Intermittent Fasting—It’s Really Just Not Eating

By E.C. Synkowski and Patrick Cummings

In Nutrition, Videos

May 15, 2010

Video Article

Fasting is a part of our daily cycle. Go to sleep, and the time between dinner and breakfast is a fasting period—unless you hit the fridge at 3 a.m. Some choose to fast more often throughout the day as a way to regulate and modify the body’s insulin levels, using the period without food as a “reset” button that allows the body to use its energy for functions other than digestion.

HQ trainer and athlete E.C. Synkowski is no slouch in the gym and has had great success using intermittent fasting as an approach to insulin regulation and recovery. In this video interview by Patrick Cummings, E.C. takes us through the process of getting used to fasting and explains why she does it and how her body has responded over the last few years.

Video by Again Faster.

8:34

Additional reading: Diet Secrets of the Tupperware Man by Greg Amundson, published Dec. 29, 2008.

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38 Comments on “Intermittent Fasting—It’s Really Just Not Eating”

1

wrote …

.. so why are you dong this?

2

wrote …

I never thought about fasting and the reset button for insulin. I can see this as a handy thing the day after holiday meals. Probably, I want to play with it a little more before then.

3

wrote …

Not exactly compelling reasons for not eating.

4

wrote …

Research this stuff on www.marksdailyapple.com

5

wrote …

I have been fasting for a 24 hour period once a week for the past three months. I find it is a great way to help reduce body fat. By the the 4th week it wasn't difficult to go without eating for the day. It hasn't affected my training in a noticeable way.

6

wrote …

There are MANY reasons to incorporate this. I did this for a good long time and liked it. Overall weekly calories are reduced by 10-15% when adding in a 24 hour fast. You do reset your insulin levels, increase GH levels, increase fat mobilisation, give your digestive tract a break from constant food intake. Another thing you learn is that you will eat out of boredom. Its not a hunger mechanism but just plain habit. Once you get this under control you find you eat for purpose, not pleasure. I found that my workouts were OK on fasted days, but phenomenal the next day after I re-fed. Something to think about vs the traditional "fueling up" process prior to an event.

Check out some of Brad Pilon's videos on youtube. He authored Eat Stop Eat.

7

Joey Lajoie wrote …

Ok this lady really doesn't do intermittent fasting justice. The majority of people I know ho do intermittent fasting wouldn't turn back to their old way of eating. I, for one, will never go back to my old way of eating all day.

I recommend that the interviewer do another interview with someone who has their nutrition down pat along with intermittent fasting because combined the two are a powerful tool for weight control and performance.

Myself and all my friends who fast regularly enjoy much better energy levels and mental clarity while fasting. Every workout I do while fasting is much more intense than when I work out after eating. I never feel cold while fasting and when I eat in the morning I feel sluggish all day.

I think the person who conducted this interview really take a look at the quality of the diet of this lady and how it effects her fasts. She makes it seem like a chore to get through a fast. Myself and all my fasting friends celebrate their fasts and if your diet id on it should be easy to simply stop eating at 8:00 and not eat until lunch.

Pleas do another interview with somebody who has their fasting and nutrition dialed in because I think people need to be educated to how powerful intermittent fasting can be. You should feel great during a fast, not watching the minutes until you can eat again.

8

Joey Lajoie wrote …

Aw geeze,sorry about the spelling errors, I really should edit my replies better before hitting submit

9

wrote …

Once a week I like to go out into the back garden at night and bark at the moon. I believe that barking at the moon is beneficial and I have noticed that it makes me feel more energetic.

10

wrote …

I will echo what everyone else said...this video was not very well put together/knowledgeable about IF. It was about one person's experience using the protocol and what she experienced. I personally do every workout fasted (strength and crossfit) with no problems at all. After the first 4 days of IF there were no hunger issues to deal with. I never feel weak/tired during the fasting window. For those that are curious about this I would recommend checking out www.leangains.com (SFW) and getting some REAL info on the matter.

11

wrote …

When you IF, do you abstain from both food and water or do you allow yourself water during the fast?

12

wrote …

Patrick and EC,

Thanks for the straight-forward, non-sensationalized narrative of one person's experience with IF.

It's amazing to me how a positive piece on IF gets trashed, not so much by IF opponents, but by IF supporters. Weird.

