I get the question all the time about meal timing, fasting, and intermittent fasting.
Everyone wants to know what is the right answer? To do it or not to do it. Well, there is no right answer as for some people it’s right and for some people it’s not. For some it will work in one season and not another. Most of it depends on health, stress, hormones, history of diet both long and short term, and the amount of body fat on your body. Especially for women if you are under 20% body fat it’s not going to work as well because your hunger hormones will be more intense. But at the same time when you have significant body fat the other factors can make your hunger more intense. When your hunger hormones are intense, that is when the binges happen. There is no such thing as willpower when your hunger is so intense. You are human, you don’t get a free pass from that. There are no short cuts.
FASTING: Don't make this complicated. It is merely the time between meals. We all fast when we sleep. We all spend some time fed and not fed. There is no wrong or right way, but certainly if your body is weak, you have no energy, you feel sick, and you BINGE, and you don't sleep well that is the wrong way regardless of what you think your timing should be. The ANSWER IS IN YOU. Listen to your body!
Intermittent fasting is INTERMITTENT. That means INTERMITTENT. That means NOT ALL THE TIME. Not every day. Not daily.
Daily fasting is simply when you sleep, and you extend it out slightly to make a smaller "eating window" so you can control your food intake better.
Now, the multiple meals per day. Many of us small girls get mad when they tell us to eat every 2-3 hours because frankly it did make us gain weight because those meals, if not small enough, end up being too much food. When you are 5 foot tall this meals your meals are only 200-300 calories. Sorry but that's not a meal that is a snack! I know, I know, because I am 5 foot tall. I get it.
That's why the extended nightly fast is helpful, because we can control the amount of food a little better. Sometimes we just don't feel like having 6 snacks a day. The fact is we can pack away as much food as a bigger person so the snack meals just plain suck don't they? Yes they do, so we decide to have 1-3 normal sized meals. If that is what you need to do to NOT EAT TOO MUCH and you are listening to your body, then it's right for you, and it might just be for a season. But if you do this and you whine about feeling crappy and dizzy and weak and you can't workout and you are constantly hungry, well then don't you think your body is giving you some clues?
Here is the THEORY for the many meals per day theory: By providing your body with all the essential amino acids it needs, it puts it into an anabolic (muscle building/fat burning) metabolism state. If your body is constantly given all the essential amino acids it needs every few hours, it can stay in a constant muscle building, fat burning state. Whole proteins provide our body with all essential amino acids to allow our body to go into an anabolic state and if you continue to feed it protein it can stay in that state.
I don't think that theory is wrong, so don't get mad about that! It is right for many, and it probably applies to many males. And it might even apply to you and me. But at the same time keep in mind this study by the Army on starvation mode:
Here is the Army study on the Theory of Fat Availability:
The Theory of Fat Availability:
•There is a set amount of fat that can be released from a fat cell.
•The more fat you have, the more fat can be used as a fuel when dieting.
•The less fat you have, the less fat can be used as a fuel when dieting.
•Towards the end of a transformation, when body fat is extremely low you
may not have enough fat to handle a large caloric deficit anymore.
At the extreme low end, when your body fat cannot ‘keep up’ with the energy deficit you've imposed on your body, the energy MUST come from SOMEWHERE. This is when you are at risk of losing lean body mass during dieting (commonly referred to as ‘starvation mode’). This happens at extremely low levels of body fat, under 6% in men and 12% in women [Friedl K.E. J Appl Phsiol, 1994].
So some things to think about as you experiment with different calorie levels, fasting periods (or simply the time between meals), and exercise are:
How is your general feeling of well being?
How do you feel working out?
How well do you recover from workouts?
Do you have the energy to complete your daily responsibilities?
How well do you sleep at night?
Are you binging?
Usually it's the answers to those questions that tell you if you are too high or too low with your daily or even rolling daily average over time.
For me, I proved with pictures and a DEXA/DXA scan that I did not lose muscle and in fact gained muscle and lost fat during my experimenting with meal timing, intermittent fasting, and daily fasting. According to the DEXA scan data, the average 5 ft weight training female has a lean body mass of 99 pounds, less than that if not doing resistance training. My LBM was 105 pounds per the DXA scan shortly after my transformation and it's remained steady at that for close to 6 years now.
I do not do much fasting or intermittent fasting anymore. I do eat multiple meals a day and I feel I need them, but it means I can't allow those meals to get too high in calories.
