My intermittent fasting experiment

I’m a big believer that if individuals want to eat healthily easily, it makes sense not to let the appetite run out of control. Once we get ravenously hungry the desire to eat rubbish can be overwhelming. One of the strategies I have generally advocated to achieve good appetite control is to eat the right food. I favour relatively protein-rich, carb-controlled/primal eating here. This sort of diet does seem to have inherent ability to sate the appetite more effectively that carb-based fare. The other strategy I recommend is to eat this sort of diet regularly.

Historically, I have recommended that individuals generally eat three meals a day. Possibly, they may have a snack of something healthy and satisfying (e.g. nuts) between their lunch and dinner.

I’ve seen a lot of individuals (myself included) do very well on this sort of regime in terms of fat loss, improved vitality and improvements in blood chemistry. However, like anything, this dietary approach is no panacea, and does need some tailoring according to individual circumstances.

I do quite a lot of work in the corporate sector, and I’ve in recent months been meeting quite a few individuals who are highly productive and energised in the morning, but who don’t eat breakfast. I’m not a hardliner on the breakfast thing as long as someone doesn’t get too hungry before lunch. Many of these individuals don’t eat breakfast because, well, they really are not hungry in the morning, and seem to do just fine on little or nothing before lunch.

In their own way, individuals who eschew breakfast are engaging in a version of what is sometimes referred to as ‘intermittent fasting’. Basically, this means going without food for extended periods of time. There’s a myriad of ways this can be done, but here are some examples:

  • Consuming food in a contracted e.g. 8-hours period every day. For example, if eating starts at 10.00 am, it needs to be finished at 6.00 pm.
  • Going without food for a whole 24-hour period every so often (e.g. once a week).
  • Skipping dinner from time to time.
  • Skipping breakfast regularly or occasionally.

There is some thought that intermittent fasting (IF) ‘forces’ the body to dig into its fuel stores (including fat). IF can improve functioning of the hormone insulin. A quite-recent study did provide some support for this notion [1]. Improved ‘insulin sensitivity’ is a good thing, as it would likely mean lower insulin levels, and lower body fatness, in time. It would also possibly reduce the risk of chronic disease such as type 2 diabetes and heart disease too.

My interest in IF was piqued recently through some interaction with someone who had lost a lot of weight (about 90 lbs/40 kg) and about 20 inches (that’s not a typo, twenty inches) off her waist following the advice in my last book Waist Disposal. However, she had plateaued at a weight above what she was comfortable with, and so we were looking to see what we could do to push things on a bit. We discussed IF, and she went for it. Her approach was to skip dinner 2-3 times a week. And it worked. Down through the plateau she went. And comfortably and happily too.

Around this time I listened to a podcast in which American low-carb advocate Jimmy Moore interviewed blogger Todd Becker. Todd expressed his scepticism for the need for breakfast, and talked about how extending the time between eating can lower insulin levels. You can listen to this podcast here. This was perhaps a ‘tipping point’ for me, in that I resolved to try this approach myself.

I actually started slowly. About a month ago I starting simply delaying breakfast until I felt quite hungry (but not so hungry that I was starving). Within a few days I found myself getting through to lunch with, really, no appreciable hunger at all. I’ve had abundant energy, and my brain seems to have functioned just as well as before – possibly better. No mood issues either (well, no more than normal!)

The week before last I had my parents around for brunch. I did a big fry-up. We sat down at 11.30 am and I can honestly say I really couldn’t face the food at all. That’s how unhungry I was. And yet I had not eaten for 16 hours.

What’s going on here? I don’t know for sure. But going back to insulin again, there’s a good chance levels of this hormone are lower than before. Insulin encourages fat storage. Put another way, lower insulin means for efficient release of fat, which can be used to fuel the body. The reason that I’m not hungry is possibly because the body is ‘feeding’ off my fat. That might also explain how I’ve lost about 5 lbs and an inch has gone from my waist.

