Intermittent Fasting

It's Not About Starving...

By Steve Steiner

Intermittent fasting = timely eating.

He wanted to see his abs.

That’s what Randee Stricklin said. He wasn’t talking about himself but a former co-worker at the Florida Department of Transportation and what that erstwhile co-worker was doing to reach that goal.

He was following a program he had found on the internet known as intermittent fasting. While there are numerous versions and approaches, the essential core is limiting one’s eating to a block of time, usually that of eight hours.

Stricklin found that intriguing, because unlike himself, the co-worker was not overweight. At the time, approximately a year ago, Stricklin, whose height is slightly more than 6 feet, weighed more than 360 pounds.

At first, Stricklin dismissed the idea. However, it wouldn’t be too long after the co-worker departed for an opportunity elsewhere that Stricklin had an epiphany.

“I’m sitting at a computer all day long and it just ‘hit me’ one day,” Stricklin says. “I said, let me look this up.” He was astounded by what he discovered. There was a panoply of approaches. Eventually, the one he chose to pursue was one in which he would eat during an eight hour period and fast 16 hours, plus not eat after 8 p.m.

He also began working out at a health club, Ultimate Fitness, where co-owner Greg Buck and one of the people who conducts high intensity interval training sessions, Krissy Charles Jeffords, noticed Stricklin’s progress, weight-loss wise, and asked what was he doing in addition to working out.

By his own admission, Stricklin had chosen not to tell people he was doing intermittent fasting; that is — he chose not to tell people at work. Those people, he says, would admonish and lecture him. What was ironic is many of those coworkers were overweight or not in shape. So, he decided not to say anything further, at least not at work. It was different at the health club.

“Krissy asked me in front of three or four people,” he says. “I told her and had a ton of questions asked.”

What Jeffords heard wasn’t exactly new, but still, hearing it direct from Stricklin made an impression. It was novel, because it flew in the face of supposed conventional wisdom.

“I was always told you have to eat six small meals a day,” she says. With that, she undertook the intermittent fasting approach this past autumn while in the midst of a weight loss challenge. She began to see results in short order, but it wasn’t easy. “It took me approximately two weeks to get fully used to it. At first I was cranky and tired, but after that I found it enjoyable. Intermittent fasting works great for me.”

Already in good condition as she works out constantly, Jeffords does intermittent fasting “full-on” from Monday through Friday. She has lost 34 pounds. But as with anything, especially with exercise and weight loss, she offers the time-worn yet on-the-mark advice: “It’s all about moderation.” In other words, ease into it.

It’s also what Greg Buck preaches, do things incrementally. Otherwise, he says, a person is setting himself up for failure, and nutritional approaches, just as workout regimens, is no different.

As for himself, Buck has done extensive research and decided to also do it.

“I’m experimenting with this because it’s been the ‘buzz,’” he says. “I like to try things so I can relate to people.” By that he meant having an even more firm grasp on the challenges others face in their effort to improve their health and wellbeing. Buck has been a physical fitness enthusiast since high school, and has made it his career guiding others in that field.

Buck laughed a bit at himself over when he decided to undertake intermittent fasting. It was during the holidays. By his own admission that may not have been the best of times in which to do so. As a consequence, he did not always adhere to it and as a result he did show some weight gain. However the weight gain was equal to the weight he had shed once he undertook intermittent fasting. Already in good health and condition, as of this writing Buck has relinquished 12 pounds.

Stricklin, Jeffords and Buck all agree on one thing: intermittent fasting flies in the face of the dictate each has heard and followed, which states it’s necessary to eat six small meals a day. What all three have discovered is that with intermittent fasting, their insulin levels are more stable than they were under the previous regimen.

This was of major concern to Stricklin. Prior to the decision he made in January 2017 to restore himself to good health and wellbeing, he had his annual physical. He wasn’t diagnosed as Type 2 diabetic, but he wasn’t out of the woods, either.

“She (the doctor) said, ‘We’re getting close,’” Stricklin says. Of course, like many men, the doctor’s words fell on deaf ears. It wasn’t until his children got on his case; that and the realization he wasn’t feeling well. His legs hurt, his joints ached, his mood and attitude were not always the best, he was going through new pairs of shoes every few months, having worn out the soles, as well as other factors.

Other Benefit

It has also curbed the appetite of Stricklin, Jeffords and Buck. All three say that while they still eat the foods they enjoy, they eat less of those and in smaller portions. When they stray, though, they feel it.

