Written by: Kevin Cann
A hot topic in nutrition groups for a while now has been how many times a day should one eat, and intermittent fasting (IF). Are more meals better, or fewer meals? Should I try IF, or is it bad for me? The problem with these questions is that it all depends on the individual. In a study done by Holmstrup in 2010, he showed that eating fewer meals had better results on insulin production. In normal weight individuals the group consuming six meals had higher glucose and insulin levels than the group that ate 3 meals (Holmstrup, 2010). I took this study a little bit further.
I wake up every morning at 4:40am to open my gym at 5:30am. I will have a cup of coffee with a small amount of coconut milk and one teaspoon of Stevia around 5:30am. I workout Monday through Friday at 7:45am. Workouts consist of various speed and agility drills, single leg squatting movements, various jumps, and strength training is done a couple days a week. The strength training days consist of heavy squats, cleans, and presses.
I stay hydrated by drinking plenty of water and generally will come home and make my breakfast around 10:30am because it is generally about the time that I begin to feel hungry. If I am hungry before that I eat and if I am not hungry then I will wait. At that meal I will eat 4-6 omega 3 enriched eggs, leftover meat from the night before, 2 pieces of fruit (typically an orange, and a banana, sometimes with almond butter), and a heaping serving of veggies topped with olive oil and lemon juice. In essence I combined breakfast and lunch. I will then go back to work, come home and eat dinner at around 7:30pm. This will consist of a large serving of meat or fish, and a substantial amount of vegetables. On a night I have mma training I will add in white rice or a sweet potato with my meal for the extra carbohydrates.
The results I have seen have been outstanding. I have been under 10% body fat for quite a while and found it difficult to reach the next level. I enjoy my occasional cheat and also to indulge in a few alcoholic beverages on the weekend. Most of my clients were similar to me and I wanted to find a way to help improve results without having to mess even more with people’s lifestyles. My performance in my workouts and in my sport increased all while I dropped a little girth from my midsection.
Eating two meals a day forces me into periods of intermittent fasting. I eat dinner at 7:30pm and then eat breakfast about 15 hours later. Intermittent fasting has had some positive results in studies on a few different aspects. One aspect is on insulin sensitivity. In a study performed by Halberg he showed that a 20 hour fast every other day for 15 days increased insulin uptake by the muscles (Halberg, 2005). Calorie restriction (CR) and intermittent fasting may also be a way to slow down aging. Bronwen showed in his study that CR and IF can actually extend life by acting upon certain metabolic and cellular signaling pathways (Bronwen, 2006). With all this being said, IF is not for everyone.
Jack Kruse has a great write up explaining the reasoning why IF should not be attempted if you are leptin resistant, and that can be found at www.jackkruse.com. To sum it up briefly he explains how our body utilizes fats and glucose as energy, and leptin’s role in this whole process. If our leptin signaling is not functioning properly then our metabolic pathways cannot handle the stress of IF and it can result in undesirable effects. He also supports the notion that if we are doing everything right, IF can yield an increase in muscle mass and decrease body fat (Kruse, 2011). IF is also a stressor to our bodies. If we are over-trained, sleep deprived, or generally stressed out, then IF should not be attempted until all of those factors are taken care of.
If you are a competitive athlete looking for a change to peak performance, then fewer meals and daily IF may be what you are looking for. If general weight loss is your goal, start with 3 paleo meals per day and keep IF as a potential game changer down the line. IF is something that can definitely be beneficial but sleep, performance markers, and stress levels all need to be well taken care of or IF can have some negative results on body composition, performance, and mood.
Kruse, Jack (2011). Intermittent Fasting and Leptin. www.jackkruse.com. Retrieved on March 1, 2012.
Halberg, Nils (2005). Effect of intermittent fasting and refeeding on insulin action in healthy men. Journal of Applied Physiology. Retrieved on March 1, 2012.
Bronwen, Martin (2006). Caloric restriction and intermittent fasting: Two potential diets for successful brain aging. www.pubmed,gov. Retrieved on March 1, 2012.
Holmstrup, Michael (2010). Effect of meal frequency on glucose and insulin excursions over the course of the day. The European Journal of Clinical Nutrition and Metabolism. Retrieved on March 1, 2012.
Kevin is owner of Genetic Potential Nutrition. He is a holistic nutritionist, wellness coach, and strength coach. He works with people fighting illness, to competitive athletes. Check out his site at www.geneticpotentialnutrition.
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Angeli Yuson says
I usually fast from 8pm – 12pm but as you said, if I feel that i haven’t slept well or i just feel really hungry and water is not satisfying my hunger, i break my fast.
IF has helped me keep my weight down and build strength, but i do listen to my body and i get really hungry especially during my period so i don’t IF during that time if im not feeling the best.
I love IF and Paleo!
Good point about leptin resistance and I appreciate the Jack Kruse reference. I hadn’t seen that before.
Personally, I find intermittent fasting works best for me if I use it 2 days or so a week. I’m not sure we completely understand all the individual variables so personal observation of results is a must.
thanks for all the detailed info
Love reading real world work/play/eat scenario’s! Thanks for sharing. I’m a researcher which makes me like’real’ stories even more.
One note – Kruse is a basket case. It’s mostly musings and science fiction writing. There’s nothing wrong with theories, but there’s a lot with writing it like it’s fact.