One of things I like about nutrition is that there’s always something new to learn (and try). One thing flirting with IF has done is really get me in tune with eating when I’m genuinely hungry and not ‘by the clock’. I’m starting to realise that perhaps I was previously eating a lot of food because it was ‘time to eat’. Not sure where my IF experiment will take me, but sense it’s a strategy that is here to stay in one form or another.

References:

1. Harvie MN, et al. The effects of intermittent or continuous energy restriction on weight loss and metabolic disease risk markers: a randomized trial in young overweight women. Int J Obes (Lond). 2010 Oct 5. [Epub ahead of print]

56 Responses to My intermittent fasting experiment

  1. Andrea 28 March 2011 at 1:50 pm #

    Did you see the post where Jimmy reported on the experiences of a friend or reader (don’t remember which) who did an extended fast for religious practice?

    It was at least three days, maybe a full week.

    He said that what he learned about his body was that he would feel the normal hunger signals that would have caused him to eat were he not committed to the fast. Then they would go away in a fairly short amount of time.

    Knowing that his body would send hunger signals then satisfy it’s energy needs on his own reserves was a freeing experience for him.

  2. John Briffa 28 March 2011 at 1:54 pm #

    Andrea

    Thanks for this – I haven’t listened to this but I can imagine what a liberating experience this must be. Actually, I feel quite liberated myself – I’m of the mind I need less food than I thought I did.

  3. Kris @ Health Blog 28 March 2011 at 3:16 pm #

    I used to do the 16/8 protocol myself, but back then I was eating an unhealthy high-carb diet. It did help me cut down, but I would get incredibly tired after lunch to the point of me giving up on the entire thing.

  4. Steve 28 March 2011 at 4:32 pm #

    I really like this explanation of low carb/low insulin low hunger. (the body feeding off fat)

    I realize there’s all kinds of things going on with leptin signaling etc… But I often find the standard excuses given for low carb working through caloric restriction unsatisfactory. (ie.. not enough food choices, food is not palatable, protein is satiating etc..) These seem like excuses to draw things away from physical biochemical effects and back towards behavior. It seems a certain segment can’t accept that to a large part biology *drives* behavior. I’m reminded of Lustig’s experiments with insulin suppressing drugs leading to spontaneous increases in activity in children.

    So yeah.. I think you might be right. The biochemical signals change. The food you’ve stored becomes available. So you’re less hungry. Combine that with improved leptin signaling etc… and you have a pretty neat explanation decreases in hunger on a low carb diet, or in a fasted state.

  5. J. Stanton - gnolls.org 28 March 2011 at 8:07 pm #

    I’ve also ended up in the “no breakfast” camp after switching to a high-fat paleo diet. The only time I eat is if I’m going on a long hike, bike ride, or undergoing other heavy aerobic activity…and I have to force myself.

    Eating a high-fat diet eased the transition to IF for me…it’s as if my body has become used to oxidizing fat, instead of just glucose, and finds the transition less distracting.

    A bonus is that I’m mentally much sharper, most likely due to the neurotrophic action of ghrelin.

  6. Teddy 28 March 2011 at 9:38 pm #

    I have a question for those who skip breakfast: Do you make up for what you don’t eat in later meals? I ask this because I am happy with my current weight, and don’t want to lose weight. In other words, is it beneficial to intermittently fast if one does not want to lose weight? Should I still try fasting, and then eat larger meals later in the day?

  7. John Briffa 28 March 2011 at 9:46 pm #

    Teddy

    I don’t know about other people, but my experience has been that skipping breakfast has definitely NOT led me to eat more later on in the day than I used to. If anything, I think I might be eating a little less.

    As I say, this is just my own personal experience, and there’s nothing to say this will not change over time.

  8. Catherine 28 March 2011 at 10:42 pm #

    When you say skipping breakfast, do you mean drinking only water? Would a coffee/tea with milk break the fast?

  9. Alcinda Moore 29 March 2011 at 2:18 am #

    I used intermittent fasting for several years when I was younger. Never had a problem not eating! As long as I didn’t eat (I did drink coffee or tea with milk) I could go for days. I always limited to 3 days, simply because I didn’t feel it was good to go for longer, but never had serious hunger!