Upon occasion, Stricklin says that out of necessity he has found himself in situations in which he feels he has to eat outside the eight hour window, and again, as a rule he doesn’t begin eating until noon. Those times when he does eat outside the fast due to social circumstances he feels the consequences and gave an example.

“I ate at 8 a.m. a doughnut,” he says. “I was starving by noon.”

Again, each has found intermittent fasting to be an easy approach in comparison to other programs. For one thing, it is convenient. For Stricklin, he didn’t like eating six meals a day. Strange as it may sound, he didn’t have the time. He also found it a nuisance to make meals ahead of time and then either refrigerate or place in the freezer. Granted, he would be enthusiastic the first week or two, but after that it became a chore.

The one thing all agree on is that they don’t feel as if they are on a diet.

Intermittent fasting may not be everyone’s “cup of tea,” and Buck urges anyone contemplating undertaking this approach to do their research, and to challenge the assertions being made.

“Be careful. Discriminate. Just because it sounds good ...” And Buck left it at that.

EXTRA info not in print version of Summer 2018 YHP:

(Editor’s note: This extra material on Intermittent Fasting is from a printout provided by trainer Krissy Charles Jeffords; it has been summarized.)

Fasting has been done throughout the ages. Quite often it has been for religious purposes. In Judaism, there are several fasts, the most well known being that of Yom Kippur, the holiest of days in that religion, in which a person does not eat or drink for a period slightly more than 24 hours.

There are fasts in Christianity, most notably Lent, in which a person may choose to abstain from certain foods during a 40 day period, or certain foods on certain days. Of the latter, up until the mid-1960s, Catholics were forbidden from eating meat on Fridays.

Muslims also have days of fasting in which they must abstain from eating, the holy month of Ramadan. During Ramadan, Muslims fast from dawn until sunset. As in Judaism, there is no intake of food or water during the period of daylight. Often, children, elderly, and the sick do not take part in religious fasting.

Religious purposes aside, perhaps the most popular approach to intermittent fasting is that of eight hours. The idea is to limit food intake within an eight hour window, for example, from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m.

These periods of fasting provide metabolic benefits due to the dropping of insulin levels, leading to fatty acids being released from adipose tissue (fat storage), which leads to fat being used for energy. Overall, one’s metabolism should only slow, but not “nosedive.” Longer-term fasting does lead metabolism to slow.

Intermittent fasting will usually result in weight loss, as the less one eats the less one weighs, provided a person doesn’t exceed one’s caloric intake during the eight hour window.

There are drawbacks to be acknowledged. At first, a person will be lethargic. Food is fuel. It provides energy, both physical and cognitive. Without food, or an extremely limited amount, a person will experience fatigue and have a difficult time concentrating. It is not recommended on any day in which something important needs to be done or an emergency arises. In those situations it may be necessary, perhaps recommended to break a fast. It is also a good idea to continue taking daily vitamins and supplements.

There is also the possibility of experiencing the “rebound effect.” Most people naturally overcompensate when they don’t eat as they are used to doing. For example, skipping breakfast can lead to eating more at lunch; or if totally abstaining from food one day, overeating the following day. Unless one is careful and monitors what is eaten, the “rebound effect” will wipe out any benefits.

How does it work?

At its core, fasting simply allows the body to burn off excess body fat, which is merely food energy that has been stored. It is normal, because if a person doesn’t eat, the body will simply consume its own fat for energy. Eventually, though, people have to eat, otherwise the body will eventually cannibalize itself once all fat is gone and the body will start “eating” muscle and tissue in order to live.

When a person eats, most food energy can be immediately used, while some must be stored for later use. Insulin is the key hormone involved in the storage of food energy. Thus when a person eats, insulin level rises and the excess energy is stored in two separate ways. Sugars can be linked into long chains called glycogen and stored in the liver. Because storage space is limited, once it is reached the liver starts to turn the excess glucose into fat. This process is called De-Novo Lipogenesis; literally: making fat from new.

While some newly created fat in stored in the liver, most of it gets exported to other fat deposits in the body and there is no limit to the amount of fat that can be created.

The process goes into reverse when fasting. Insulin levels fall, signaling the body to start burning stored energy since no more is coming through food. Blood glucose falls, so the body must now pull glucose out of storage to burn for energy. Glycogen is the most easily accessible energy source. It is broken down into glucose molecules to provide energy for other cells and can provide enough energy to power the body for 24-36 hours. After that, the body will start breaking down fat for energy.

Thus it is that in essence, fasting allows the body to increase the amount of time a person burns food energy. It allows the body to use its stored energy. It provides balance and there is nothing wrong with fasting. If anything, it is how the human body is designed to do.