Intermittent fasting is the trendy diet of the New Year, but do not be fooled by the hype.
I've seen a lot of social media ads claiming "intermittent fasting has allowed me to eat whatever I want."
No it f**king hasn't.
Today I want to set the record straight, and save you wasting your time.
Intermittent fasting is a good fat loss method and a fair few of my clients use it, but let's not fool ourselves that the laws of thermodynamics don't apply. Or that we've somehow ripped a hole in the space/time continuum and your belly fat will be sucked into deep space as a result of timing your next meal correctly.
Calories in versus calories out is the underlying rule of any weight loss diet.
And any self-proclaimed "health guru" telling you otherwise needs to go chew on a dumbbell!
(But only between the hours of 12 and 8, because the calories won't count, right?)
A couple of years ago, a buddy of mine got sucked into one of these "too good to be true" diets.
I'm not surprised.
He'd been trying to lose weight but always struggled to stick to a healthy diet for longer than two weeks, and had a tendency to go from one quick fix diet to the next.
So when he saw claims of how intermittent fasting "can trick the body into burning more fat on auto-pilot" and give him "lean abs while eating ice cream", it's little wonder he was immediately sold.
That part about eating ice cream isn't all bulls**t, by the way. Studies do show that a more open and flexible approach to your diet will give greater results than a rigid, strict diet. (1, 2)
I'm living testament to this being true. I maintain a good physique year round, but if you ever come round our home on Saturday night you'll know that it's family pizza night.
But that's not what's being promised in these ads.
What's being promised is the holy grail, and that's exactly what my buddy believed he'd found.
I remember the conversations:
"Basically, I can eat whatever I want as long as it's between 12pm and 8pm. Then I fast."
As I raised my eyebrow of skepticism, I knew it was already too late..
Does his body no longer rely on calories?
Does he not require an adequate supply of daily protein to maintain lean muscle mass?
Can he really eat anything he wants as long as it's inside this magical eight hour window?
When put into context, the questions above look as ridiculous as they should.
But if you speak to anyone who has been blinded by the search for the magic weight loss bullet, you can easily find yourself being sucked in by their enthusiasm (and downright arrogant insistence that everybody else is totally wrong).
Sure enough, as the weeks passed by he saw his weight creep up little by little until he eventually found himself heavier than when he started.
Until eventually he grew tired and moved onto a different dieting approach, which I believe was the sugar free diet if I remember correctly.
My old friend is something I describe in this post as a Diet Hipster, always having his head turned by the so-called 'next big thing', and jumping from program to program in a bid to be on the cutting edge that nobody else has heard about yet.
So where did it all go wrong with intermittent fasting?
As always, the problem here is that when something catches on trend it also catches the attention of the dark side of the fitness industry.
I'm sure you know who I mean..
See those ads on the side of your Facebook newsfeed?
"Trainers hate him!"... "Do this one weird trick to melt belly fat!"...
Yeah, those motherf**kers.
They sleep at night because (direct quote from somebody I know who does this), "if people are stupid enough to believe there is a magic system, they deserve to be ripped off."
Intermittent fasting is just the latest victim of that craze, and it'll pass.
Let me set the record straight: I actually like intermittent fasting.
It's a method my clients and I have used for many years, and it's a great way to increase your results as part of a fat loss training program. It's not the holy grail of fat loss, but it's a good way to take a decent workout routine and diet, and make it that little bit stronger.
This post will give you a thorough rundown of how intermittent fasting actually works, because today I just want to dispel the bulls**t.
While there are a few interesting factors at play during your period of fasting which can certainly give you a little boost here and there, the overwhelming (over 99%) majority of your intermittent fasting weight loss results are based around the concept of calories in versus calories out.
Just like any other diet.
By cramming your daily calories into a relatively short 8 or 10 hour window, there is less chance you'll over-consume.