    Starting low carb several years ago, along with reading articles, blogs, and studies made me to decide to try it again. I’m still the same….as long as I don’t eat I’m not hungry. The last fast I did was just a few hours short of 3 days. Tolerated it well, didn’t “pig out” that night or the next day.

  10. aidanpp 29 March 2011 at 10:03 pm #

    john,is there a risk that during these periods of fasting your body will ‘feed’ off your muscles as well as your fat?

  11. John Briffa 30 March 2011 at 10:17 am #

    aidanpp

    I don’t know for sure, but I suspect the answer to your question is ‘yes’. However, there are ways this might be mitigated. A reasonably protein-rich diet (possibly supplementation too, say with whey protein) and some resistance exercise would seem prudent places to start.

    I haven’t noticed any muscle loss but I’ve only lost 5-6 lbs, it’s only been a few weeks, and I may have lost some muscle but not enough to be aware of it.

    I do, though, eat a relatively protein-rich diet and do some resistance exercise.

  12. Paul Anderson 30 March 2011 at 12:24 pm #

    aidanpp,

    I wouldn’t focus on muscle loss but rather on strength. One useful measure, if you do weight training, is to see if your performance suffers, ie you notice you are losing strength. I guess ideally the objective is reduced fat mass and enhanced strength.

    Advocates of intermittent fasting suggest that the fear of muscle loss is greawatly exaggerated; your muscle won’t just disappear overnight. Another option would be to check tolerance for exercises that use bodyweight: press ups for example.

    I guess there will be a point where muscle loss occurs but most people who advocate intemittent fasting are not talking about extremes: but the ability to skip a meal if not hungry.

    There is very little evidence to support the generally held view that 3 meals a day is optimal as far as I can ascertain.

    Paul Anderson

  13. John Briffa 30 March 2011 at 12:52 pm #

    Paul/aidanpp

    I hadn’t thought of this myself, but I think Paul’s idea is a very good one. Concentrate on strength, not size. Thanks Paul.

  14. Violet 30 March 2011 at 4:08 pm #

    I am so glad the advice to snack every 2 hrs. is starting to wane. I have some metabolism issues that make me very sensitive to change in diet and have difficulty losing losing weight. I can honestly say that nothing I have tried has improved my sense of well being more than adopting a 3 meal a day approach with 5 – 6 hrs. in-between meals and no snacking. Snacking virtually halts my weight loss (unless I am eating very low cal). I have also had a dramatic improvement in sleep quality. Byron Richards and Shane Ellison have always advocated this way of eating.

  15. Kirsty 1 April 2011 at 9:53 am #

    I’m so glad you’ve written this. I started eating low carb/paleo a few years ago and lost about 3 stones. Your site was a great resource for me except that once I got into the swing of it I couldn’t face breakfast and gradually got to where I am now which is not eating until between 2 and 4 pm on most days. If I eat breakfast now I feel sluggish all day. Most people are horrified when I tell them and tell me this is dangerous and/or will mess up my metabolism. I don’t pay attention to most of that but your support for frequent eating troubled me as I respect your approach to the science of eating. I hope you continue with this and I look forward to reading more!

  16. Mauro Mortali 1 April 2011 at 10:36 am #

    In Tim Ferriss’ book “The Four Hour Body” he talks about IF as a means for prolonging life by making your cells healthier!

  17. Mark Hone 1 April 2011 at 11:09 am #

    John

    check out the website http://www.leangains.com – I was pre-diabetic and was looking for weight training routines that help deal with insulin sensitivity.

    Martin Berkhan is the man, Lean Gains is all about Intermittent Fasting. The website is a gold mine.

    Missing breakfast and doing heavy weights in the morning before you break the fast with lunch I find much easier than fasting for a day.

    My fasting glucose was 6.3 two years ago, it is now 5.7.

    Good book by the way (Waist Disposal).

