It’s funny how things evolve.
When I first began experimenting with various eating and fasting protocols, the changes were small at first.
I began by jumping full-bore into the carbophobic-Atkins loving, bacon-buffet, carbs will kill you, William Davis-worshipping crowd. Did avoiding carbs at all costs work? Yessir. Lost a good amount of weight.
I thought it was magic.
After my weight loss plateaued, I began tinkering with Brad Pilon’s “Eat, Stop, Eat”, incorporating 24-hour fasts into my weekly schedule. On Tuesdays and Thursdays, I would eat dinner only. And the weight loss continued.
I thought that was magic, too.
But then, amazingly, the weight loss slowed yet again. (Damn hormones.)
Which is when I came across Martin Berkhan and his Leangains approach.
It was more moderate – the fast was shorter, and it allowed for carbohydrates after weight training sessions.
Admittedly, this was the first time I looked very closely at the exact amounts of protein, carbs, or fat I was taking in. And the results? They were shocking.
And it was magic yet again.
Or so I thought.
I’ve been riding the Leangains train for years now.
I don’t think I’m ever getting off.
I’ve gotten to the point where even thinking about ingesting breakfast sounds stupid.
I haven’t eaten anything before 10 am in over two years.
It’s not that I’m obsessive with the window.
It’s simply that I work. And I prefer to drink my black coffee until lunch.
It helps me clear my head, it amps me up a bit (gotta love those catecholamines), I feel unbelievably productive, and in a weird sort of way, I honestly believe this is how human beings are supposed to eat.
It’s completely anecdotal, but it just “feels right”.
I barely even consider it “fasting” anymore.
It just feels like, “skipping breakfast”.
But I’m here to tell you this right now: IT’S. NOT. MAGIC.
In general calories in vs. calories out is the name of the game. Is that completely true? Well, no.
But it’s hard to deny that if you consume more calories than you expand, you will gain weight.
And subsequently, if you consume less calories than you expand, you will lose weight. There are ways to manipulate the equation, sure. But simplistically, this is exactly what happens.
When I was a carbophobe, was my diet allowing for “magic” to occur? Was the insulin fairy coming by at night, sprinkling me with low-blood-sugar-dust, causing fat to be shed at an alarming rate?
Nah. I was eating less calories due to the meat and fat filling me up more.
When I began incorporating 24-hour fasts into my regimen, did the fasts allow for an abnormally high rate of fat burning, due to the lack of fuel in my stomach, resulting in weight loss “magic”?
Nah. I was still avoiding carbs and eating pretty much all meat and fat. And then I started skipping meals. Even less calories meant even more weight loss.
When I hopped on the Leangains train, and began tracking very closely my macronutrient intake, did the nutrient partitioning benefits of Leangains create further “magic”, stripping my body of the last remaining shreds of fat?
Nah. I was absolutely STARVED for carbs. I’m sure my hormonal profile was crap, and Leangains righted some of those hormones. A weight trainer should never go that low on calories – it’s near impossible to recover from your workouts.
And perhaps you’re somewhere in this journey, too. Fearing carbs. Maybe you’re one of those “hybrids” who follows a 16-8 fasting pattern but likes to throw in 24-hour fasts from time to time.
No matter what you’re doing, I can assure you this: No weight loss plan is magic. None. No shake, no supplement, no vitamin, no anything. Regardless of what Dr. Oz says.
There. Is. No. Magic.
When a client comes to me and says, “Wow, Jason! This is like magic! I’m eating WAY more than I was before! And I’m losing weight! And feeling awesome! How on God’s green Earth is this happening?” it makes me smile.
Here’s what’s happening………………..
1. You have eliminated snacking.
This is probably the biggest caveat as to why you are losing weight.
Somewhere, our society has lost sight of traditional meal times.
Every second of every day has become a “food and snacks free-for-all”. We all do it.
We feel as if we are depriving others a basic human right if we tell them to wait two hours because it’s not dinner time yet.
It would be quite an interesting experiment to closely track how many calories people consume outside of traditional meal times.
Whether it’s a 10 am snack, a 3 pm “pick me up” or dessert on the couch after dinner. Eliminating this sort of behavior will go a long way in maintaining and keeping health and fitness for life.
