Simplicity: Why Intermittent Fasting is so Damn Effective

Read time: 50 seconds

On The Lean Saloon I don’t discuss complicated theories of energy-regulatory feedback loop, because mostly they’re unproven. But I do believe that weight gain and weight loss are affected by hormonal regulation, genetics, diminishing incidental activities (pdf), food choices, environmental factors, and internal and external cues. Yes, it’s complicated and they all lead ultimately to overeating and weight gain.

So the much discussed feet or fork, the chanting of eat less, move more, or the basic calories-in, calories-out are all based on oversimplified concepts. They’re like soundbites for dummies, but they may actually help the process of losing and managing weight.

Look, the drivers of overweight and obesity, as well as the hurdles to weight loss, are incredibly complex, so we have to find simple solutions. It doesn’t make us dummies — it makes us smart humans.

Intermittent fasting is wonderfully effective at helping those wishing to lose the extra weight. In the face of pedantic discussions on the multifactorial drivers of the national obesity epidemic (or the stubborn fat you want off your ass), intermittent fasting is the simple and practical solution.

No matter which factors drive the overeating (which may be different from person to person), the simple conscious decision to turn off the valve for a predetermined period makes eating less a little more manageable.

Intermittent fasting. Simplicity to overcome complexity.

Move toward Goodness. You won’t regret it.

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42 Responses to Simplicity: Why Intermittent Fasting is so Damn Effective

  1. Pingback: Simplicity: Why Intermittent Fasting is so Damn Effective | Paleo Digest

  2. Stephon says:

    Johnny,

    Your messages are soo to the point, as a society we tend to have the need to complicate things. Instead of doing either of the former, “move more eat less”, or calories in calories out, most of us look for the next miracle/fad diet to give us an answer that has been around for ages. Cultures around the world differ in dietary make-ups, yet in the most healthy of these it’s that for the most part they are active and eating less. I recently spoke with a two brothers who were in their upper 40″s compared to me (34yrs) and they are very lean, so curious I asked about their dietary habits and ironically both in their own way basically said they don’t really discriminate any food, nor did they care about macronutrients, as they put it ” that just making things complicated, we eat just enough and train fast and hard when we work out”!? I immediately thought of the message that you have been stating here very plain and clear. I just don’t see it getting any more simple!

  3. David says:

    That’s it 🙂 Johnny’s posts are always a wonderful reminder for us all!
    Thanks Johnny! Keep up the great work,

    All the best,
    David

  4. T says:

    Great insight. On point. Your blog is a great read.

  5. Mimi says:

    So true! I think most people are cursed by a desire to overcomplicate things. That leads to more time dwelling on them and as such more time doing nothing. You always have great insights.

  6. Carmen Theresa says:

    Hi there! I just wanted to thank you. Finding your site has been extremely helpful. I started shortening my eating window about 7 or 8 weeks ago….eating 4:00 to 8:00; sometimes 1:00 to 8:00 dependant upon meeting friends for lunch. I’ve never felt better, and I’m continuing to slim down day by day. Looking back, I think I treated eating as more of a hobby. It consumed so much of my day eating 5 meals. I think a lot of people stop IF out of boredom because they’re so used to just looking forward to that next meal. They don’t know how else to fill their time. I’ve got so much more energy now that filling those old eating hours hasn’t been a problem. Anyway, I wish you the best and look forward to future posts.

  7. Daniel says:

    Yes it makes us smart humans
    Einstein is quoted saying that intelligence is about taking something complex and reducing it to something simpler, that’s also the sign of a good theory and what science should really be about. Nowaday it’s actually the opposite, from school to science and indeed people seem to be filled with arbitrary knowledge in a vacuum and have less and less critical thinking, intuition, insight and intelligence.

  8. Jordan says:

    Hello Johnny,

    Great article as always.
    I was wondering how many meals do you generally eat from the time you break your fast (4.00 pm) and bedtime when maintaining 5-6% BF effortlessly?
    Also, it’s been a long time that you haven’t mentioned about but I am (and maybe others) still interested in having a sample of how those meals generally look like (let’s not talk about macro composition…but real food instead: that’s the point of simplicity).
    I’m sure that it has been part of your success with IF since we know that IF on junk food will not work over the long term (hunger, body comp, health…)

    Thanks in advance!

  9. Sue says:

    With IF you obviously choose the healthiest whole foods and stick with them a good amount of the time. But because of IF no foods are off limits that’s the beauty of it.

  10. Serena says:

    Hi Johnny,
    I stumbled across your site via MDA and really want to try IF. I work out at 5 or 6 pm and have been doing this for my IF:

    12pm-1pm first meal
    6pm, work out
    8-9 post workout meal

    Do you think this is a good IF plan? Is it something I can do everyday?