    Mark

  18. Penny Vinden 1 April 2011 at 11:13 am #

    I never feel like eating till about 11am…but…I also have consistently slightly elevated fasting blood sugar in the morning, just at the very lowest level to be considered type II diabetes. I also have belly fat that just won’t budge – I cycle to and from work every day, do a lot of walking…and don’t eat junk food, am gluten-free. Any ideas?

  19. John Briffa 1 April 2011 at 11:24 am #

    Mark

    Thanks for that and your kind words.

    I discovered leangains this week while researching intermittent fasting for a new book I am writing. You’re right – it’s a very good resource indeed and am going to reference it specifically in the book.

    Re your fasting blood sugars, I thinnk it’s more relevant to keep an eye on your HbA1c (glycosylated haemoglobin) levels, as these give a decent guide to glycaemic control over the preceding 3 months or so.

  20. John Briffa 1 April 2011 at 11:25 am #

    Penny

    I can’t advise you personally, but have you ever tried ‘low-carb’?

  21. Peter Deadman 1 April 2011 at 11:38 am #

    There’s lots of traditional advice, throughout many different cultures, that the main meal of the day should be breakfast, whilst the evening meal should be minimal and taken early (English saying: breakfast like a king, lunch like a merchant, sup like a pauper; Jewish saying: Eat your breakfast alone, share your lunch with a friend and give your supper to your enemy). In my 30 years experience as a practitioner, I found that most people who are not hungry at breakfast have a large evening meal, often late in the evening. There’s quite a bit of evidence that metabolism is more efficient in the morning, that morning calories satisfy better than calories taken later in the day, and that the people who eat a larger breakfast consume overall fewer calories over the day. So … I would say that intermittent fasting should skip the evening meal, not breakfast. This is not only about weight gain. According to Chinese medicine, filling the stomach in the evening – a time of minimal physical activity – then lying down for hours, leads to food stagnation which weakens the digestive system and gives rise to digestive and other diseases.

  22. Bill Rowles 1 April 2011 at 12:52 pm #

    John

    Welcome to IF! I’ve been following a varied IF regimen for 2 years. I wasn’t carrying too much extra, but I initially lost around 10% body weight, which was demonstrably fat. I’ve since added a 1 or 2 kg – mostly muscle, as I’ve worked on bodyweight exercises. My weight has stabilised very nicely. Today, I have more recently been exploring isometrics and isometric bodyweight sets, which provide a strength boost without adding too much muscle bulk.

    For what it’s worth, I definitely recommend 24hrs from lunch to lunch as an optimum for intensive IF.

    I agree with Peter. For all regimens, it’s important not to eat after around 6pm if possible – since the whole point is to work with the hormone response. I have found sleep to be more refreshing if I retire on an empty stomach. (Penny, take note – this may be part of the issue)

    Last note: In Robb Wolf’s most recent podcast, he clearly mentions that HbA1c tests are no longer reliable on a paleo regimen – which is essentially similar to the “Waist Disposal” diet + IF. The reason seems to relate to the red blood cells living longer! Wolf is currently advising that low carbers drop this metric, as it seems no longer to have the same relevance.

  23. Kirsty 1 April 2011 at 1:08 pm #

    Peter

    Martin Berkham on the leangains site has a useful analysis of the metabolic impact of frequent eating / eating late issue which generally refutes the traditional advice. I have found that eating paleo, particularly no grains, combined with IF leads to fewer calories being consumed overall. Dr Briffa discusses his experience in the podcast and seems to have had a similar result.

  24. John Briffa 1 April 2011 at 1:17 pm #

    Kirsty

    Yes, that’s right – absolutely no sense at all that my eating at lunch or supper is compensating for no breakfast and a very definite sense is I am eating less overall. But, and this is very important, I have no undue hunger through the morning and my energy levels and brain function seem better than ever.

    I understand the arguments about skipping supper (rather than breakfast) except that I evening meals are usually a social experience for me and I just don’t fancy consigning my girlfriend to evening meals on her own. For more, not having breakfast together is not so much of an issue because she’ never been much of a breakfast person historically.

