‘Hangry’ - (han - gree) - adj - A state of anger caused by lack of food; hunger causing a negative change in emotional state.
We’ve all been there, lashing out because we’re cranky if we haven't eaten, so much so the term ‘hangry’ has made it into the Collins dictionary. Could you make hunger part of your daily routine? Could being hungry actually be good for you? Intermittent fasting is becoming increasingly popular in the fitness world, promising results of increased muscle, reduced body fat and enhanced energy. Is this just another fad diet or is this the ultimate way to build muscle, keep fit and stay lean in the process?
Fasting Diets Through History
Fasting isn’t new, in fact, throughout history, our ancestors have been fasting. From Cavemen forced to feast and famine, to hunger strikes in political protests and symbolic religious fasts said to cleanse the soul, fasting has always been a part of our existence. Throughout the ages fasting has been proven to affect our physical, mental and emotional needs.
What is Intermittent Fasting?
Intermittent fasting isn’t a diet, it’s a pattern of eating. Intermittent fasting is not about starving yourself. Yes you will get hungry, but you do eat, eventually. Those embarking on an intermittent fast will typically split their day between two metabolic states, the fed state and the fasted state. Whilst the lengths of fasting differ between individuals, the most popular format is the 16/8 (leangains) method. 16/8 requires 16 hours of fasting followed by an 8-hour eating window, for example between 12 am and 8 pm users would eat and then fast from 8 pm until 12 am the next day, providing a 16 hour fast.
Fed State Metabolism
Once you begin eating, your body enters into a fed state where the metabolic breakdown of nutrients ingested begin to convert carbohydrates, proteins and fats into energy. There are high levels of nutrients in the bloodstream and blood sugar-glucose levels are high. In order to control this, the body releases insulin. At this point, your body’s ability to burn fat is limited as energy spent will be sourced from the food which has just been ingested. Your body remains in this fed state until it is finished digesting and absorbing your food.Typically this can last anywhere between 3 to 5 hours after eating, depending on what it was you ate. After your food is digested we begin a transitional stage before fasting called the postabsorptive state. Finally, approximately 12 hours after our last meal, insulin has significantly dropped and our bodies move from the postabsorptive into a fasted state.
Fasted State Metabolism
When you go into a fasted state insulin levels drop and your body now has to access fat stores which it can burn for energy. When it was fed, your body wouldn’t burn these fat stores as there was glucose to use as it’s primary source of fuel, but since that’s run out, your body is forced to burn fat. This is why those who follow an intermittent fast often lose weight without changing what it is they eat or how much training they do, simply by adjusting the timing of their eating they design an eating pattern for burning more fat. What’s more, in a fasted state your body's human growth hormone levels are significantly higher, due to the fact you are using fat for energy rather than food your body increases the production of human growth hormone in order to preserve muscle. The increased levels of human growth hormone can result in an increase in muscle gains, quicker recovery and an overall leaner physique.
Top 5 Intermittent Fasting Benefits:
Intermittent fasting can help weight loss.
Due to an overall reduction in your weekly calorie consumption, those using an intermittent fasting eating schedule are more likely to benefit from losing weight.
Intermittent fasting can lower your risk of diabetes.
Intermittent fasting is thought to lower the risk of type II diabetes by lowering blood sugar levels and adjusting insulin resistance. Whilst it's difficult to find any conclusive research, some doctors have even argued type II diabetes can be cured with intermittent fasting. Weight-loss is at the forefront of treating type II diabetes.
Intermittent fasting may help prevent cancer.
Although there is no evidence supported by human studies, research published in the journal Cell Metabolism conducted on mice suggested fasting ‘starved’ cancer cells and simultaneously protected cells from the toxicity of chemotherapy. The study hopes that with further research the US Food and Drug Administration will approve intermittent fasting as a supplementary therapy for cancer patients.
Intermittent fasting can help your body repair.
Fasting initiates ‘autophagy’ in the body, this is a process of waste removal whereby the body starts to break down dysfunctional proteins which build up in the body. The removal of these waste products helps your body to function better and repair itself more effectively.
