About 6 weeks ago I discovered something called intermittent fasting. Intermittent fasting can take various forms, but the most common are a 16 x 8, or a sporadic 24 hour fast. The 16 x 8 method is when you fast for 16 hours and have an 8 hour eating window. For people that work during the daytime, it makes sense to have your last meal at 7:00 or 8:00 p.m. and then not eat again until noon or lunch time. This provides you with a 16 or 17 hour fast, essentially skipping breakfast. I have been using the 16 hour fast method on a daily basis for about 6 weeks now, and found it to be fairly easy to accomplish. The first week is probably the hardest, but fortunately it becomes easier with time. Most of the fast is spent sleeping so depending on when you get up you may only go without food for 5 or 6 hours. I personally lost 5 pounds in the first 4 weeks, and this weight loss was in body fat. Here are some reasons you might want to adopt an intermittent fasting routine:
- Changes The Function of Cells, Genes and Hormones
- Insulin levels: Blood levels of insulin drop significantly, which facilitates fat burning
- Human growth hormone: The blood levels of growth hormone may increase as much as 5-fold. Higher levels of this hormone facilitate fat burning and muscle gain, and have numerous other benefits.
- Cellular repair: The body induces important cellular repair processes, such as removing waste material from cells.
- Can Help You Lose Weight and Belly Fat
- Lower insulin levels, an increase in metabolism, and higher growth hormone levels, are combined to use fat as an energy source. This occurs because you have no carbohydrates in your system to burn, so your body turns to the next available source of energy body fat.
- Can Reduce Insulin Resistance, Lowering Your Risk of Type 2 Diabetes
- Intermittent fasting has been shown to improve insulin resistance and lead to an impressive reduction in blood sugar levels
- In human studies on intermittent fasting, fasting blood sugar has been reduced by 3-6%, while fasting insulin has been reduced by 20-31%
- Induces Various Cellular Repair Processes
- Fasting causes the cells in the body initiate a cellular “waste removal” process called autophagy
- This involves the cells breaking down and metabolizing broken and dysfunctional proteins that build up inside cells over time.
- Increased autophagy may provide protection against several diseases, including cancer and Alzheimer’s disease.
Other benefits may include:
- Helping to prevent cancer
- Intermittent fasting is good for your brain
- May protect against Alzheimer’s Disease
- May extend your lifespan
With so with so many benefits that have been attributed to intermittent fasting, it is worth researching. In fact I have not been able to find any research that indicates any negative effects. The only caution here is if you are someone with an unusually low percent of body fat or an anorexic.
My advice is that unless you are doing this strictly as some form of dieting, make sure you are getting those calories in during your eating window. I personally like the 16 x 8 method versus a 24 hour fast. I’ve tried the 24 hour fast and while it is a great way to cleanse your body, it is much more difficult and in most cases you will be very hungry during those additional 8 hours of fasting that you have added on.
To make the fasting period a bit easier you will need to consume some liquids like coffee, tea, or water. This helps by providing something in your stomach, making it easier to endure the fast. Do not consume liquids that contain calories, so no sugar in your coffee or tea and avoid any other liquid that contains sugar like soft drinks.
The YouTube video below provides a great overview of the benefits and different types of intermittent fasting methods. I highly recommend you spend the 10 minutes to view this as part of your own research.
I personally don’t view intermittent fasting as a diet, but more of a way of enhancing your health. It is entirely possible that you will not lose any weight at all if you continue to have an unhealthy diet, but if you combine intermittent fasting with a healthy diet there is a good chance that you will lose fat and improve your body composition. Do your own research, and let me know what you think.
We find too many people that view various forms of exercise as something they should do to lose weight or look better, which is fine, but there are many of us who view it as a hobby. When exercise becomes a hobby you no longer dread your workouts in fact you often think of them, looking forward to them. Developing a perspective that you are not exercising to achieve some goal, but instead it is a form of pleasure, provides you with a long term outlook. If I exercise to lose 10 pounds, what happens when I shed the 10 pounds? Maybe I will stop exercising because I have achieved my goal, but if the weight loss was just one of the results of enjoying my hobby, I am more likely to keep pursuing my hobby.
I am convinced that exercise has a somewhat negative connotation for many people. They feel they have a limited amount of time that would better be devoted to their job, watching television, eating, drinking, or playing around on their computer, phone, or tablet. I’m not interested in listing all the benefits of exercising versus sitting around doing whatever; this should be rather obvious for most of us. The question is how do we change our perspective from something I feel I should do or dread doing to something I look forward to everyday? Here are a few ways we begin to make that mind shift:
- consistency becomes habit and habits can be pleasurable. Being resolute in the beginning is one of the keys.
- results tend to provide encouragement, you begin to think this is providing positive benefits for me, and this makes me want to keep doing it.
- endorphin’s are released when exercising, providing pleasurable feelings and reducing pain in the body, yet another reason that helps you shift from I have to do this to I want to do this. In fact the mind shift becomes cemented when you find that you don’t feel good unless you have exercised that day.