  25. Bill Rowles 1 April 2011 at 1:36 pm #

    John

    Note that I haven’t said skip supper (except when going 24hrs). Supper should be as early as possible (ideally before 6pm) and light.

    Thoughts on the HbA1c testing?

  26. John Briffa 1 April 2011 at 1:42 pm #

    Bill

    Noted. I was referring to Peter’s suggestion.

    I haven’t listened to Robb Wolf’s podcast, so can’t comment. I’ve not heard this before (that means nothing, of course). Is it possible that while not ideal, the HbA1c remains a better test than a fasting blood glucose. Does Robb address this?

  27. Kirsty 1 April 2011 at 1:44 pm #

    From a paleo-purist perspective, skipping breakfast makes more sense. A hunter-gatherer would hunt/gather during the day and eat in the afternoon / evening rather than save food until the next day to eat for breakfast.

    I have also found improved mental alertness and energy levels from skipping brekfast. Could it be that by not taxing your digestive system early in the day, more energy is available for the brain and muscle function?

    Also, as a general point about metabolism, is it a good thing to try to engineer our metabolism to allow us to eat more? Or should we allow our metabolism to find its natural level and consume less of our planet’s resources?

  28. Mark Hone 1 April 2011 at 4:43 pm #

    John

    yes, I am aware of the HbA1c test – just awkward to organise.

    During my research into pre-diabetes,and finding other blogs such as http://www.heartscanblog.org/ and http://www.paleonu.com/ – I ended up buying a simple Accu-Chek Blood sugar meter – which is probably tantamount to committing heresy as far as the medical establishment is concerned.

    On a daily basis – after a 12 – 15 hour fast I register 5.7-5.8 – which is still high but going in the right direction.

    What is puzzling is that in the UK I am not regarded as pre-diabetic, whereas if I was in the USA I would be – and likely to lose medical insurance cover.

    By the way, Dr Bill Davis’s Heartscan blog is where I found a link to your web-site.

  29. KH 1 April 2011 at 4:54 pm #

    I’ve never understood the recommendation to eat 3 meals a day even when you don’t have hunger pangs. I have regularly used IF the past few years, including a 7 day green juice fast of which the hardest thing was forcing myself to eat when I wanted to end it. The breatharian thinking is that the less you degenerate as the digestive process makes huge demands on your body. But you will obviously only achieve ‘superhealth’ if you combine minimum calorie intake with maximum nutrition.

  30. simona 1 April 2011 at 5:39 pm #

    aidanpp

    From what I read a short fast, up to 24 h, doesn’t affect your muscle mass at all.

    dr. Briffa

    I’m happy that you have had a positive experience with IF and that you are catching up with the people over the pond with similar interests. (Once I found Stephan’s blog and his blog list a whole different world opened to me)
    I hit a plateau last year in the summer while doing IF and low carb and eating around 1400 kcal. It seems my body didn’t want to lose any more fat and after a blood panel in August it was clear that I had borderline low T3 and high cholesterol (LDL 9), probably as a result. I wasn’t hungry either. I’m taking T3 at the moment, I hope it makes a difference.

  31. Galina L. 1 April 2011 at 6:34 pm #

    I am having migraines since 12 years old and nowadays manage it with a ketogenic diet. It didn’t disappear completely, just got less frequent, much less intense and shorter. In past I had quite a few migraine attacks provoked by longer then 3 hours interval between meals during the day. IF helped me to get out of it, but each time when I increased the interval by 1 hour, I had a migraine. Next time it took a longer interval to do it. Now I can go without any food for 24 hours without any negative effect.Actually, I prefer fasting now during a migraine attack – less likely to vomit or get too foggy in my brain.

  32. kate 1 April 2011 at 7:26 pm #

    ‘We discussed IF, and she went for it. Her approach was to skip dinner 2-3 times a week. And it worked. Down through the plateau she went. And comfortably and happily too.’

    Good for her! Did she by any chance maintain a food log, weight her intake, and keep track of exactly how many calories she was ingesting and what her physical activity level was?

    I’m guessing she ate less calories. It works.

