American Heart Association and the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services both recommend Americans get at least 30 minutes of exercise five times a week. But the truth is that just 20 minutes can be just as good — especially if you really turn up the intensity. "If you're going to gain any recognizable training benefit, short workouts have to be hard workouts, and really short workouts have to be really hard," says Chad Timmerman, a USA Cycling Level 1 certified coach with more than 25 years of racing experience. Get ready to hurt. These seven 20-minute workouts will burn calories, build muscle, and eliminate any excuses about being too busy to get in shape.

Nutrition And Supplements Which Shall Not Be Skipped - Nick Rana

Let’s say you’re looking to lose a little fat and pack on some muscle. You’ve already got a healthy diet, a steady cardio routine, and some reliable weight-training workouts, so you head down to the nutrition store to pick up some new supplements—only to be stopped in your tracks by aisles and aisles of unpronounceable tubs filled with who knows what. How’s a guy supposed to know where to start? Don’t sweat it: Here are six research-backed supplements you should strongly consider on your quest to reach peak levels of health and fitness. 1. Branched Chain Amino Acids (BCAAs) Do you find yourself experiencing post-workout muscle soreness and fatigue, but not seeing the fat-loss results you expect? If so, consider taking BCAAs. People who took BCAAs before and after exercise had a significant reduction in muscle soreness, according to a University of Birmingham studyOpens in a new Window.. Furthermore, a Brazilian studyOpens in a new Window. discovered BCAA supplementation helped reduce…

Eight Essential Exercises To Remain Fit - Nick Rana

Human movement can be reduced to three basic categories: pushing, pulling, and hip extension (squattingOpens in a new Window., jumping, running, and even riding a bikeOpens in a new Window.). Functional fitnessOpens in a new Window. begins with learning good form for this essential repertoire and then gradually adding weight and difficulty to build stability and strength. Doing these exercises correctly with five pounds, in other words, is better than doing them poorly with 100. In the words of Gray CookOpens in a new Window., one of the founding fathers of functional training, “Don’t add strength to dysfunction.”
Row We pull on things all the time, but pull strength and stability are even more valuable for correcting the forward lean we develop sitting at a desk all day. There is no better tool for horizontal rows than adjustable fitness straps. Hung from any doorway—or even a tree—straps allow for a more efficient row than other methods because of the way they demand head-to-heel co…

Do pre workout Meditation and Breathing | Nick Rana

You’ve got an hour at the gym, but instead of focusing on repsOpens in a new Window., your brain is grinding on that big work project or a tiff with your partner. Your inclination may be to pick a workout so hard that the discomfort will drown out the noise. But there’s another antidote: meditation and mindfulness. These practices aren’t new to sports. “Pro athletes know the power of pregame routines,” says Corey Phelps, a Washington, D.C.Opens in a new Window.–based trainer who does meditation with clients.  Tons of research touts meditation, and some specifically center on athletics. A study involving junior elites in NorwayOpens in a new Window. found that after 12 weeks of consistent mindfulness practices, athletes had better focus, performance, and recovery. And University of Miami football players who meditated 12 minutes a day for a month had improved concentration. Plus, distance runners doing a mindfulness regime showed higher self-confidence and lower anxiety before a big r…

Surprising Facts That Can Stop Development Of Muscles - NICK Rana

After switching up your diet and workout routine, you finally started to pack on some solid muscle—and people were noticing. Then the progress halted. Despite your continued efforts, your shoulders seemed to shrink, your biceps became less buldging, and your quads refused to grow any bigger. What gives? A number of factors influence your body’s ability to pack on gains—your sleep schedule, your diet, your fitness program, even your state of mind. You could seriously go crazy trying to figure out what went wrong. To help you get to the bottom of things, we checked in with  Jim White, personal trainer and registered dietitian, and Jay Cardiello, celebrity personal trainer and star of ABC’s My Diet is Better than Yours. Adjust your program with their tips and you’ll be back to building that jacked physique you crave in no time. 1. You skimp on sleep-Nick Rana Plain and simple: If you’re not getting quality sleep each night, your muscles won’t grow. “Lack of sleep increases your body’s l…