Intermittent fasting makes your eating simple.
Intermittent fasting is simple and clear to set up and fit in around your daily life which makes it appealing to many people. Typically those following a 16/8 diet will have two larger meals, lunch and dinner. Removing a meal can help to make meal planning easier and simpler, whilst also saving you time during the morning. Perhaps you could use that extra time to for a workout?
Case Study: Bodybuilding and Intermittent Fasting
Bodybuilder and Personal Trainer Ben Freeman has been training ever since he was allowed in the gym. He works as a Personal Trainer and is a fountain of knowledge when it comes to the bodybuilding world. After years of weightlifting, Ben has taken inspiration from Bodybuilding world legend Jim Stoppani (Ph.D Exercise Physiology) and followed in many leading bodybuilders footsteps on the quest to achieve the ultimate physique by following the 16/8 fasting regime. We will be following up to see how he got on and find out how realistic it is to balance this eating pattern with a heavy lifting regime, full-time job and young baby.
Q: What made you decide to try intermittent fasting?
A: “I have been training since I was 13 years old, inspired by Arnold Schwarzenegger, Frank Zane and Franco Columbo, as well as world's strongest men Magnus Ver Magnusson and Mariusz Pudzianowski. So when it comes to diet and exercise, there isn’t much I haven’t tried. I was intrigued by the concept of intermittent fasting after reading an article about how Hugh Jackman used the eating pattern to shape up in preparation for his role as Wolverine.”
Q: Talk us through your eating schedule:
A: “My schedule was 10 pm to 2 pm fasting and then 2 pm to 10 pm eating. I chose this schedule because you are supposed to train when fasting for maximum results. Due to my working hours personal training during the am, this made it possible to still fit a fasted workout in after my morning work.”
Q: What was your training schedule and how did you find training fasted?
A: “ I stuck to my usual weight lifting muscle group split. So my weekly schedule was: Sunday ‘Back’, Monday ‘Chest and Abs’, Tuesday ‘Legs’ (no calves), Wednesday ‘Rest’, Thursday ‘Shoulders and Abs’, Friday ‘Arms’ and Saturday ‘Rest’.
The first few days of training fasted were really good, my mood was up and I was powering through my workouts, but towards the end of the week, I’d get very irritable from about midday onwards and often find myself shaking.”
Q: How did it affect your weight?
A: “I don’t think I’ve been doing it long enough to give it a chance to have a big impact on my weight, but in a week I lost a kilo, without changing my diet.
It didn’t really affect my training, apart from on leg day where I felt a little low on energy but mentally I was fine and so I still managed to achieve my workout goals.”
Q: Would you recommend intermittent fasting?
A: “I would recommend this diet pattern as it did make me feel better in myself, even if for just a short period. I’ve returned to my normal eating now but, if my schedule ever changes, I would really like to do the schedule Hugh Jackman did with his exact timings, where your window for eating is 10am-6pm eating, as this is the best way to do this type of fasting. At this moment in time, it just isn’t feasible.”
So enhanced mood? Check. Loss of strength? None. But irritable mood? Check!
If Ben does give Jackman’s method a try we will be sure to interview him again and find out how he gets on.
Will Intermittent Fasting Get Me Results?
There’s a vast array of suggested benefits of intermittent fasting which could inspire you to give it a go, however, studies with definitive research conclusions in humans are limited and so it seems the best way to find out if intermittent fasting is for you, is to try it for yourself. Keep a food and mood diary and take your weight, measurements and photographs before and after a three week trial to give yourself a full and fair picture of your progress. When you first start a fasting programme you may experience symptoms such as:
- Extreme hunger
- Feeling faint or dizzy
- Feeling weaker
These symptoms should all fade once your body becomes accustomed to your new pattern of eating, however if you experience any more serious or unusual side effects it is best to return to your regular eating pattern and then contact your GP if symptoms persist.
Research has shown it takes 21 days to adapt to a new habit, so as ‘hangry’ as you may get, stick it out for 3 weeks to discover if it really works for you.
And remember if you are giving it a go, it’s never too late to say: “I’m sorry for what I said when I was hungry”.