But that is all about ME, not you. Just because that all worked for me, all it proves is that it worked for me in my particular season of life which include all the factors of my health, stress, diet history, exercise history, age, genetics, and all the factors ABOUT ME.
Now, I have done every single possible combination of eating during the last 7 years. I've done multiple mini meals a day and daily fasting. I've done intermittent fasting, and even 1 meal a day for over a month (I do not recommend this to you!), but it suited me fine for that short season of my life. I am extremely in tune with my own body, more than the average person, and I stopped when I learned that it was no longer the right season for that technique.
For the daily fasting I stopped eating in the evening, as well as done the eating into the evening and prolonging my first meal. It's the same size eating window either way, but you have better willpower earlier in the day (if you are not eating to low for YOU). The thing is, if you fast too long and binge in the evening, that does not help you either.
Some of you want the longer fast because you understand ESE (Eat Stop Eat) or intermittent fasting and the hormone benefits of HGH. Here's the deal with Intermittent Fasting. It is meant to be INTERMITTENT, not daily. It is meant to be done once a week or so. It has been proven that your body will produce more HGH during hours 16-24, but you can't do this every day!! You will crash. And when you get to lower body fat levels as a female you can't do this anymore or you crash and binge. Yes, was once able to do ESE fasting when I had significant body fat. I can't do it anymore. And I have watched many crash over the years with it because they combine it with too many other stressors on the body all at once.
What matters for fat loss is the amount of calories in a 24 hour period. Fasting for longer is very slight, not a game changer for fat loss.
Don't forget, if you are lifting fasted are already getting the HGH benefit from the fasted workout. That is the same slight edge as the hours 18-24 in the ESE fast. And even then it's NOT ALWAYS THE BEST THING FOR THE DAY! Listen to your body. I have days where I really wanted to do the fasted workout but a few sets into the workout I realized it was wrong and went and got a quest bar or some lunch meat and something with simple carbs to help me get through the workout.
Don't get stuck in a rut!
It's okay to have some days where you do the longer fasting, and other days where you workout fasted and have the protein in a manner and timing that gives you more benefit, and then other days where you are just FED more often because you freakin needed to be FED more often.
We can tend to get stuck in a rut thinking we have to do the same thing every day in order to get results, when really we can do something a little different each day, from the different tools we have, and it's actually better for us to learn that it does not have to be the same pattern every day.
Again, DON'T GET STUCK IN A RUT. There is more than one way to achieve your goal. In fact, getting stuck in a rut hinders you from achieving your goals.
I always focus on having protein with each meal, no matter how many, no matter what the size. I truly believe that protein is key, and that carbs are important, and so is fat, fiber, nutrients, and all the things in balance.
Always what hurts us the most is depriving not just of food groups, but in too much fasting, and in eating too low, not enough protein, not enough carbs, not enough fat.
Fasting and eating too low, those are sometimes done because of lack of patience and frustration from the binge.
Lower is not better. Consistency is better.
Many struggle with over eating, or eating over maintenance when they “diet". The best thing to do the next day is NOT EAT TOO LOW and fasting is NOT ALWAYS THE BEST ANSWER. In fact, what I see the most from everyone is that the fasting in fact is backfiring. Just because someone else said they did fine with it does not mean it will work for you. And if it worked once for you, it may not work the next time.
Fasting and eating too low is MERELY YOUR IMPATIENCE. Stop that!
I'm not saying there is no place for fasting. There is, but it rarely seems to be the best answer.
Consistency works better. It requires patience.
Here is the very best strategy after a day of big time over eating:
1) Plan your meals AHEAD OF TIME. Plan only a slight deficit. If you don't know what that is for you then email me firstname.lastname@example.org.
2) You will need to follow a meal plan you make, or I can give you one OR you need to plan it all out ahead of time in myfitnesspal or a similar tool. You MUST STICK TO THE PLAN. If you "wing it" you will eat too much or too little. Too little backfires.
3) It takes about a week of consistency doing this to make up for that ONE DAY. THERE ARE NO SHORT CUTS!
Drink lots of water, savory bone broth, herbal tea and treat yourself with care. Say nice things to yourself. Take hot baths. Take deep breaths. Ditch the negative talk about your body immediately! Every time you say something mean in your head - do one of the acts of kindness for yourself (savor the hot drink, savor the hot bath, take the deep breath, put on pretty clothes, put on good lotion, take care of your skin, take care of your body!)