Is Intermittent Fasting For You?

It sounds crazy. It sounds extreme. But is it really?

“IF”, as it’s commonly known is simply is an umbrella term for various diets that cycle between a period of fasting and non-fasting. Intermittent fasting can be used along with calorie restriction for weight loss[1].

I first learned about IF about a decade ago, and I’ll admit that at first blush, I was skeptical. What came to mind was not what IF really is; rather, I found myself conjuring up images of doing multi day fasts involving drinking copious amounts of lemon- cayenne water, or worse: those who intentionally implement risky behaviors not far off from bingeing and purging.

The latter was based on client testimonial of past experience.

They’d report things like, “I knew I was going to be fasting on Monday, so that meant I could eat anything and everything over the weekend, right?”


The idea is not a punitive measure to make up for poor eating choices, which serve only to perpetuate a dangerous cycle.

Rather, it’s actually based on sound science.

In today’s NY Times, an article entitled The Not Now Diet[2] goes into great detail about what it is, its history and whether or not it’s a good idea.

IF is nothing new; by sheer forces of nature and simply not always having access to food, our ancestors had to implement fasting by default.

Dr. Mark Mattson, the neuroscientist interviewed in the piece, stated, “from an evolutionary perspective, it’s clear that our ancestors did not eat three meals per day plus snacks”.

Common sense should tell us that subsisting on highly refined, carby food by-products is not only not the ticket to health, it’s a sure path to illness.

And research backs it up.

Dr. Valter Longo of USC’s Longevity Institute, showed that not only does fasting in mice result in reduced biomarkers for diabetes, cancer and heart disease[3], it appears to slow aging!

So how does one actually do it?

And what should you expect to feel?

Contrary to what you might be thinking, you should not expect it to feel like you’re ‘starving yourself’.

The idea is not to severely restrict calories and mimic an early 90’s approach to low fat = weight loss + health approach (which, by the way, it doesn’t).

When we change the constitution of our meals to include a higher percentage of calories coming from a variety of more good fat, less from carbohydrate in general and none from added sugars and balance it out with properly sourced proteins, we remain more satiated for a longer period of time, allowing our bodies to more easily tap into stored fat for energy.

When we make this shift, we naturally achieve a state of ketosis in which we convert fat to ketones, the ‘cleaner’ energy source than carbohydrate that one might equate to ‘high octane gas’.

We’re also reminded in the article that aside from the health benefits already mentioned, we’re seeing links to this approach in terms of treating epileptic seizures.

On a personal note, I tried it, albeit skeptically at first, but was pleasantly surprised at how great I felt and it’s not as though I was feeling badly prior to giving it a try.

It was as if I didn’t know what I was missing until I knew what I was missing!

The benefits can highly outweigh the risks, so long as it’s implemented properly.

If you try it and you feel increased mental focus, less hunger for longer periods of time and notice you’re getting leaner, you’re on the right track.

If not- and you feel cranky, irritable and distracted, you’re not doing IF, you’re just starving yourself.

And there’s a huge difference.

PS- it’s not just for a sedentary lifestyle; last year I was able to perform just as well (without the post race soreness) on an empty stomach, without taking in gels, and win my first two 70.3 races of the season.

Curious to learn more?

[1] Mager, D. E. (1 April 2006). “Caloric restriction and intermittent fasting alter spectral measures of heart rate and blood pressure variability in rats”. The FASEB Journal 20 (6): 631–637. doi:10.1096/fj.05-5263com.

[2] “Fasting Diets Are Gaining Acceptance.” Well Fasting Diets Are Gaining Acceptance Comments. New York Times, 08 Mar. 2016. Web. 08 Mar. 2016

[3] “Diet That Mimics Fasting Appears to Slow Aging.” Diet That Mimics Fasting Appears to Slow Aging. N.p., n.d. Web. 08 Mar. 2016