BJ Rule of Crossfit City Road explains the nutrition trend Intermittent Fasting (IF). "Fasting has been around since us humans have... our ancestors would only eat when food was available". So put that croissant down and listen up.
Intermittent Fasting has had a bit of a buzz surrounding it in the fitness industry and press for a little while now. Advocates and those with money to make off the back of it (websites, blogs, books, ebooks, nutrition plans and programmes) swear by it. If you believe all that is written about intermittent fasting and its claims you'd be left thinking you can: gain strength, build muscle, lose fat, improve your sex life and get a promotion all at the the same time. The issue with IF is there are many different variations and interpretations and obviously despite their claims some just don't seem to stack up, don't make much sense or have very little scientific evidence to support the claims.
Essentially Intermittent Fasting (IF) is an eating plan where you experience periods of feeding (times when you eat) and periods of fasting (times when you don't eat). This obviously flies in the face of the bodybuilding, protein powder selling diets that have us eating every 23hrs. Most of the IF advocated eating plans base a lot of their research (or very little research) on traditional diets and methods of eating. Fasting has been around since us humans have. Often in the past our ancestors would only eat when food was available so in a sense traditionally we've always intermittently fasted. It's only now that most of us on the planet have a surplus of food available to us and we therefore can eat any time and anything.
After trawling the Internet for info on IF I came across plenty of methods including the 5:2 ratio, The Warrior Diet, the ADF (alternate day), Eat Stop Eat and Fast 5. Most of these seemed to be calorie restrictive fat loss diets, the Warrior Diet appears OK but doesn't seem to have true periods of fasting.
Lean Gains by Martin Berkhan is the one IF eating strategy that has the most supporting literature, makes sense, seems more scientifically sound and is the one I'd consider using with myself and clients. The most appealing aspect of this method is its practicality. Martin Berkhan is the man behind The Lean Gains website and is a nutritional consultant, writer and trainer. His site Lean Gains, "is dedicated to my approach to intermittent fasting, which shatters people's preconceived notions on how to eat for muscle gain and fat loss."
The Lean Gains protocol consists of two parts: the fasting window and the feeding window. The fasting window is 16hrs long and the feeding window is 8hrs long. The fasting window includes sleep 8hrs and should be the first 8hrs that follow waking. The feeding window is the period that remains from the start of the first meal until fasting recommences. Training is to be included within the feeding window.
Three meals are recommended in the feeding window. This is generally one before training and two after training (variations are suggested depending on work and ability to train at certain times) The first meal is the 'fast breaker' and should be a lighter meal with an equal protein/ carbohydrate ratio. Training should take place within 3hrs of the first meal. The second meal should be directly after training and should include a high proportion of carbs, moderate protein and relatively low fat.
The third meal is also a large one and is generally an hour before going to bed. There's adjustments to this protocol depending on when you go to sleep, work, train etc.
So for most of the population who work a 9-11 hour day and get some training in just after work this could be an extremely effective strategy for putting on some muscle and getting lean. Martin is keen to point out that calorie amount, calorie breakdown and types of foods are extremely important depending on your goals ie, if your goal is to lose weight you still need to be in calorie deficit and if the goal is to gain mass you need to be in a surplus.
Martin has plenty of information on his site on why his plan works with links to the science behind it. He's also an extremely lean guy himself which if he's following his own protocol means he's doing something right!
I'm going to start the Lean Gains protocol and will check in with an update in six weeks time. If you currently use this protocol it would be great to hear from you. If you give it a go make sure to keep me updated with how you get on.
Don't be shy, you can email BJ right here.