A Few Simple Lessons from Intermittent Fasting

Read time: 90 seconds

There are many things I’ve learned from intermittent fasting, other than that it’s an easy way to lose body fat and maintain a lean body.

One thing I’ve learned is that one doesn’t have to abide by the conventional wisdom of eating 5 or 6 small meals a day. It’s a cultural phenomenon born out of strong industry forces and misguided perpetuation. Traditional cultures and many modern cultures don’t adopt this eating pattern of the western world, and yet are lean, disease-free and suffer no malnutrition.

Eating my first meal at 4pm or so hasn’t caused the often referenced metabolic adaptation that’s purported to stall weight loss or/and cause the regain of body fat (and then some). After well over a year of daily intermittent fasting, my body fat is still well below 10% — a level at which I’ve had difficulty maintaining in the past for more than a couple weeks at a time, and still felt like I was killing myself!

After having abandoned the 5-or-6-small-meals-per-day routine, I am now leaner than I’ve ever been, without ever feeling like I’m on a “diet.” I’m feeling healthier than ever, actually look younger than I had in years, and (not sure if there’s any correlation here) have not suffered one single cold during the same time.

The mental energy drain I used to experience in the afternoon had diminished. This may be due to the body’s adaptive efficiency at converting stored fat into fuel for brain and nervous support. I’m unsure by what mechanism this occurs or if it’s even true, but I can honestly say I no longer need that “pick-up” espresso shot at 3pm as my focus now remains sharp right through the afternoon.

Fasting has allowed me to effectively differentiate between hunger in the stomach and hunger in the head. It has also taught me to eat responsibly. And even with hunger in the stomach, fasting has taught me that there’s no physical emergency, and that the sensation of hunger will dissipate in a matter of minutes. In other words, I can wait to eat. Patience is a lost virtue when it comes to eating, which contributes to weight gain and obesity.

Intermittent fasting, although not the end-all, be-all of weight loss, is a great option for those who’ve tried everything that’s either too much work, too complicated, or not sustainable.

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12 Responses to A Few Simple Lessons from Intermittent Fasting

  1. David says:

    Hi Johnny,

    Thank you for the great info and posts on the site. I have recently started IF thanks to yours and Martin Berkhan’s blogs.
    I have a question.
    How long did it take you to reach your current condition once you started IF? I like that you eat a Paleo-ish diet concentrating on whole foods. I started IF this week at 6’1 190lbs 12-13% bf and just wondered what would be a good timescale to reach a level of conditioning close to yours?

    Thanks
    David

    • Johnny says:

      Hi David,

      I started IF in March of 09, and went from around 12-15% body fat to less than 10% in about 8 to 10 weeks. From there I progressively got leaner over time, but I didn’t really track how long it took. It just became a lifestyle.

      I would say that it may take someone 12 to 15 weeks to go from 12-13% bf to where I am, if using sustainable IF. Develop a lifestyle first, and let the bf take care of itself. Make it simple and sustainable.

      Best,
      Johnny

      • David says:

        Thanks a lot for the reply Johnny.

        I took at picture at the start and I will let you know how i progress in the weeks to come.

        David

  2. Christian says:

    Hey Johnny,

    Did you or do you do any type of increased carb cycling/carb refeeds as part of your diet as suggested by martin b? Seems like you didn’t/don’t and you still have great results… just curious how important it is to increase leptin levels to lose more bf when you get low…

    • Johnny says:

      Christian,

      Any refeed was/is unplanned. It happens periodically and always naturally, either through a single meal or through several days, and I never thought much about it. (I love my sweet potato fries.) This (unplanned) refeed happens occasionally because of special celebrations (birthdays, holidays, life in general, etc.).

      Refeeds can be made into a science, because of the hormonal responses. But to me refeeds are just a natural rhythm of eating and I keep it simple. I believe keeping simplicity and flexibility in an IF lifestyle is what makes it successful long term.

      Best,
      Johnny

  3. Mark says:

    Hey Johnny,
    You do use Heavy Cream in your morning coffee right? If I could keep my morning Starbucks coffee with heavy cream and then maybe another one at lunch, I could definitely hold off on eating my usual omelette until 3 or 4pm. I’m currently counting Zone blocks (protein is constant, carb and fat fluctuate) as it’s the easiest way for me to make sure that I’m not eating too much. It actually de-stresses me when compared to free-eating. I’m not one that can just eat, I think about it way too much. I’m eating mostly just meat, eggs, veggies, fruit, and coconut oil. Pretty simple but I do throw in some high carb sweet potato refeeds a couple of times a week after a hard workout.

    • Johnny says:

      Mark,

      I use some heavy cream in my daily coffee. Just be aware that available fats in the blood can redirect energy metabolism temporarily away from stored fat; but the magnitude of this metabolic redirection is hardly a point of concern as it’s relatively small, and IF itself offers so many other benefits (such as those I wrote about in this post).

      Best,
      Johnny

  4. Mike says:

    Hey Johnny,

    Excellent work with the blog! I am a monster fan of both the blog and IFing! I was wondering if you could list out the food you eat from a few days (your daily meals over the course of several days). I was hoping to zone in on the foods I eat a bit more and wanted to emulate your food selections a little more closely. Also do you have any baselines you adhere to for any macro-nutrients? I appreciate all your information!

    Thanks,

    Mike

    • Johnny says:

      Mike,

      Great idea. I will write more about this for a future post. But for now:

      -Mostly wholesome food.
      -I don’t concentrate on macronutrients — in fact, I avoid talking about them.
      -I try to eat as many colors as I can — sometimes I achieve this, sometimes I don’t. That’s OK.
      -I focus on food, not on eating.
      -During fasting, I enjoy coffee and a little bit of heavy cream, maybe 2 cups, sometimes 3.
      -I typically eat my first meal around 4, and last around 11.

      I love meats of all kinds. I aim to regularly eat in-season vegetables, and I include some sweet potatoes and a little of other natural starches. But I also enjoy good quality dessert — homemade carrot cake and real tiramisu are my weakness. And wine… I gotta have my daily reds.

      My goal has always been to first, get the nutrients I believe my body needs (and I don’t think we need as much as many nutritionists would have you believe — most Americans are not only over-caloried but also over-nutritioned). After covering nutrition simply by eating mostly veggies, I’ll allot some room for a little quality “sinful” stuff.

      Hope this holds you over,
      Johnny

  5. Jordan D. says:

    “Over-nutritioned,” interesting concept! This may be a little different than what you’re referring to, but it reminds me of fortified processed foods, like breakfast cereals. I looked at *several* different types of Frosted Mini Wheats in the store, and every single one of them had 90% of the RDA for iron! Really? Do we really need that much iron? Frosted Mini Wheats is a delicious occasional treat, but when I eat it now, I can’t help but to think about the massive dose of iron that I’m getting with each serving. It’s like they’re forcing the consumer to take an iron supplement along with their bowl of cereal. And every variety had the same 90%, so there’s no consumer choice.

    And now I’ve noticed it with other foods, too, like some low-cal muffin tops that I found online that looked interesting. 50% iron per serving. Grrr! It’s just unnecessary, IMO. Anyway, just a little something that’s been annoying me. lol.

    • Johnny says:

      Jordan, great observation. I guess we can say that food creation is based on forces with little to no interest in our holistic health.

      Screw them. It’s up to us.

      Best,
      Johnny

  6. Mike says:

    Hey Johnny,

    Thanks for the quick reply. I welcome the tease, and I”m definitely looking forward to your future post. I really love your simple approach and how you aren’t bogged down by the details! Thanks again for the overview and enjoy the cruise!

    Mike

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