How to do Intermittent Fasting
Updated: Sep 5
How I use Intermittent Fasting to keep healthy, trim and fighting fit
(Here is my followup article, but be sure to read it afterwards)
Take a moment to look down. Is your belly poking out? Is there the hint of "middle-age spread" setting in? On a more general note: How is your health? Are you full of energy?
If there is even the slightest hint of a protruding belly developing, or health being 100% then how about making use of the Covid-19 shutdown to do something about it? Right now is your opportunity.
The potbelly is not limited to the "older" generation nowadays. The pot is the norm for all ages including children when you come to think about it. This is not good for society because one of the strongest predictors for diseases such as diabetes and cardiovascular disease is when the belly circumference is greater than that of the chest.
As I've gotten older I have noticed the tendency for fat to accumulate about my gut. It has not been from a lack of exercise. I am a chronic over-exerciser. The getting fat driver has not been my increasing age either.
The driver has been what I have been eating and the way I've been eating.
I had been snacking between meals and had reduced my intake of fats and protein of animal origin. That was 10 years ago. My, how things have changed!
My muscle has increased, my fat declined and my aerobic power has increased by at least an astonishing 30%!
Last Sunday I rode 143 kilometers on my cyclocross bike, averaging 23 kilometers per hour and an average heart rate of just 112 beats per minute and a maximum of 148. My moving time was 6:10:34. Total time from start to finish was 7:02:56, so 52 minutes of resting, stretching, having a pee and chatting to people along the way. That's a pretty good performance for a 66-year-old. The remarkable thing is I completed the ride without eating anything. The only sustenance for the entire day was what was in my drink bottle - my secret metabolic energiser - nothing else. I filled up with water as I went from sources such as streams.
I'll explain how I eat nowadays right now without any more delay so you can get stuck into doing the same while you are at home for the month. It is time for action!
Intermittent Fasting to the Rescue!
(Please take a few minutes to read about the health benefits of Intermittent fasting: https://www.healthline.com/nutrition/10-health-benefits-of-intermittent-fasting)
Here's how to do it my way
Pick three or four days of the week when you know you can go for several waking hours without eating, other than drinking water and taking your vitamins which is best determined by an Interclinical Hair Tissue Mineral Analysis. It is preferable that the fasting is during the morning so that your last meal is yesterday's evening meal. You can do the fast later in the day like I am doing this afternoon, but it is probably more convenient to do mornings and I feel you will get better results that way.
Measure body composition - not so much bodyweight. Get yourself a good-quality body composition bath scale that gives very accurate estimations of your fat, muscle, bone and water and record your measures every week at the same time of the day. Get your starting baseline then chart your weekly progress with software such as Excel. Consider taking some profile photos of your physique from the front and side on so you can compare these later on. I recommend these Salter body composition scales. I have been using Salter scales for about 15 years. I have now reviewed thousands of Salter body composition results for clients. It is accurate, good value and helps guide weight loss and weight gain programmes. Do not use weight alone. You must take account of bone and muscle and even water when determining what is the optimum body weight for you.
Have a hearty evening meal, then do not eat anything until it is time to break the fast the following day. By the time you are awake, your tummy is empty and you are ready to enter your fat-burning mode. Or, have a good breakfast then do not eat anything during the morning, do a workout later when your tummy is empty then break the fast at dinner time.
Do some exercise while fasting. This exercise can be either aerobic such as running or walking or it can be muscle-building such as lifting weights. Or it can be a mix of both. Both together or spread over the week as separate workouts are best for all-round fitness.
Fast for as long as you feel able. Be modest initially because it takes time (weeks, months) for your lazy fat-burning enzymes to very slowly wake up. You might go through to morning tea time, then gradually extend this through to lunchtime and eventually through to mid-afternoon as the days become weeks and you fat-burning adapt. Keep the daily exercise going!
Break the fast with a high-fat, high-protein and nutrient-packed meal. Make it a good meal but do not pig out. Eat slowly and make it super-healthy.
Keep repeating the fasting and exercise any day when you feel inclined. Preferably do this several times a week so that your fat-burning becomes very efficient. You will quickly realise that the traditional early breakfast is unnecessary.