  33. Dr. Willip 2 April 2011 at 4:20 am #

    I’m one of those types that stays up late and gets ravenous at night. I wakes up late and fast till one, just on tea with milk (plus supps). Staying on this regimen gives me vigor, and keeps the weight off. My metabolism heats up as the day progresses, and I’m at my best in the wee hours. It helps that my diet is nutrient dense and carb-restricted. Perhaps having a healthy breakfast is important for most people, but I am not one of them. We can make room for a variety of metabolic types in our human family.

  34. John Briffa 2 April 2011 at 7:08 am #

    Kate

    Good for her! Did she by any chance maintain a food log, weight [sic] her intake, and keep track of exactly how many calories she was ingesting and what her physical activity level was?

    Why would she do that? I don’t advocate obsessing about calories because, well, it doesn’t work for most people in the long term, does it?

  35. Carroll 2 April 2011 at 8:41 am #

    Hi John

    Have you read “Perfect Health Diet” by Paul and Shou-Ching Jaminet? The advocate IF, keeping food within an 8 hour window, to promote autophagy and increased insulin sensitivity. However they also make a pretty convincing argument to have some safe starch in the diet (eg white rice, taro, potato)to enable the body to produce enough mucus to protect intestinal and other linings from pathogens. According to the Jaminets non-starchy vegetables shouldn’t be counted in the day’s carb allowance, as they maintain these are turned into fatty acids by the body. They suggest non-starch vegetables could be eaten during the fast period, as well as fat (eg coconut oil) if it is more comfortable for people. Just no protein, sugars or starchy carbs.

    Paul Jaminet was recently interviewed on Jimmy Moore’s podcast (Episode 453) as was Art De Vany (Episode 451).

    Art makes a good point that fasts needs to be intermittent, as our body adapts to conserve energy if the fast happens like clockwork at the same time every day.

  36. nina patel 2 April 2011 at 2:40 pm #

    This is an interesting topic for me as a Hindu. There is a tradition of fasting on certain religious days; but interestingly, I was informed some years ago that there is Vedic writing on the benefits of fasting on the 11th day of each half of the moon – in order to balance the water content of the body in line with the lunar cycle. I cannot verify this as I am not well read. The concept of fasting in Hinduism has taken on different meanings for different people – ranging from penance to personal discipline to religious ritual.

  37. Jeffrey of Troy 2 April 2011 at 9:47 pm #

    @Galina

    re: migraines

    Do you take a magnesium supplement? It reduced my frequency, intensity, and duration.

  38. Adam 3 April 2011 at 7:52 am #

    I’ve been eating once a day for the past year (23/1), but it’s interesting to read how you got to give IF a try.

    For me, I started off being morbidly obese (120kg at 173cm with a 40″ waist) with classic diseases of civilization. Type 2 diabetes, high blood pressure… I fell sick once (flu like synptoms) and did not recover after 2 months, and that’s when my doc ordered a full blood check. That’s when he uncovered the diabetes, high cholesterol…etc. He told me point blank that I’d probably die by 50 if I didn’t do anything about it (I was 38 then).

    The funny thing was, he then went on to tell me to eat “healthy”, ie, low fat, more complex carbs, no red meat…the usual CW. Without giving much thought, I answered him “but that’s how I’ve been eating all along!”. He then told me to include exercise and I was an avid cyclist then.

    So, like any normal person, I went about searching google and stumbled upon Mark Sisson’s site. Decided to give it a try. Cut out all sugar, grains, seed/vege oils, switched to Grassfed beef, ate lots of saturated fat, coconut milk/oil. Lo and behold, within 2 years, I became 1/2 my size with a 29″ waist and a weight of 65kg and 10% body fat.

    In these 2 years, I learned what true hunger is, and by following true hunger cues, I ended up eating 1 meal a day. This 1 meal is enough to fuel heavy weight lifting 3 times a week and daily walks of at least an hour. I am now 72kg with a 10% body fat level, waist is still at 29″ but shoulders, chest, arms, back and legs have grown noticeably thicker.

    1 meal a day works for me. Especially when I know I can eat as much as I want (primal foods only of course).