With intermittent fasting, whether you’re following Berkhan’s approach and eating lunch, dinner, and then “post-dinner”, for a total of 3 meals, or you’re simply skipping breakfast and eating two large meals like Andy Morgan recommends, you almost always stop snacking.
It’s not magic, it’s becoming aware of, and eliminating, mindless snacking.
2. You have stopped drinking calories.
Now, do I think drinking pop, juice, milk, or a mocha frappucino “makes” you gain weight? Nope. Not at all.
It’s completely possible to be lean and trim while consuming those beverages.
You can even consume them daily if you’d like.
But if you’re intermittent fasting correctly, you’re tracking your macronutrient intake.
And the first thing you realize is that if you have 200 grams of carbs per day, and you drink 3 pops per day, you pretty much have zero carb grams left.
And that would be a very poor decision.
I must admit, I tell my clients to stop drinking their calories right away.
Some consultants and trainers might shy away from making such absolute statements.
Some may cringe and think I’m setting my clients up to “fear” certain food types.
In honesty, I simply want my clients to realize that their choices are their choices – but we need to make them wisely.
And Mountain Dew isn’t a wise choice.
It’s not magic, it’s making better choices to meet your caloric needs.
3. You are eating more whole foods.
Again, I feel the need for a disclaimer:
You can lose and/or maintain weight effectively regardless of your food choices.
It’s merely the amount you need to look at.
With that being said, when you begin on Leangains, there is a real tendency to shift towards a more whole-foods approach to eating.
When you have a finite, set amount of a certain food type to eat, and you’re in a calorie deficit in order to lose fat, you want to be sure your choice allows you the maximum amount of satisfaction.
It’s a delicate balance to find some foods that taste good and fill you up adequately at the same time. And guess what?
They’re almost always whole foods.
What fills you up more effectively? A whey shake or half a pound of chicken? Two tablespoons of ranch dressing or 5 eggs? Frosted Flakes or a baked potato? A bowl of ice cream or a bowl of rice?
I think you get the point.
Why is your stomach so full?
You’re eating whole, unprocessed, nutrient-dense food. You are starting to steer clear of the processed, calorie-dense food you find in the aisles of most grocery stores.
It’s not magic, it’s making a deliberate decision to eat more unprocessed food in an attempt to remain satisfied and satiated while losing weight.
4. You are counting your calories.
News flash: Are you counting macros? Yes? Then you’re counting your calories.
It’s as simple as that.
When your meal plan is created, one of the very first things that is done is there has been an estimation of your maintenance calories, and a deficit has been created.
That’s before any macronutrient target number has been created. I tell every single client the following:
Your success lies with your ability to count your macronutrients and hit those numbers exactly. Not over, not under, but right on. Do this and you will have fantastic results. Guaranteed.
Dirty little secret/translation: Eat below maintenance daily with a well-designed meal plan which gives you the proper amount of protein, carbs, and fat for your goals and you will have good results. Pretty obvious, huh?
It’s not magic, it’s making sure you remain in a calorie deficit by managing how many calories you consume.
I think you get the point.
So, what does intermittent fasting truly do? What are the benefits? Why do it?
There’s a few reasons. Human beings have an extremely difficult time making good choices.
If you have to decide what to eat 7 times per day, and you don’t have a plan in place, that’s 7 different occasions where you might choose poorly.
And many of us do.
Intermittent fasting allows you to bunch all of those snacks and small meals into two large, satisfying meals. You’re much more likely to be filled up and satiated, at least once per day, if you use Leangains.
Which makes diet adherence easier.
Tracking your macronutrients allows you to ensure you have the proper amount of what your body truly needs. A little bit of this, a little bit of that, all that “good stuff” in moderation.
Which is key to proper diet and fitness success.
And in my humble opinion, most importantly, intermittent fasting allows you to develop an “off switch”.
You eat THIS MUCH and then you stop.
That’s a skill which, when developed, is more important than any macronutrient ratio, fasting window, nutrient partitioning, glycogen-depleting workout, or nutritional advice I can give you.
Just don’t think it’s magic.