I dropped breakfast and pushed lunch to late in the afternoon.
Before becoming ripped this time around, I used to eat breakfast. As a NASM Certified Personal Trainer (I used to train people as a hobby), I told my clients that they should eat breakfast. Why did I do that? For one, “everyone” on TV, the internet and in the business said you’re supposed to, and for two, it seemed to make sense. How else would you have energy to exercise? You’d certainly waste away without breakfast. Needless to say, I’ve discovered through my own experience that this just isn’t true. It was a pretty significant moment of realization for me. I frequently eat my first meal of the day around 2:30 or 3pm, which concludes an 18 hour fasting period.
Martin Berhkan is the father of an eating protocol (many consider it a lifestyle) called 16/8 intermittent fasting a.k.a “LeanGains“. Some people reading this might already be familiar with it. The core principle is that you don’t eat for a period of 16 hours straight, after which you can eat within an 8 hour window (although I adjusted it to my own preference of 18-20 hours fasting, six feeding). There are several styles of intermittent fasting, with each specifying a different fast length and frequency. Examples include the Warrior Diet and Eat Stop Eat, the details of which aren’t relevant to this post, but they’re all the same in principle: don’t eat for a certain period of time, then eat within a specified time window.
Many individuals have found LeanGains to be exceptionally effective for maintaining both leanness and an internal environment conducive to protein synthesis (i.e. muscle development). Berhkan cites multiple studies that explain why intermittent fasting is so effective. The main concepts include the following:
- Little to no circulating insulin during the fast promotes a flush of human growth hormone, especially after heavy lifting. This provides an ideal stimulus for muscle growth. Additionally, growth hormone is a potent fat burning and muscle sparing agent.
- Fasting promotes muscle glycogen depletion to the extent that the muscle will be apt to rapidly “soak up” nutrients once reintroduced when the fast concludes.
As an aside, Bojan Kostevski of lift-heavy.com recently released some very interesting research on intermittent fasting and its effects on human health. You can find it here.
Stop eating to reduce hunger… huh?
I’ve read numerous studies on this subject, some cited by Berkan, others that I found on my own. The evidence is clear that contrary to conventional wisdom, muscle loss is not an issue when fasting for short periods like this. But in the end, I have a basic theory about why intermittent fasting can be so effective: it is a tool that enhances control over caloric intake. Because insulin levels are minimized during the fast since glucose is not present in the bloodstream, hunger is suppressed to a great degree. I wouldn’t have believed it if I hadn’t done it myself, but it absolutely worked for me. Less hunger = better compliance with caloric restriction goals. I’d even venture to say that for me, fasting has made appetite control as close to effortless as possible. All in all, I tend to think it’s a little less scientific than some proponents make it out to be, but that’s just my opinion. I’ll stress again that I chose LeanGains because it integrates well with my lifestyle and I enjoy it for several reasons. I love not having to spend time preparing food and eating in the morning, and I also prefer pushing my first meal as far into the afternoon as possible because when I’m at work I can’t really enjoy what I’m eating. This is why I like to eat the majority of my calories at home in the late afternoon and evening.
That said, I do not believe that fasting is a requirement for getting ripped, since I’m pretty sure that old school guys like Ed Holovchik, Steve Reeves, Jack LaLane, Lou Ferrigno, and early Arnold Schwarzenegger didn’t get ripped fasting–they lifted heavy using basic programs designed for progressive overload, controlled their calories and rested. But fasting is great for me. In my experience, LeanGains is a fantastic tool, and I don’t think I will ever stop fasting intermittently since I find it so crucial to staying ripped. You can find more RippedForever posts on eating and fasting here: