In earlier posts I both outlined the intermittent fasting protocol I’m following and documented my progress. However, I realized I never made the case for adhering to a fasting protocol in the first place. I’ve also been fielding numerous questions around the gym about the diet, so I’m going to take a few minutes to cover the benefits of intermittent fasting at a high level.
At some point, you may have heard a story in the news or read somewhere online that consuming a calorie restricted diet is the key to longevity. There are quite a few studies to back up this claim, though the problem is that under the study protocols, the subject animals were restricted to roughly 2/3 of what they would normally eat. While the animals lived longer under these conditions, it was at a cost of significantly reduced bodyweight. We’re talking emaciated here – not desirable, especially if you’re trying to PR your deadlift.
For those wanting to extend their lives, the good news is that more recent studies have shown that the same longevity benefit can be achieved from following an intermittent fasting (IF) protocol. The key difference between the two protocols being body composition of the study subjects (super skinny and weak vs. lean and muscular). It has been postulated that our body responds well to IF for the same reasons it responds well to eating off a Paleo menu, it was genetically programmed to do so.
Perhaps you don’t care about living to 100, you just want a six pack. Well, it turns out that IF can help in that department too. Following an intermittent fasting protocol enhances our body’s ability to preferentially use fat as a fuel source. That’s right, IF can kickstart ketosis. Though it is commonly believed that carbohydrates must be avoided to achieve this fat burning / ketogenic state, some study participants have shown a dramatic increase in ketone bodies despite being feed a diet consisting of over 2/3 carbohydrates – simply from adhering to IF. There are other great things about ketosis. It has been shown to elevate insulin-like growth factor (IGH) a key component in the anabolic process. So while in ketosis, you’re preferentially burning fat (getting lean) and supporting muscle growth… win,win!
One final point about ketosis for those of you that are still with me. I recently attended a (not to be named) pharmaceutical presentation regarding a drug with a clinically demonstrated ability to fight the effects of Alzheimer’s. Here’s the thing, and don’t get me wrong, the drug certainly stands to benefit a ton of people (and likely make that pharmaceutical company a shit-ton of cash along the way). But, the primary mechanism was to stimulate a process that is occurs when the body is in ketosis. In fact, I asked the research physician if the same Alzheimer’s fighting benefits could be achieve through adhering to a ketogenic diet. Though his research demonstrated this approach as a viable option, he dismissed my question with some snide remark about compliance. Well, never mind adhering to a ketogenic diet, it now appears that simply following IF can reduce your chances of suffering from neurodegeneration, various forms of cancer and other disease states.
So there you have it. Granted, there was a whole lot of hand waving and I used the phrase “studies have shown” quite a lot without links to said studies. Over the coming weeks and months I think I’ll follow this post up with greater detail and actually point to the research I eluded to in this post. I think 99% of you just want the answer and don’t care so much about the research, so for you it will be provided as material to help you sleep at night, for the other 1% out there that really want to geek out on this stuff with me, I can’t wait to share this really interesting research.