  39. Rosielee 4 April 2011 at 11:39 am #

    I’m a bit confused. I thought the usual advice was that if you skip meals, or fast, your body is primed to prepare itself for famine,so slows down your metabolism and stores fat when you do next eat in case food is going to be scarce. The ‘eat little and often’ advice suggests that that will speed up your metabolism (although I find that eating that way just makes me hungrier) and you will lose weight.
    I’m trying to eat according to Waist Disposal and would like to try the IF method but wonder if you can clarify the above point for me re the body’s metabolism slowing down and storing fat?

  40. Bill Rowles 4 April 2011 at 2:10 pm #

    Adam

    That’s a great story – lucky you found Mark Sissons!

    (Of course if John had published earlier…)

    Just incredible how we stick to our false dogma – in the face of living proof to the contrary.

    Just a thought here….

    We all tend to be locked into the fat loss, but IF is much more than that – it’s a way to improved health/hormone balance. In fact, I would say this its primary benefit – the weight/fat loss is a side benefit.

    I used to have to medicate for hay fever every Summer. After trying IF, I experienced my first Summer in 40 years when I didn’t need to medicate, and I’ve had a 2nd Summer where I would say the symptoms were just as mild. So, not a “cure”, but inflammatory issues drastically reduced.

  41. Bill Rowles 4 April 2011 at 2:29 pm #

    John

    Replying on Robb Wolf’s podcast, I don’t recall all the metrics mentioned. Of course triglycerides, LDL. HDL etc were mentioned, but fasting glucose, I can’t be sure.

    A quick scan of the site sees fasting glucose measurements being mentioned for a type 1 diabetic trying out the paleo regimen. The point was made that there were no dramatic changes in HbA1c, as they had been taking insulin regularly..

    In the end, the metrics you choose will be determined by the condition. It was just an interesting theory that paleo (which SHOULD include IF) improves cell longevity, and that this messes up the HbA1c test (and its interpretation)

  42. Adam 5 April 2011 at 8:36 am #

    Bill:

    Yes yes yes, I totally agree that not eating most of the time has HUGE health benefits beyond simply weight loss.

    I just overall feel a lot better, brain function and alertness is definitely a notch up despite the fact that I am now the oldest I have ever been. New acquaintances think I am literally 15-20 years younger than my actual age. My sleep has been the best ever. My moods are great and stable (never have been in my life until I cut out grains).

    It is simply the first class ticket to staying lean and muscular. To me, first class ticket = no hunger. When the hunger issue is taken care of, everything else is easy.

  43. Daisy 5 April 2011 at 9:35 am #

    What about those of us who work variable hours, bring up families, travel a lot, and have to attend functions, lunches & dinners?

    Cutting down on carbs is fine – cutting out nigh on impossible.

    I get up several times a week at 5am, have my daily lemon juice in warm water, & am starving by 7.30am.

    I too am the oldest I have ever been & menopausal to boot. The three kilos I have gained since I turned 50 will not budge.

  44. J. Stanton - gnolls.org 6 April 2011 at 6:09 am #

    Rosielee: “I thought the usual advice was that if you skip meals, or fast, your body is primed to prepare itself for famine,so slows down your metabolism and stores fat when you do next eat in case food is going to be scarce.”

    “Eating little and often” will elevate insulin, and you can’t burn significant amounts of fat while insulin is elevated. It’s the worst advice possible for weight loss.

    A healthy metabolism is perfectly happy to oxidize our own bodyfat for energy when we’re not eating. By continually stuffing ourselves with sugar (‘carbohydrates’) every few hours, we become addicted to the constant sugar fixes, which breaks our metabolism!

    Then, instead of burning bodyfat when we run out of blood sugar, our bodies simply shut down, and we have the problems you describe.

    By eating a high-fat, low-carbohydrate diet, we prime our bodies to burn fat for energy, making it much easier to transition to burning our own fat. But weaning yourself off the constant sugar hit can take a few days to a couple weeks. It’s known informally as the “carb flu”.