As you begin to see results, and you realize all the benefits you are getting from exercising, it becomes a habit and as many of us can attest almost an addiction. Don’t be surprised if you go away on vacation and decide you just can’t sit there on the beach, pretty soon your taking a run or walk, and maybe spending some time in the resorts gym. This mind shift begins with consistently performing the activity, and it will become a high priority habit in your life. That habit will grow into a pleasurable hobby that you look forward to and yes reap all the benefits that come with it.
Well after toying with a 3 days split, which then evolved into a 4 day split, I have come back to a familiar place the 5 day split. I’m not sure why I keep changing things around because I always gravitate back to the 5 day split. I guess the reasons for this are fairly straightforward:
- My workouts are a little shorter and less exhausting because I am focused on one or two muscle groups. This makes it all more enjoyable instead of looking at a long list of exercises and wondering when it will all be over.
- With the 3 or 4 day split I had to cut out some sets, but with the 5 day split I can keep adding reps and sets so I am able to do more work and put more stress on the muscles. A harder workout means faster gains in strength and size.
- It fits well with the work week, so every night when I get home I can look forward to a workout, keeping me focused on fitness and away from other less healthy activities such as eating or drinking.
The only negative with the 5 day split is that it consumes 5 of the 7 days in a week, and if something else comes up you can potentially miss a workout.
This is my 5 day split (high level)
- Chest & Triceps (Day 1)
- Biceps, Forearms, and Delts (Day 2)
- Legs (Day 3)
- Back (Day 4)
- Core (Day 5)
Remember you don’t need to perform the split Monday through Friday, it is more than feasible to just perform the workout starting on whatever day of the week. It is advisable to give yourself a rest day after completing the 5th day of the split routine, because even though you have divided up the muscle groups others still participate in an assisting role. I like to keep track of my workouts with a Google sheet (spreadsheet), so that I can record the date of the workout, weight, target reps, actual reps, and any notes for adding reps or sets next time. If you are currently doing total body workouts or shorter split routines, try the 5 days split and enjoy the gains you will make. Who knows you might just look forward to your workouts.
In a quest to add just a little more weight, sets, or reps to your strength training routine you find your energy is not infinite. You start out with a 3 day split and pretty soon each workout is taking 90+ minutes and your completely wiped out, and worse there is no way you could keep adding sets to this already arduous workout. So what is the answer? You can try to increase intensity, but with a 3 day split you are pushing the limits of your endurance and this is no longer a lot of fun. I ran into this myself, and then created a 4 day split but over time this also became too much and I finally landed on a 5 day split that allowed me to add lots of sets and progressively increase the weight I was lifting. I’m not advocating this is for everyone as some of you might not be able to devote this many days to strength training each week, but for those that can it allows you to expand the amount of work you are doing and still get it done in a reasonable amount of time. Here is my new 5 day split routine:
Day 1 – Chest & Triceps
Day 2 – Biceps, Forearms, and Delts
Day 3 – Legs
Day 4 – Back
Day 5 – Core
None of these workouts exceed 60 minutes and most can be done in 30 – 45 minutes. This is a big advantage of a 5 day split over lesser day routines, allowing you to focus on fewer body parts and really turn up the intensity while keeping the workouts relatively short.
So next time you consider adding just a little more to your routine, think about a 5 day split. For ways to increase the intensity of your workouts refer to one of my earlier posts Just What is Progressive Resistance?
After a somewhat exhausting weekend and not getting much sleep I decided to skip my Monday morning yoga session, and then to top it off I get home tired out and decided not to do my strength training session. I was headed in the wrong direction when it came to my workouts. Of course skipping the workouts on Monday made me feel even more lethargic and tired. Funny how when you feel tired and do the workout anyway you begin to feel better. Maybe it is just short term memory, but you tend to forget that the workout will re-energize you even though the thought of getting started is not that appealing. When I got up on Tuesday morning I half hardheadedly did some of my usual yoga workout, and then feeling burned out from working all day I skipped my strength training workout again. Finally I got my stuff together and then on Wednesday did my strength training workout, which of course made me feel better. You can see why it is so easy to get into this inactivity downward spiral and it then becomes a self fulfilling prophecy. The typical excuses for missing workouts might include:
- I didn’t get enough sleep last night
- I’m too busy and need to do something else
- I have an injury, however minor
- I’ll just skip this one workout and it won’t matter
- I’m not mentally up for it
All the above are not great reasons for skipping a workout. Sure there are times when something might come up that is a higher priority event but those should be the exception. I like to build a little buffer in my strength training workout so that it can slide by a day or two and I can still accomplish it within a week. I do a 3 day split and this allows me some flexibility, but flexibility is not a license to succumb to the typical excuses stated previously. Remember inactivity begets inactivity and movement begets more movement. Don’t let your excuses prevent you from performing your workouts. The next time you say I’m too tired, or I can skip this one, drag your self off the couch and just go do it.