In doing research for upcoming blogs and past blogs, I quickly realized that I myself am involved in a cult following. I am part of a small, but increasing group of dieters following a protocol called intermittent fasting, or IF. I have been doing IF strictly for about six months, but I have been incorporating it into my daily eating habits for about two years.
I took a Nutrition class in college a few years ago and the professor had us do our final research paper on a fad diet. I found a diet called “The Warrior Diet” invented by Ori Hofmekler. The protocol for this diet was to fast while you slept then the following day until night. About 20 hours of fasting. Then, you would eat all of your calories in one mega meal in a four hour window, then fast again.
Instead of just writing the paper, I tested the diet on myself. I lasted about two weeks. My two issues with the diet were 1. I could not eat 2500 calories in four hours. I physically could not do it. The fast itself was no problem. It was the gorging that bothered me. And 2. I could not be social. If we went out to eat or a cookout, I had to stand and watch everyone eat. It was not enjoyable or sustainable.
Leangains and The Hodge Twins
I stopped the Warrior Diet, wrote the paper and did not think of fasting again for awhile. I do workout four days a week and eat clean and count my calories. In 2010 I lost around 60 pounds and have been at 180 pounds since. But, I wanted to take it to the next level. I wanted to get the most out of the time and money I spent in the gym and kitchen. I started scouring the internet and stumbled upon my old friend, fasting.
I found The Hodge Twins, or Fasting Twins on Youtube. They explained, rather crudely, how IF worked. They were in good shape and seemed like normal guys. I completely jumped on board. Their schtick, humor, and simplicity of IF spoke to me. I started fasting for 16 hours a day, then I ate for 8 hours. So, a typical day was to start my eating window at 1 pm and stop eating at 9 pm. It was easy because all I did was skip breakfast essentially.
I still counted calories and was still diligent about diet and exercise. What I saw was not the needle on the scale go down, but stay the same. The eye test though, showed I had lost body fat and gained muscle. This is the Holy Grail of the weightlifting community. It was been sought after (cleanly, with no steroids) for decades. IF, for me and many others, proved it was what we had been looking for.
I found many others following the Fasting Twins on Youtube, seeing their subscription totals reach 900k and they now have three channels. But, much of what they were saying was being labeled as “Broscience.” In other words, science passed along in the gym with no facts to back it up. The thirty minute window is a good example. Or the Broscience argument to work until failure on every set is another. Broscience aside, I could see IF was working for me, and I wanted to know why.
Ori Hofmekler used the Hunter-Gatherer argument behind The Warrior Diet. Our ancestors were hunters and gatherers. They spent all day hunting and gathering berries and nuts and plants. Then at night, they’d feast. He claimed our bodies were still made to work this way. So, mainstream nutritional advice told us to eat six meals a day. But mainstream nutritional advice has led the US down a path of obesity. A Gallop poll in 2014 put the obesity rate at 27.7%. Whatever we are doing as a nation is not working.
Ori was ahead of his time. His Warrior Diet book was first published in 2003. He was a pioneer of the IF movement but also maybe too radical. A man named Martin Berkhan took IF to a new level and built a cult following like no one else had. He took IF to as close as mainstream as possible. His website is called LeanGains. Martin has the largest following because he does the research behind IF. If you have any qualms about IF, Martin will ease them. Here is his guide which I highly recommend.
The leaders of IF and who I follow
Martin Berkhan stopped posting on his popular site in May of 2014. Many say it is because he had been promising a book for years and never came through with a book. He has since been inactive in the IF community but others have continued on with the movement. Here are the ones I follow and the books I recommend:
-The Hodgetwins and their 3 channels on Youtube.
-Greg from Kinobody– He uses Martin’s approach of 16/8 and even touts Martin’s reverse pyramid lifting routine. I have never bought one of Greg’s programs but I follow his blog religiously.
-Brad Pilon’s book Eat, Stop, Eat. Very good read and has the science to back it up. His blog is also a good read but with Brad nothing is free.
This is also a good tool for beginning. It is a calculator to determine your macros.
Why a cult following?
Everything about this diet goes against mainstream nutritional advice. We have always been told breakfast is the most important meal of the day. But by whom? Well, cereal companies, fast food restaurants serving breakfast and nutritionists. There is money to be made in the breakfast meal. Also, studies show those who eat breakfast lose more weight or are healthier. This could be because it keeps you fuller during the day. To me, it all comes down to accountability. An egg Mcmuffin will not keep you lean.
I do not believe IF is a magic heal all. I understand that studies say you will live longer, lose more body fat and be sharper mentally. But you can still out eat the hours you fast. You still have to count calories and exercise. It isn’t a free pass to eat whatever you want.
The being sharper mentally I can attest too. By fasting, your body gets into a state of panic. It believes it will not eat again. So, it turns on the sympathetic nervous system, or what we attribute to our fight or flight instinct. Your mind works with your body to become sharper, trying all it can to help you find food again. We know we will eat again soon, but your instincts do not.
In a way, when we do IF, we are playing a trick on our bodies. The result is less body fat, a sharper mind and the ability to eat large meals. I like to eat a big snack at night. So, I fast until 1, eat a small meal, workout, eat another small meal and then I eat a 1,000 calorie snack at night. Gobs of peanut butter with no guilt. That is my takeaway from IF. I can restrict my caloric intake in a pleasurable manner. If I only had 30 seconds to sell someone on IF, that is the way I would go about it.