    Also, I seem to recall that it takes over 48 hours of fasting before you start losing muscle mass…certainly longer than skipping breakfast or eating once a day.

    JS

  45. Rosielee 6 April 2011 at 9:14 am #

    J Stanton – Thanks for that, I’ve certainly found that eating little and often just makes me want to eat more so doesn’t really help with weight loss! Have been eating low carb for a while and now started the IF (just skipped breakfast yesterday) and wasn’t hungry and have lost a pound already so very happy with this way of eating! Thanks for the info, there’s a lot of conflicting information out there so it helpful to clarify things.
    Rosielee

  46. J. Stanton - gnolls.org 6 April 2011 at 6:16 pm #

    Rosielee: I’m glad it’s working for you!

    All respect to Dr. Briffa, by the way, for giving good free health advice, even when it goes against the conventional wisdom. Thank you!

    JS

  47. Tina 6 April 2011 at 8:22 pm #

    I have started experimenting with IF and have had great success with it. I no longer eat breakfast 5 days a week. It took a week or so for my body to get used to not having food in the morning and then a mid morning snack before lunch. I also find that if I start to get hunger pangs before noon, drinking water helps quell those and I am am able to push through. I never wait until I am starving but by noon my body wants food. I am hoping that I can start eliminating lunch one day a week and just have one meal a day in the evening. My energy is perfect and the hunger headaches have disappeared. I am very fascinated with it all and am looking forward to you writing more on the subject.

  48. Lynne Myall 27 April 2011 at 12:57 pm #

    Ever since Dr Briffa’s fascinating IF experiment pod cast, I have tried to adopt some of the practices into my own life.

    Having discovered I had a wheat allergy 18 months ago I’d already started to adopt a low carb/paleo style diet (I gave up being a vegetarian after 24 years as I was permanently hungry with neither carbs nor protein). In only a few days, I couldn’t believe how easy it was to go without food for 24 hours which I now do a few times a week – if my husband’s away on business. My preferred meal is also lunch as it breaks up the working day and I don’t have to worry about eating before or after my evening activities at the gym.

    My cravings have disappeared and so I’m also snacking much less. If I get hunger pangs, I know that they will soon pass and that my body will provide! My energy levels are high, I don’t get a mid-afternoon “slump” and I sleep extremely well. At week-ends I mostly adopt the three meals a day pattern just to be sociable – which I slot into extremely easily (not sure why I never feel over full and I’m also not sure why I never overeat when I have my one meal a day).

    I have saved so much time on shopping, cooking and clearing away that it gives me time for other things with the added bonus that, though I’m not overweight, I have lost a few excess pounds. Who’d have thought?! Yippee!

  49. Lynne Myall 27 April 2011 at 1:08 pm #

    Hi Dr B

    I am enjoying and IF lifestyle ever since your IF Podcasts and regularly go 24 hours without eating. I was just wondering whether followers of this lifestyle will get enough nutrients. I’m supposing so as I feel so well on it, but there’s no way that I’m eating 5 portions of fruit and veg a day! Is that another fallacy, along with all the other things that we’re told about what we should and shouldn’t be eating?

    Best wishes

  50. Richard 15 August 2011 at 7:26 pm #

    I definitely think “Going without food for a whole 24-hour period every so often (e.g. once a week)” is the easiest one for newcomers. My parents found it easy at least and they are programmed to eat at 7, 12 and 6.
    Anyways cheers for sharing your experiment details.

  51. Douglas Gray 28 March 2012 at 1:27 am #

    We should never eat by the clock, but only when we are genuinely hungry. Any food consumed beyond the nutrient needs of the body actually results in less energy, as the body has to work to either process and store it as fat, or eliminate it.

  52. Al 26 April 2012 at 12:23 am #

    “One of things I like about nutrition is that there’s always something new to learn (and try). One thing flirting with IF has done is really get me in tune with eating when I’m genuinely hungry and not ‘by the clock”.

    Exactly – I think you it the nail on the head. I’m a huge fan of Intermittent Fasting; it seems to be helping tame that insulin dragon.

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