It’s time for another Q&A session.

Intermittent fasting and women

Q: I’m a bit confused. Some people say I should do 16 hours of fasting, while others say that you now recommend 14 hours for women?

A: Females do 14 hrs fasting by default. The fast typically lasts 16 hrs, and is usually initiated in the evening. So in practical terms you might have your last meal some time between 8 and 10 pm in the evening and break the fast around noon on the next day.

But for women my default approach is to actually start off with 14 hrs and see how they do on that before eventually moving them to 16 hrs. When you look at the studies on gender and fasting, you tend to see that women may have slightly more adverse reactions to fasting than men, such as some degree of irritability and increased attention to food cues. 16 hrs is hardly prolonged fasting, but I like to play it safe, so that’s why I have female clients fasting for a shorter time at the beginning.

Intermittent fasting at higher body fat percentages

Q: All the guys I’ve read that have tried this, are all lean, I mean, if you’re that lean already, going on a keto diet would do exactly what intermittent fasting would do to YOU. Id like to see someone over 20% bodyfat share his experience.

A: Not at all. I have many clients with 20% body fat or more and they are doing great. Some of them are, for the first time in their lives, finding that they can show 100% adherance to a diet protocol.

I modify the caloric guidelines and macros depending on body fat %, as my first priority is always to lean people down if necessary. Besides that, I don’t see how body fat would play into making or breaking an intermittent fasting diet.

There are many psychological sides to eating. I think smaller and more frequent meals throughout the day, even if they are low carb, may be a bad choice for some people; acting as a trigger for cravings or increased appetite, for example. A conventional high frequency “nibbling” approach is working against their weight loss efforts. It’s often counterproductive.

But knowing that you can have a substantial meal after the fast makes dietary adherance very easy according to many of my clients. In my experience this is one great benefit to intermittent fasting that caters specifically to people with a higher body fat. They are big eaters, so they like to eat big. Intermittent fasting fills that need.

Intermittent fasting, mood and appetite suppression

Q: I remember you saying something about a minimum time for the fast … like 12 hours ? After that point “stuff” started happening ?

A: Hours 8-12 are pretty neutral. Not noticing much. Sometimes I get a short hunger pang, which disappears rather quickly and is replaced by total absence of hunger.

Hours 12-16 I get a sense of focus and wellbeing. I feel inspired and involved in whatever I’m doing (usually working on consultations or writing articles). Call it wired if you will. The thought of food remains unappealing until the very last hour. Most people experience the same effects in the same time interval.

Intermittent fasting and regular meal patterns: mixing it up

Q: What’s peoples experience with intermittent fasting on the week days and a “regular” diet on the weekend or something like that? I think that would fit my schedule perfectly, especially since i am much more active on the weekend and play sports/do cardio sometimes multiple times and very spread out.

A: Eating on regular intervals each day has it’s benefits. Breaking the pattern may screw a bit with the ghrelin pulse. Ghrelin is a hunger hormone which rise in anticipation of a meal and is in tune with your day-to-day meal pattern. This is also part of why you can go for 16 hrs without getting hungry once you get used to it.

Practically, this might mean that it could be a bit harder to get back to fasting when you break the pattern (weekends). On the other hand, I’ve done it personally many times and I haven’t experienced any problems at all. Fasting is still very easy after a day of more regularily spaced eating. It might take several days of a new meal pattern before a new ghrelin pulse pattern develops, so go ahead and try it.

On breaking the fast

Q: I break the fast with a large bowl of oatmeal and a whey shake, and have noticed I get a bit drowsy shortly after the meal. Any suggestions?

A: While I don’t know the particular macros of your meal, I would wager it’s fairly insulinogenic and provide a substantial glycemic load – and that may be the problem. Ditch the whey shake for whole food protein such as meat or eggs, and oats for something along the lines of veggies, beans and lentils (or other lower glycemic index foods with a decent amount of fiber). If you must, you can have your oats and whey post-workout instead.