Two thumbs up for EC in general. She's a class act IMO.


13

William Adams wrote …

I would like to echo Jerry Leatherman's question " Do you drink water during your fast? Is it still considered a fast when you do drink water?

If drinking water during the fast, is still considered fasting, then I have been doing intermittent fasting for decades.

Me:
I would not change the way I eat or my diet. I am a 43 (almost 44) year old male five foot ten, weighing 178 pounds at the moment, and I am around 12 percent body fat (which I like). I do all of the named workouts as prescribed and I co-own Olympic Crossfit, so fitness is a large part of my life .

My Diet:
My diet is Paleo plus about 8 oz of 2 percent milk which I drink with my fish oil at my first meal. Although I am Paleo, if I eat at someone's house or if there is some food that someone suggests that I try that is not Paleo, I eat it. I find that this gives me a small laboratory to gauge my diet and I always find that if the meal on the night before had lots of refined carbs, the next morning I am starving and its very tough to make it until noon before I eat (so I eat earlier). When I am eating Paleo, I do not get that "holy cr@p I'm hungry" feeling.... ever. I feel great, very enegetic, and very alert mentally. My body looks "beach ready" and people ask me often what I do to stay in shape. On most days I am ready to crush my WODs and on days when I feel less than 100 percent it's usually a combination of poor sleep, poor diet (Highly refined carbs the night before) and work related stress.

My Fasting:
I usually fast around 16 to 17 hours and it usually goes like this: My last meal ends at around 7:00pm. I go to sleep around 9:30 and wake up around 5:30am. During the night I usually drink about one glass of water. I drink water when I get up and then I workout around 7:00am. I drink more water after my WOD and I usually get around to eating by noonish. If I feel like it, I'll have a snack at 3 or 4 pm and I finish eating dinner around 7:00pm.

I hope this helps people who are thinking about trying this diet. I love it and its all about feeling great, performing at the highest possible levels and looking good. If you do this and your get less performance, your feel like cr@p or you look worse. Do Something Different.

Have Fun, Train Hard,

Billy
Olympic Crossfit

14

wrote …

Coffee, calorie free sweeteners, diet soda, and sugar free gum are okay in moderation during the fast...I usually stick with just water. Since I workout fasted I usually have some BCAA's right before my workout.

15

wrote …

Just to relate my own experience, and by no means an encouragement or endorsement to do the same, I used to "cleanse" for one week once a year. During this period I would reduce my workouts to daily extended walks and limit my intake to a lemonade concoction made with maple syrup and cayenne pepper - and as much water as desired. I learned about it from a butcher who raved about how he felt "reset" afterward. The reason I'm sharing is that it was a remarkable process of learning about habitual eating and the body's ability to survive extended periods with minimal "food". The first 3 days were each sequentially worse, but by day 4 hunger faded and your energy levels began increasing. Your sense of smell also increased dramatically. Day 5-7 I was always up with the sun, felt incredibly well rested, energetic and focused... unusual for a night owl with a tendency toward ADD. It was like my body and honed itself down, shed all the extraneous stuff, and primed me for the hunt. Many people I know who've tried the cleanse report similar energy levels and extremely acute sense of smell. I don't know enough to espouse the benefits to anyone, but I've described the experience to friends as taking a dirty sponge, wringing it out and then refilling it with clean water. I was psychologically much more in tune with my eating and my body for an extended period afterward. Did I loose muscle mass... probably. Unfortunately this was well before I found Crossfit, and thereby before I worked out with any consistency and certainly before I'd ever logged and tracked my performance.

Thanks for sharing your story. It's interesting how fired up and/or self righteous people get about eating... oh well, I'm grumpy when I'm hungry too. :)

