This post was kindly written by Max Shippee, owner of CrossFit 1440 and Paleo Plan’s fitness guru.
“I feel like I’ve plateaued.”
“Not just weight, but sizes too?”
“Have you been eating breakfast?”
“Yeah. Usually scrambled eggs & veggies.”
“Eating breakfast? But I thought….”
“You wanna get off that plateau?”
“Stop eating breakfast.”
This is going to be a good one. On a blog where we focus on the food we put in our bodies, we’re going to go off the beaten track for a post or two (or three) and talk about NOT eating.
Now, before you get all worked up, we’re going to go through this step by step to be sure that we’re giving you a good overview, while guiding you towards more technical stuff should you want it.
A few disclaimers
First off, let’s start with the disclaimer that what we will be discussing is commonly known as Intermittent Fasting, but it could also be considered Scheduled Eating. In essence, we’re going to start looking at the timing of meals and nutrients, and see when the best times are to eat, and of course, when you’re NOT eating plays a role as well!
THIS WILL NOT BE FOR EVERYONE! This is for people who are health & fitness conscious, not JUST weight conscious, for people who have good discipline, especially in the beginning, and also for people who HAVE NEVER HAD AN EATING DISORDER. This type of thing, like weighing and measuring your food, can have negative effects if you’ve battled with any form of eating disorder in the past. Also, see Neely’s more cautious post on intermittent fasting here.
Also, a quick note on hypoglycemia. If you’ve been diagnosed with hypoglycemia, or are diabetic, or pre-diabetic, you should consult your (Paleo knowledgable) doctor before trying any of this. During the “How To” section of these upcoming posts, we’ll give you low blood sugar people a nod and a way to experiment with this should you choose to.
Know thyself, and make an intelligent decision about whether this is something you can consider in a healthy way. So, with that out of the way….here we go.
Why would I want to fast?
Here’s the good news about fasting; you’re already doing it. That is, unless you wake up in the middle of the night to have a milkshake. If you’re sleeping, you’re fasting. We’re just going to talk about extending the time that you’re not eating either starting in the evening, and stretching through your slumber, or having dinner, then extending the fast into the morning hours after you’re awake. Which of these you choose can depend on many factors, including the practical considerations of going out to dinner to eat & socialize with friends, or people feeling they need a good breakfast, and function better with the idea of “not eating after 8pm.”
Fasting has been around as a spiritual practice for literally millennia. It is still practiced by many of the Muslim faith around the world for the month of Ramadan, and, in fact, many studies have been done showing the positive effects of this fasting time. For the most part, people observing Ramadan finish it with better health markers than they started.
More recently, fasting has been making its way out of the the spiritual & detox crowd, and making more and more appearances into the general health and fitness world. There are many reason you should consider giving it a go.
When I refer to Intermittent Fasting (IF), I’ll be talking about fasting for short periods of time, the longest of which will be 24 hours, as opposed to fasting for 10 days on lemonade & cayenne. IF is seen as a lifestyle choice and can work very well for many people. I personally have three clients doing it right now, and they are all maintaining muscle mass while dropping 1-1.5 pounds a week. I’m using a specific protocol which will be addressed in a later post.
What exactly should you expect to gain from a fast?
Fasting has many proven benefits to your body composition. You also increase your insulin sensitivity, cue & re-establish ghrelin regulation, boost HGH, cue cell apoptosis, as well as keep your brain from aging so quickly, to name just a few.
- Increasing insulin sensitivity is good, because it is the opposite of insulin resistance, which leads to diabetes, and keeping your insulin under control is also key to cuing fat loss (insulin is one of the hormonal players of fat storage).
- Ghrelin is the hormone that cues hunger, so keeping that regulated helps to keep us from crazy hunger pangs & bingeing.
- And I think we can all agree that keeping your brain healthy is a good thing:).
- Fasting also boosts HGH (human growth hormone) production in a very positive way (more than 1000%!!).
- Apoptosis is the process by which your body “cleans” itself. Any malfunctioning or old cells are purged & reabsorbed into our systems.
Once again, these are just a few of the benefits that have been found. More and more is being written on the subject, with more and more studies finding very good reason to consider giving eating a rest, even just for a few extra hours a day.
What you want to know is about weight loss, or the dropping of sizes, right? Well, there’s good news there, too. Studies show subjects losing anywhere from 1-3 pounds per week, with the most hovering around the 1.5 lbs a week area. Other studies show it having a better effect at triggering weight loss than cutting calories by eating smaller, more frequent meals. The idea, of course, is that IF is something that you can roll into your everyday life and do continuously, until you’ve reached your health goals. Then it is something that is easy to modify, in order to maintain those great results.
So…you’re in, right?
There are far too many documented benefits of fasting, ranging from hormone levels (insulin and HGH) to weightloss, to simply dismiss the practice outright. We’ve still got a lot to cover, and we’re trying to make this as approachable as possible.
It may be time to start rethinking that mantra of 6 small meals a day! Stay tuned!
Max Shippee grew up in a very small town in northern Maine, minutes from the Canadian border. Growing up in the woods, and being the son of a dance teacher, he’s been physically active his entire life. He has embraced health & fitness philosophies ranging from body building to endurance training, before finding CrossFit and its performance-based approach to lifelong fitness. Before finding a fit with the Paleo approach to nutrition, Max had also tried numerous nutritional practices, including raw flood, veganism, and Atkins. A father of three, he’s as proud of his family as he is of his business, CrossFit 1440 in suburban Los Angeles. Max has Level 1, Kids, and Mobility Certifications from CrossFit. He likes the geeky things in life, including Legos, lasers, and computer operating systems named after cats.