Get More Muscle Without The Fat Nick Rana

It’s an endless cycle for some guys: Turn into a garbage disposal to bulk up, then crash diet to burn the belly fatOpens in a new Window. and reveal those hard-earned abs. Needless to say, that’s probably not the best way to go about changing your physique. (Also: You can’t out-exercise a bad diet.)
We’ll never call it easy, but it’s definitely possible to get strong and stay cut with the right balance of macros, nutrients, and training.  Get More Muscle Without The Fat-NICK RANA
1. Increase your calories-Nick Rana “You can’t gain muscle or weight if you continue to be in a caloric deficit,” says Nick. “You need to take in more calories on a daily or at least weekly basis.” (Most guys, especially those new to the weight room, mess this part up.) A good estimate of how many calories you should be consuming is to take your body weight and multiply it by 16. (For example: 200 pounds x 16 = 3,200 calories.) If you don’t see any gains after two weeks, try increasing your calories by 200 p…

Bigger Leaner Stronger Sprint Workout Get Faster, Build Muscle, and Fat Loss | Nick Rana

Most people don’t run at their top speeds unless someone’s chasing them. But here’s a novel idea: “Practicing running faster will make you faster,” says Matt NolanOpens in a new Window., an RRCA-certified running coach and master instructor at Barry’s BootcampOpens in a new Window. in New York, NY. Sprint workouts, or short, hard efforts followed by easy recovery periods, actually help you become a better runner at all paces and distances. That’s because “they train the body to recruit and develop fast-twitch muscle fibers, build muscle, improve heart rate and overall caloric efficiency,” says Nolan. Plus, the more comfortable you get working at these high-intensity speeds, the easier they’ll start to feel. After just a few weeks, you’ll be surprised how much easier it is to hold your balls-to-the-wall sprint pace for longer than when you started.

When you’re doing these sprint workouts—just once or twice a week—make sure to leave enough time to warm up and cool down before and after…

The Miracle of the 12-Hour Fast | Nick Rana

The Miracle of the 12-Hour Fast
Going at least 12 hours without eating has pretty amazing weight-loss benefits, a new Salk Institute study has found. Groups of mice on various diets (normal food or food high in sugar/fat) were either allowed to eat around the clock or forced to fast 12 hours a night. Result: Mice that fasted at least 12 hours gained less weight overall than mice that were fed the same type and amount of food but had the run of the feed through all 24 hours. Even when the fasters got free “weekend passes” to gorge anytime, in the end they still put on fewer pounds (OK, grams) than the nonstop nibblers. And when non-fasting obese mice were put on the 12-hour fast, they dropped 5% of their body weight—though they were eating the same calories! 12 “Zero-Belly” Recipes >>>Opens in New Window The researchers, who hope to conduct human trials soon, theorize that overnight fasting makes the body switch from burning food to burning fat. Intermittent-fasting expert Mark …

6 Ways to Lose a Pound of Fat-NICK RANA

6 Ways to Lose a Pound of Fat-NICK RANA
You’ve probably heard this tidbit of knowledge a million times: A poundoffat is 3,500 calories, so to lose a pound you need to burn 3,500 calories. It’s not a perfect rule, but if you’re looking to drop a little weight, it’s a good place to start. Here, six strategies will burn a poundoffat in a matter of days. Some don’t even require breaking a sweat. RELATED: The Proven Way to Lose Your Gut Drink Green TeaThe catechins — a type of antioxidant — in green tea have been shown to help fat oxidation and aid in weight loss. One study from the Journal of The American College of NutritionOpens a New Window. found that four cups of green tea a day, or the equivalent amount of green tea extract, could result in a weight loss of more than a pound per week. The study was done on obese subjects, but other studies have shown similar numbers. As a basic guideline, drinking 20 to 24 cups of tea (spread out over a week and without cream or sugar) could result in…