    Thanks much!

    • Robert C. Morreale says:

      close to what I do,

      12pm-1pm first meal
      4:45 pm, work out
      6-7 post workout meal

      once in a while i do a 24 hour fast on Friday’s

  11. Dale says:

    Johnny –

    When you suggest that ‘calories-in/calories-out is an oversimplification, may I assume that you’re merely challenging facile maxims like ‘a pound of fat weighs 3,500 calories, reduce 500 calories a day and lose a pound a week’ but not the Energy Balance Theory ? Put another way, whether one is consciously establishing a calorie-deficit (the usual strategy) or enhancing utilization through IF, in the end, doesn’t it still come down to consumption vs. expenditure ?

  12. Sondra Rose says:

    Hey Johnny~
    Great post, as always!

    Second request: Please oh, please can you add a search engine gadget to your blog? Pretty please?

    Thanks in advance,
    Sondra

  13. jayson says:

    johnny, forget the question i asked earlier. after looking at past posts i got the answer. my final question ; is it ok to take my supplements during my fasting. i only take a multi-vitaman, probiotics (live), grape seed extract, fish oil and an aspiran. i take everyday when i wake up. thoughts? will it affect my fast? i dont break fast until after workout

    • Johnny says:

      jayson,

      these supplements don’t contain that many calories, so it shouldn’t make or break your fast. If you eat a well-rounded diet of mostly whole, real food, then you won’t have to be too concerned with supplementation.

      Best,
      Johnny

  14. jayson says:

    hi johnny, as i mentioned before i am becoming a huge fan of your site and your blog. i think this is exactly what i need to take my body to the next level. i am currently doing a 12/12. 12hr eating window, 12hr fast. i am slowly by the week getting closer to my goal of 8/16. i am wondering is there a cut off or at least a minimum for it to be considered IF? is 12/12 considered IFing?

    • Johnny says:

      Hi jayson,

      there are not hard rules to IF, but, depending what literature you’re reading, the favorable metabolic response to fasting occurs around 12 hours and accumulates up to about 22 hours or more. But don’t obsess with the minutia as the concept is to go longer between two feedings. I haven’t seen much research beyond 72 hours.

      Best,
      Johnny

  15. Dale says:

    I giggle whenever I read “IF’ing.” I wonder if skeptics complain about our “F’ing IF’ing” ? 😉

  16. jayson says:

    johnny, thanks for answering. i really like your site. i have been going back to your blogs from the start and its soooo much good info. amazing. i would like to ask one thing that i cant seem to find it anywhere and being primal/paleo of course im hearing one side of the story and i just want to know your stand on peanuts and peanut butter. of course all natural and raw. do you eat peanuts?

  17. jayson says:

    i read your post long ago about the ratios. i think my goal ratio might need tweaking. can you confirm. if i read your info right my plan was to start eating at 9am, eat at 12 and final at 530-6pm. would that mean that my fed state would last until approx 10pm (13hrs) therefor my fasted state would be until 9am next day (11hrs). did i do that right?

    • Johnny says:

      Hi jaysaon,

      Just keep it simple and consider only the time between actual feedings… don’t worry about gut emptying as it varies depending on what type of food you’ve eaten and how much.

      Best,
      Johnny

  18. Dale says:

    Johnny –
    On the off-chance you missed my question, I’ll take this opportunity to rephrase: is there something about spending more time in post-absorption phase that obviates energy balance theory ? Doesn’t it still come down to consumption vs expenditure, calories in/calories out ?

    • Johnny says:

      Hi Dale,

      Yes, calories-in, calories-out is still the indisputable driver of body weight management. Earlier when I said that it’s not as simple as that in the real world, I was commenting on the many social, behavioral and psychological aspect of calorie-intake and calorie-output. For example, there are many social, behavioral and psychological cues that make one reach for more food or sit longer on the coach. Along with that is perhaps food choices, such as hyper-palatability and its addictive value. These things are the complexity that drives the calories-in, calories-out equation in the real world. This is what I mean by saying that IF is so effective at overcoming whatever complications might make eating less so challenging.

      I hope that helps!

      Best,
      Johnny

  19. Sondra Rose says:

    Johnny~
    I thought you had posted a link some time ago to a study indicating that short-term fasting increased leptin sensitivity. Even with your groovy new search widget, I was unable to find it. Was I imagining things?

    Regardless, do you know of any human studies on fasting and leptin sensitivity?

    I’ve found a couple of mice studies:
    http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/20538900
    http://diabetes.diabetesjournals.org/content/53/5/1253.full

    Thanks!
    Sondra

    • Johnny says:

      Hi Sondra,

      Here are some reasons that I don’t worry too much about leptin and its effect on human metabolism.

      http://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/10.1111/j.1365-2265.2006.02684.x/full

      Also check out the information throughout the full paper here:

      http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2667664/

      “Leptin concentrations are positively correlated with the amount of body fat. However, although obese subjects are hyperleptinemic compared with lean persons, they appear either to be tolerant or resistant to the central hypothalamic effects of leptin.”