16

wrote …

to answer the question posed twice. fasting can be of two varieties: water fast (allows for drinking water), and a strict fast (where nothing is consumed). of course you will have some people "fasting" yet allowing lemon to the water or whatever else. i have found water fasts to be the most beneficial as you will continue to flush waste as at a pretty quick rate. I IF for about 15 hours per day, from 5:30 p.m. to 8:30 a.m. which is really not "fasting" for me, but rather been normal for years. I never liked eating late as it can disturb your sleep patterns and you actually recover better if your body isn't spending 1/3 of it's energy digesting food. what i would like to mention is the positive effects of not just IF but also prolonged water fasting. I have found much longer fasts to be truly beneficial. i'm talking over 14 days and up to 40 days with just water. those who are interested in this type of fasting can send me an email with questions etc. for those worried about health effects, i can tell you from experience, and point you to scientific studies that prove its many benefits. I have had 6 knee surgeries and have severe swelling and ROM issues. prolonged fasting causes the body to attack any foreign elements in the body including scar tissue and i've had absolutely amazing results in recovery. if you're concerned about muscle loss, the amount of muscle gained after the fast is fast-paced. before my last fast, i weighed 197, about 12% body fat (which was fine), and i was attempting to reach 200 pounds, i was trying to gain. i wasn't someone desiring to lose weight but rather gain. if you are interested in losing weight/body fat, even more reason to try fasting. i began prolonged fasting for spiritual reasons, but soon found many physical benefits. in one month, i went from 197 pounds to 135 pounds. of course i wasn't working out, but still had to walk to work etc. i did spend a lot more time sleeping which helped by body recover even more. you still defecate after that long, and what you're doing is cleaning out poisens and toxins that have been in there for a long time. since 2 months after this last long fast, i have been holding steady at 165 pounds (not nearly as big, but twice as fit). fran time less than 2 months after fast was 3:02, deadlift 400, bench 275, clean and jerk 230, press 175. these were very close to my lifts prior to the fast at 197 pounds. not to mention i was much more mobile, agile, flexible, and faster. email me if you've got questions regarding prolonged fasting, i'd be glad to talk with you about the risk/benefits. mental clarity is probably the most beneficial aspect. you begin to see how much time and energy is wasted on things with no lasting meaning.

17

replied to comment from Joey Lajoie

"I never feel cold while fasting and when I eat in the morning I feel sluggish all day."
--Out of curiosity, what do you eat in the morning when you eat in the morning?

18

replied to comment from jared cantrell

Thanks Jared, thought provoking post.

19

wrote …

I like the no pretense, commonsense description from EC about IF. CF is full of technically savvy, technically hungry folks; that doesn't work for everyone though. Need some folks who can also just tell a story about "how it is."

One of the things I like best about 'eat meat and veg, nuts and seeds, some fruit ..." is living this way, I have no worries if I wake and don't have a handy bfast. I know I will be fine, mentally and physically, for work just running on ketones and burning fatty acids. EC breezed through this, but once experienced, one knows what a big deal it is. I used to go to great lengths to have something ready to eat EVERY morning. Life's better now. I'm still not convinced I can tell that periods of fasting either help or hurt my training, but like EC, I can tolerate the uncertainty.

20

wrote …

I personally know EC and can say she has her nutrition dialed in far better than the overwhelming majority of people that I know. She eats super CLEAN and super STRICT. She also did intermittent fasting for approx 2 years. I would say that is long enough to give it a fair shake and provide an honest opinion of her personal experience. For someone that does not even know her to make statements about whether or not her nutrition is dialed in is so ridiculous that it is not even offensive, it is quite comical.

The proper sequence for posting on the internet is think, THEN type, then read what you typed to ensure it REALLY is what you want the world to see, then and ONLY then hit "submit".

EC, you rock.

I'm glad to see so many common sense posts on here thanking EC for being honest about her experience. The CF community rocks.

21

wrote …

Word to the above.

EC's answered about a million nutrition questions I've had over the last couple of years, always in great detail, always with links to explore, and always, ALWAYS, with kindness and respect.

"This lady" has a name, btw. You might at least be a gentleman and use it if you're going to throw rocks at her (and miss) in a public forum.

22

replied to comment from Pat Sherwood

I think you are taking this as a personal attack to her. Its not.


The video just didn't articulate much about the process aside from some experience, some loose guidelines and very little in the way of benefits and results. Its like someone saying they ate Zone for a couple years and noticed it tasted good and they had more energy. Kind of leaves you hanging and still asking "why should I do it?" CF is known for being a bit more scientific and giving a bit more in depth information.


The benefits of IF are numerous, it just wasn't articulated well in this video. The comments that followed brought out the people that were well informed on the subject and they called it out. They didn't do it in a negative fashion, as a matter of fact they provided links to various places where more detailed information can be found.


The video started a conversation and brought out some of the CF'ers that are "in the know" on this particular subject. Obviously this is new territory for CF so there are no subject matter experts in place, but this will bring out more information and people passionate about IF (they are obviously out there) to contribute to the CF open source model.