What about your children?
When we were children in Putaruru during the 1950s and '60s, we were very active indeed and there were no snacks. There were no muesli bars. Icecream was once a month if that. There was only one dairy and that was owned by Dad. The supermarket had not yet been invented. There was a fish 'n chip shop for Friday night. The only snacks were what our mother made for us, or what we could find in the way of fruit or berries while running about the countryside or playing tennis. We did not even have drink bottles. When we got home after hours of exploring and playing we would be thirsty and ravenous. We ate whatever Mum had for us. We were very lean and athletic. Very healthy.
While your children and you are in a month of lockdown here is what you can do:
Break the habit of constant snacking/browsing. Do this by putting away all of the snack food and only allowing it AFTER they have eaten their meat and veggies. The snacks are the dessert or pudding that may only be eaten after the home-prepared food is eaten.
Give them breakfast but make it a hearty nutrient-dense meal made out of real foods like eggs, sausages (nitrite-free ones please) and porridge with cream. Iron Man Breakfast Cereal does not produce muscle men and women: it will produce poor concentration, diabetes, weak muscles and obesity.
Allow morning and afternoon tea snacks but make these modest, low-sugar, low carbohydrate and only after there has been some physical activity. No activity - no rewards! An egg sandwich made with real butter on the bread, plus an apple and a cup of full cream silver top NZ milk would make a good snack.
If your children can not go for a couple of hours without snacking then you have all the more reason to use this month to break these unhealthy eating patterns and inability to efficiently draw on their fat stores. Give it a few weeks for their metabolism to progressively adjust. Gradually increase the gaps between eating while increasing activity levels at the time.
Be consistent from the beginning and be the best example by way of your personal actions. Children thrive on certainty and regular habits, so get the routines in place from the outset and do not allow them to be broken.
My youngest son, now 20 years old, was raised on full-cream raw milk, meat, eggs, fish and veggies. His three older siblings had similar upbringings. They are all lean and all muscle. He was sent to school with these foods in his belly. He often went most of the day on just lunch and not even touching his snacks. He is all muscle and now dwarfs his mother and father. He is eating us out of the home while here during the lock-down but that is an aside.
Notes and Commentary
Four diet Myths that you can throw out:
(I used to believe all of these but soon realised I had been lied to)
Fats make you fat and give you heart disease Nope - carbohydrates and sugar make you fat and give you heart disease. It is consistent; when a person cuts the carbs and sugars and increases their fat intake, they lose body fat and increase their muscle percentage. If anything, cardiovascular health improves when you cut carbs and increase fats and oils, including animal fats. With a high carb modern diet, measures of cardiovascular health consistently decline.
Breakfast is the most important meal of the day This was created by Big Food during the '70s to drive the sales of highly profitable cereal-based breakfast foods. These are basically poisonous carbohydrates and sugars masquerading as food. These food-like substances are at the very heart of the obesity epidemic and other diseases such as heart disease and diabetes.
You must snack every two hours This is again another lie that was cooked up by Big Food. It is behind the boom in sales of food-like products such as muesli snack-bars and logs. This is making billions of profit for Big Food and all at the expense of you and your children's health.
You must have a high-protein, high carbohydrate meal within 20 minutes of working out Another Big Food myth that is not good for your health. This myth drives the sale of smoothie ingredients as well as the sales of blenders. My advice to you is to delay eating after a hard workout until your tummy says it is time to eat. Drink to rehydrate in the meantime. Make your first meal really nutrient-packed - of course, but go easy on the carbs and sugars.
Medical and nutrition research has been captured by powerful commercial interests with competing agendas
These commercial interests include the grain industry, the beef industry, dairy, Big Pharma, the chemical industry, the genetically modified foods industry - and even the blender industry that promotes the merits of kale smoothies so you'll buy another blender!
Guess who funds the nutrition research? Guess who subsidised the medical and nutrition training in the universities these days? Guess who sponsors their conferences and ongoing education after graduation? Guess why nutrition advice is a mess and so confusing these days?
All of these industries are fighting for market share and causing nothing but confusion among health professionals and the public about what they should be eating and how to eat.
