Intermittent fasting, as a specific protocol, is pretty new on the dieting scene, but there's a good chance you've heard of at least someone that's used it successfully.
Even though there are probably more than a hundred different ways to diet, maybe even a thousand, intermittent fasting is a bit different since it includes long periods of fasting or going without food.
While this makes fasting unique, it also means it's not the right idea for everyone.
If you're interested in trying this diet, I'll go over a few pros and cons that you should consider before jumping in.
Everyone wants more self control around fresh made baked goodness.
U.S. Marine Corps photo by Lance Cpl. Webster Rison
Pro: Fasting can help you deal with hunger
I know it's ironic, but fasting consistently can help you better deal with hunger.
How often do you feel that you're close to the brink of death when you haven't eaten in a few hours? If you're like most people that eat three meals a day plus snacks in between, missing one of those opportunities can lead to a feeling that end times are near.
When you fast regularly, you're teaching your mind and body to handle an extended time without food.
While it might suck for the first few days, fasting can change how your hunger hormones function and teach you that it's okay if you happen to miss a meal or two.
Think of it like an invisible flak vest. You can use it to make things harder or let it sabotage your performance. Your choice.
U.S. Army photo by Sgt. Garret Smith
Con: Fasting can make training and performance more difficult
Honestly, intermittent fasting isn't a great idea if you train hard or have a high level of aerobic and anaerobic endurance.
Eating food ensures that the energy you have for muscle contraction is plentiful. When you fast for hours on end, your body turns towards stored fat and sugar in your liver to help you survive. But that's not the best option if you need to train hard or perform for a long time.
Sure, fasting might not affect everyone the same, but if you usually eat around training, you'll almost certainly see a dip in performance at first.
Unless you take a long time to adjust to how fasting affects performance (this is a similar protocol to what you would need to do on a keto diet.), you might want to opt for a different protocol if high performance is important to you.
When you squeeze the trigger you better be sure you're gonna hit what you're aiming at. IF can help build your mental toughness, so you don't miss even in the fog of war (simulated or real).
U.S. Army photo by Sgt. Anthony Bryant
Pro: Fasting can teach you to perform on low fuel
In the same light, using fasting strategically can help you develop the mental fortitude necessary to really push yourself when you're fatigued and don't have food available.
Just as you use weights, sprints, and long ruck marches get mentally and physically hard, jumping into challenging workouts when fasted can help you develop the mental toughness to push through when the going gets tough.
No food is a stressor. If you already have a lot of other sources of stress, like you would at a selective school like OCS, maybe don't add another.
U.S. Marine Corps photo by Lance Cpl. George Nudo
Con: Fasting can make your recovery and improvement challenging
Again, food not only provides energy for performance but also the fuel your body needs to repair and grow. If you're training hard and fasting every day, you could be missing out on recovery and growth.
You've probably heard of "bulking phases" where you're not only training hard but also eating more than usual. When people bulk, they're eating more food because those calories help support the growth and repair of muscles.
When you fast, eating enough calories becomes a bit difficult because you're spending so much time not eating.
On this diet, you're not only burning through calories for a large portion of the day, but you're making it more challenging to make up for those calories you're burning, like amino acids in the protein you eat.
Since you have less time to eat, you'll be fuller from each meal. As a result, it might be challenging to eat the same amount of calories as you would with a full day of eating opportunities.
Most importantly, if you train hard, need to recover and want to develop muscle, strength, and power, you're better off trying a different diet.
Send it back... or don't. Just make a choice and stick to it.
U.S. Marine Corps photo by Lance Cpl. Webster Rison
Don't diet at all. Dieting is temporary.
You want a solution that will last you a lifetime. Try using strategies like Green-light and Red-light rules that I lay out in The Ultimate Composure Nutrition Guide, it's 100% free in my free resources vault.
I highly discourage you from engaging in any diet that makes it harder to live your life. The point of eating food is to make you thrive, not just survive.
If you must, try this detailed protocol on how to cut weight for an upcoming weigh-in.
Maybe you prefer to fast as a part of your lifestyle. I often don't eat until noon, that's technically fasting. General McChrystal is a practitioner of the one meal a day protocol. Just ensure it's something you can do consistently.
If it's painful you won't want to do it indefinitely and that's the crux here. If you are struggling and need to talk to someone about losing fat, or your mind, contact me. I'll give you 30 minutes of my time with no expectation of anything in return. I've seen enough people cause some serious damage to their bodies and minds with dieting. Don't join that club, it's avoidable.