23

Julianne Taylor wrote …

I wonder if males and females handle IF differently. Reading Cordain - he notes that in many hunter and gatherer societies men would often eat once or twice a day when out hunting. Whereas women and children would eat regularly during the day.
Are men then more suited to IF? Does this account for different experiences between men and women? I know my husband likes to fast - but I find it difficult, end up every time getting over hungry, light headed (low blood pressure), and overeating!

Also with regards to resetting insulin sensitivity- you would have to have all other factors dialled in for it to be most effective. Anything that messes with insulin sensitivity would need to be absent. For example emotional stress, lack of sleep, poor nutritional status, vitamin D levels below 50 all increase insulin resistance.

24

wrote …

"I recommend that the interviewer do another interview with someone who has their nutrition down pat along with intermittent fasting because combined the two are a powerful tool for weight control and performance."


Nate - the writer made it personal by making presuppositions about EC.

Pat is simply clarifying what ALL of us know about EC - her diet is meticulous.

More so, than anybody I know, EC is aware of her food intake. She is "dialed" and a role model for many.

cheers

25

Glenn Siegrist wrote …

Man now I'm confused! Zone or not to Zone. Just when I think I have my eating under control along comes this IF video that tells me to stop eating. Can anyone provide me with a good web site for in-depth reading. V/R

26

replied to comment from Glenn Siegrist

I met EC while attending my level 1 cert in Kentucky last December. Absolutely gorgeous.

27

EC S wrote …

#4, #6
Nick, Nate -

Thanks for sharing your resources. I would also suggest Mike OD’s stuff, I believe at http://www.fitnessspotlight.com/

#7
Joey -
Thank you for sharing your experience. I’m not sure what you consider “down pat” nutrition. FWIW, I am strict paleo (although not perfect 100%, red wine and dark chocolate on occasion), with an eye towards limiting carbohydrate quantity. I think you may have missed the part where I mentioned the fast was ONLY a “chore” when sleep or nutrition was not perfect the night/day before. It was a no issue MANY days. Congratulations on your success, however! Keep doing what works for you.

#10,#14
Mike -

Yup, it was just a video of one point of view. There are plenty of other resources. A great one you provided. Thanks for sharing!

I think there is some disagreement with your allowance of diet sodas/calorie free sweeteners during the fast. I did not have any of that. However, if you are finding positive results – keep on it.

#11
Jerry-

Water is A-ok. I’d also have coffee (black) during the fast.


#22
Nate-

You are correct. There are a lot of factors to consider here. The point of the video was not a biochem discussion. I have personally received a LOT of questions about HOW to IF and what happens/did happen. That was more the angle here.

#23
Julianne-

I have heard similar discussions before. What I recall from reading other’s experiences with IF was just that… women tended to not handle it the same, or as well as, men.


#12, #15, #19, #20, #21, #24, #27
Kevin, John, Paul, Sherwood, Justin, Sevan, AC

Thank you ALL for your kind words and support!

28

Evan Davidson wrote …

Andrew, it bothers me that you would take the time to write that.


On another note: I concur, E.C., in regards to coffee (taken black) during the fasting period. I found it to be a natural appetite suppressant.


Oh and GO TERPS! - E.C., when you are in Maryland next time, the doors at CrossFit Diesel are always open for you!

-Evan, CrossFit Diesel

29

wrote …

Some guys at work do this, or a variant of it.

http://www.warriordiet.com/ (wfs)

Any thoughts?

30

replied to comment from EC S

EC

Thanks for your replies to various comments. Mine was comment no 1 ...so why are you doing this? I think that there are many answers to the question. Some seem to do it for spiritual reasons, some for "it's a team game" reasons, some for "it makes me feel better" reasons and most for a mix of those and other reasons.

My second post was number 9 about the benefits of barking at the moon. Actually I don't do that but I was trying to make a serious point. It seems likely though that if I did indeed believe that barking at the moon would make me feel more energetic and then I went out and barked at the moon, then I would feel more energetic.

Is anyone familiar with the concept of "memes"? Check out "The Meme Machine" by Susan Blackmore in which she describes the meme as a unit of thought capable of being copied from mind to mind. A meme could be anything from a tune to the notion that the paleolithic diet is good for you. She suggests that if a mind is already infected by a meme then certain other memes are more or less likely to be copied into the same mind.

Here it looks like there is a community of minds already infected by the "paleo is good for you" meme. The "IF" meme would be likely to be copied into those minds along with the "it's a good idea to record all the food I eat" meme.

I am also wondering whether there is some sort of placebo effect going on here. Has anyone done any double blind studies to check any of the reported effects? A bit difficult I would think to trick someone into thinking they are fasting while they are eating and so probably impossible to do a study like that.

The original question I asked was "why?". Thanks to everyone who left comments, though I must say that many were either defending or trying to justify the practice if IF. The other thing I noticed was that if you follow the links in some of the posts you end up on a website which is trying to sell you their own special formula placebo, no I mean vitamin pills.

thanks

Duncan

31

Hi Duncan,

I skipped your first question because I thought I had mentioned it in the video. But I guess it may have not been clear. I am no longer practicing fasting. I originally decided to do it as a means to improve my insulin sensitivity. I believe I created some degree of insulin resistance with years of long-duration exercise and a high carbohydrate diet. While I would be surprised if it did not help that, the biggest bonus I got from it was being liberated from an obsessive eating schedule.


As for your comment #9, I actually laughed out loud... but interpreted as you meant it. There is some research on IF, but as far as I know it is far from comprehensive. As I mentioned, I didn't feel awesome all the time.... and haven't been carried away with the meme concept. I concur there could be some "placebo" effect (for lack of a better word) for some, however.

Best,
EC

32

replied to comment from Duncan Beattie

Here are some of the physiological benefits to fasting:
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=da2pc3vMkSc (Safe for work)

No memes about it, this is what happens in your body. Of course bringing up this or any method of food manipulation in a forum like this lends itself to being accepted more readily, but physiology is what it is. You derive the benefits of increased GH, lowered insulin etc and see if that fits into your own personal "why." Is it fat loss? Insulin regulation? Time saving? Appetite control? Reduced inflammation? There is a ton of info out there for many niches that use intermittent fasting for various reasons with studies to back it up. I just did a quick search and was surprised at finding some new stuff that I hadn't read before.

Cool!

33

wrote …

I meant to add this above which rattles off a list of benefits that they tested in animals...which mirrors what people have been saying.

http://www.proteinpower.com/drmike/intermittent-fasting/fast-way-to-better-health/ (again safe for work)

34

replied to comment from EC S

Hey EC glad I made you laugh out loud! Intermittent laughing (IL) is good for you. I suspect that together with IF and intense exercise, IL could probably make us all immortal.

Cheers

Dunc

35

wrote …

EC - Question: Why did you stop IF? Comment: You absolutely rock

Pat Sherwood - Cannot possibly agree with you more about EC and commenting. I have never met EC but have been doing CF long enough to know that EC deserves respect.

Many Thanks.

36

EC S wrote …

Hey George!

I stopped IF right before I moved west last summer to work on a farm in MT. It was a physically tiring job - with a lunch break that would shift times. I ditched IF since I did not want to be hungry/tired while working in the field. After that, I never really got back into it. I have been toying with the idea of throwing it back in 1-2x/wk.

and thanks!!


and to Evan! Go terps, indeed! Thanks for the invite.

37

wrote …

I thought breakfast was the most important meal and that it was good to "wake up" your metabolism by eating very soon after getting out of bed.


I've also read that when you wake from sleep you are actually in a catabolic state and potentially eating your muscle and it's really important to get out of that quickly and therefore it's the best time to take in carbs (like after a workout). Therefore wouldn't it be best to eat immediately after waking up and then do the fast later later in the day? If you are only going for 12-18 hours of fasting wouldn't it harmonize with our cycle to stop eating in the afternoon?


It does make sense to me to shake things up and get yourself to stop being hungry all the time. I started eating 6 meals a day and to be honest it means that I'm either digesting a meal or thinking about the next one all day long... It gets kind of old.

I'm only just now exploring the Zone, so hopefully that will help with the hunger. Maybe the above isn't so important if you are in the Zone?


EC-- thanks for sharing your experience-- all in all, a very interesting piece and definitely something to explore.

38

replied to comment from Pat Sherwood

Pat,
Thanks for bringing in some sanity. And you are right, EC you DO rock!

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