      Leptin is secreted in a pulsatile fashion and in addition to short-term calorie condition (high or low intake level), its fluctuation is biologically normal and unpredictable. The first study above shows that in human, unlike in mice, leptin level does not appear affect metabolic rate and metabolic rate does not appear to affect leptin level. The second study shows excess body weight and low body weight associate with either leptin resistance or leptin tolerance (respectively).

      Also, I cannot currently locate the papers on this, but I remember reading (studying) that leptin level is not shown to affect the rate of fat loss so long as growth hormones, glucagon and other catecholamines are present. Logically.

      And we know that obesity and hyperinsulinemia is associated with leptin resistance, and we also know that fasting lowers insulin and can return insulin to within normal in people, which is reasonable to postulate that fasting can promote leptin sensitivity.

      http://www.nature.com/ijo/journal/v28/n10/full/0802753a.html

      Leptin is a pretty complicated hormone and the diet and health industry mostly misunderstand it and market the information absolutely poorly.

      Hope this helps,

      Johnny

  20. lcsnow13 says:

    Society today seems to always want to complicate things! Bigger is better, more is better! I like to keep things as simple as possible, Love the phrase ‘Move more eat less!”

  21. Jordan says:

    Hello Johnny,

    As I’m not sure if you volontarily decided to not answer to my question and Daniel’s, I just wanted to say that I’m still interested if you’re ok to answer to it.
    I’ll benefit from this occasion to reformulate simplier my request:
    1) How a sample of your daily diet looks like when maintaining effortlessly your BF under 10%?
    2) And, if you’re trying to get back to this condition how would you proceed in term of daily diet (one meal a day? how this(ese) meal(s) would look like?)?

    Thanks in advance!

  22. Kashka says:

    Hey Johnny
    I read that there was a 10 year study of women that concluded skipping breakfast or dieting for more than 14 hours a day may increase the chances of getting gallstone. Have you read any research on that? Thanks.
    Kash

    • Johnny says:

      Kashka, I’ve read this a while ago also and I’d been skeptical on many levels. The calories of the subjects studied were very low and also contained very little dietary fat — dietary fat helps the gall bladder contract to remove content. Also, their *rate* of weight loss was very aggressive. And a very small percentage of those (who aggressively lost the weight) got symptomatic gallstone. The benefits of losing the weight actually exponentially outweighs the relatively (statistically) low risk of gallstone. Skipping breakfast was a behavior only associated with weight loss or gallstone. [The logical flaw goes something like this: Some people who lost weight also skipped breakfast; some people who lost weight also got gallstone — therefore those who skipped breakfast got gallstone. It’s a common logical error in the lay media.]

      Millions of people did not eat breakfast for thousands of years. Millions more around the world do not currently eat breakfast.

      Steady weight loss. Eat sufficient healthful fat. Stay active. Like millions of people did for thousands of years.

      Best,
      Johnny

  23. Ray says:

    Hi Johnny,

    I have been IF’ing now for 16 months. I believe it has been the easiest way for me to lose weight. I have lost 40 lbs.. I seem to have hit a plateau and I am trying to get past it by exercising and extending the fasting period. However, it’s not working. I am open to suggestions. Thanks and keep your comments coming. Ray

    • Robert C. Morreale says:

      you need to take a break, try a small calorie surplus say 200 – 300 extra per day. you may need to gain 5 lbs slowly then start the weight loss again. boost your GH levels with intense but short bouts of resistance training (45 min max). make sure you’re getting 7 – 8 hours sleep, GH production is greatest during the first 1 – 2 hours of rem sleep.

  24. jayson says:

    just wanted to say, i moved to my 16hr fating window this weekend. it is so easy. i love it. thanks for all the info on the site. im looking forward to this new lifestyle

  25. DM says:

    Concerning fat loss and IF what makes the bigger impact, the calorie deficit or the IF window where the body is using fat for energy? I suppose maybe both of them together will have more of an impact than just one or the other???

    • Haley says:

      I think it’s the combination of both. Johnny can correct me here if I’m wrong, but going longer without food will cause your body to burn fat for energy. It seems the calorie deficit will just force your body to get to that point sooner. Just my opinion. 🙂

      • Robert C. Morreale says:

        both are needed, there has to be a deficit before any weight loss takes place. IF’ing forces your body to use fat for fuel instead of sugar as insulin will be low.

  26. Pingback: » Favorite Posts on Intermittent Fasting Project Lean

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