Food is now the enemy. Food was once central to family and communities. It was once central for all celebrations such as marriage and even funerals. We welcomed the stranger at our door with a meal. We honoured our hosts by enjoying the food placed before us, no matter what it was.
You can't breakfast without first being in a fast
I first went to the Pacific Islands, to Fiji in 1973, where I had a holiday teaching job. I funded my way through University by working on farms in the South Waikato, including milking cows. There were lessons to be learned about the way we used to eat, be it living in rural New Zealand or the Pacific Islands.
The first lesson is that breakfast was never the most important meal - at least not the way we eat today.
You can not break a fast if you are not fasting.
The day always began with exercise. In my case, it was getting up at 4 am and rushing down the farm race to bring the cows in for milking. This was not even with a glass of water and there were no snacks at all. The muesli bar had yet to be invented. Milking was hard labour right through to about 9 am when a hearty breakfast was served. Breakfast consisted of foods like bacon, eggs, sausages, baked beans, porridge with cream and bread and butter.
In the islands, the day began before dawn with a long walk up to the fields, fishing off the reef or preparing the fire to heat the Umu stones. Food did not last long in the tropical heat so it was prepared from scratch every day using traditional cooking methods. By the time the food was back in the village, prepared and cooked it was midday. The traditional Pacific diet was dense with minerals, slow-digesting carbs, tropical fruit, high-quality protein and lots of coconut oil.
Pacific Islanders have the impressive record of having the strongest bones and greatest natural muscle mass of any race. The farmers of past generations in New Zealand were huge men and women, strong and rock-jawed. They started the day with hard exercise, getting hungry then breaking the fast with a nutrient-dense meal that was rich with fats and protein.
In addition, there was no real snacking between meals other than a scone or two and cup of tea in morning and afternoon tea times to break up a hard few hours of labouring and the three main meals were the "Plowman's Lunch" and large meat and 3 veggies with pudding at dinner time. In the Islands, there were only two meals a day - a big lunch followed by rest during the heat of the day then more work during the cool of the evening, al light dinner of lunch leftovers, followed by being early to bed in readiness for rising when the cock crows. Snacking might have been a banana, a mango and some coconut water.
My, how things have changed! And haven't the physiques and the health of these populations changed as well?
How does Intermittent fasting, plus exercise encourage laying down muscle instead of fat?
I have my own theory based mostly on observation. The secret for success is to combine a short period of fasting, about half a day, preferably morning, with vigorous exercise, then breaking the fast with a nutrient-dense, high-fat and high-protein meal. When you do this, a message is sent to the primitive part of your brain:
"Gary is having to work very hard, for long hours. He is bringing in a bumper harvest and the hunt was a great success! Gary needs to recover and be even stronger by tomorrow so that he can fill the storerooms to the ceiling well before Winter sets in. It is time for breeding"
My body responds by increasing lean-tissue-building hormones at night, such as growth hormone and testosterone. I sleep better and grow stronger for the day to come. The sex life is pretty damn good.
If, on the other hand, I was to break the fast with a high-carbohydrate, low nutrient-density, low-fat meal, which is what I used to do, this is the message I'm sending to my brain:
"The harvest was a failure as was the hunt. Gary is surviving on a few seeds and leaves that he has been able to scrounge. Winter is coming, and starvation is coming with it. Shut down his metabolism, reduce energy-sapping muscles and put every last calorie into fat storage. It is not time to be having children"
My body responds by losing muscle while gaining fat, especially about the torso and hips. What do you think has happened to any sex drive? It gets placed on ice. Got the idea!
Make the most of this unusual and unprecedented time of our lives to do all kinds of positive things for you and your family.
Here is my followup article on the topic:
The greatest gift you can ever give your loved ones is your own good health!
Here is a podcast worth listening to
During my early years of study, Professor Tim Noakes had a big influence. Please take a few minutes to listen to the podcasts featuring him and other researchers such as Gary Taubes and Dr Malcolm Kendrik. https://www.listennotes.com/podcasts/fat-furious-primal-living-bj8tEUgyvV2/
And this guide to Intermittent Fasting is comprehensive: