Dear Exercise Menu Readers,

Throughout the years I have done my best to present research-backed information regarding weight loss, health and fitness to you. My philosophy for overall health is “intensity with simplicity,” and I hope that Exercise Menu reflects that.

With that being said, I want to bring to your attention a new movement in the weight loss realm. But I must warn you, the research support behind my new discovery is thin at best.

I want to talk to you about intermittent fasting. Intermittent fasting is a way of eating in which you don’t eat for prolonged periods of time. Different ways of fasting or protocols exist, such as fasting 16 hours a day (eat 8 hours per day) or fasting for 24 hours one or two days per week.

Claimed benefits of intermittent fasting include weight loss, a decrease in cholesterol, improved energy, improved mood and increased lean muscle mass.

I came into intermittent fasting because of a recent discovery that I have a genetic cholesterol disorder in which my body does not process LDL cholesterol or “bad cholesterol”, which keeps LDL cholesterol levels insanely high in my bloodstream regardless of diet or exercise habits (this is why everyone should be well-established with a primary care physician, as this was picked up during a routine screen).

In researching ways to naturally reduce my LDL without medication, I came across stories of people performing intermittent fasting with great results, such as this report. I also came across a couple of somewhat relevant studies, such as this one and this one. But after days of research, I haven’t been able to find much on proven benefits (or risks) of intermittent fasting.

I had a pretty good diet, but was much more committed to exercising regularly. Because I ate fairly healthy and was already performing regular high-intensity interval training (HIIT) and resistance training, I did not feel that there was much that I could do to further improve my high LDL levels. Hence, through desperate research, I came across intermittent fasting.

I have been doing intermittent fasting for over 2 weeks now and have been using the 16 hour fast:8 hour eat protocol. I eat from 2 to 10pm and fast from 10pm to 2pm the next day (sometimes longer if I’m not hungry at 2pm). Essentially, this only adds up to skipping breakfast and eating a later lunch! Not bad. I also drink plenty of water during fasting times, as well as, one cup of black coffee in the morning and green and black tea at will.

So far, I lost 11 pounds (which is a lot in 2 weeks) and about 2% body fat. My lean body mass has been stable, which surprised me as I was expecting it to drop. I started taking fish oil supplements and continue to use Bluebonnet’s Whey Protein Isolate that I have been using for quite a while after every workout. I  still have 6 more weeks before I get my LDL cholesterol checked again and will happily update you on those results.

As far as how I feel, I must admit that I feel much better than I did two weeks ago, not realizing that was even possible. I have to admit that I was tired most days and did not feel fully “vibrant,” but I thought that was normal considering my busy lifestyle.  Since I have started intermittent fasting, I have more energy than I know what to do with! I expected that skipping breakfast would make me feel sluggish, but my mind actually feels clearer on an empty stomach (plus being fully hydrated and the cup of coffee helps I’m sure).

I have not tried the 5 days eat: 2 days of fasting per week protocol, but this one also is gaining in popularity in both the mainstream and research realms.

Intuitively, and based on sparse information on intermittent fasting, it seems to make sense to me. Personally, I have had great results without really feeling that I am making much of a sacrifice. I noticed that I tended to make healthier food choices during my 8 hour window of time to ear because I know that is the only nutrition that I will have for the day.

From a science perspective, the best argument for intermittent fasting is based on history. Specifically, looking at how humans ate thousands of years ago supports intermittent fasting. Only in modern times did humans eat three meals per day. In the “cave days” eating was “intermittent.” People would prolonged periods of time without eating, and it seems that the body would be best adapted for that way of eating — hence, the entire reason for fat storage. If it wasn’t for these primitive times of intermittent availability of food, I doubt there would be an evolutionary need for fat at all. In today’s western world, carbs and protein are readily available all of the time.

Another supporting fact of intermittent fasting was recently brought to light in a research study that was presented in New Orleans in 2011 at the annual scientific sessions of the American College of Cardiology.

This study also confirmed earlier findings about the effects of fasting on human growth hormone (HGH), a metabolic protein. HGH works to protect lean muscle and metabolic balance, a response triggered and accelerated by fasting. During the 24-hour fasting periods, HGH increased an average of 1,300 percent in women, and nearly 2,000 percent in men.

The issue that did surface in this research is that LDL cholesterol was elevated by 14 percent. However, this makes sense if there is an increase in fat oxidation. Also HDL (“good cholesterol”) was also elevated by about 6 percent. Because fat oxidation is the goal and HDL was increased, I am not concerned about the LDL elevation which is transient. I will soon find out the long-term effect of intermittent fasting on LDL, at least for me.

There is still much work to be done regarding intermittent fasting before making a strong recommendation for it. There is also no say as to which fasting protocol is best and for whom. Either way,  if you decide to try intermittent fasting your plan should definitely be run by your doctor, particularly if you have diabetes or any other medical problems.

While I can’t strongly recommend this at this point because of a lack of strong evidence, but I wrote this post to definitely put intermittent fasting on your radar. As intermittent fasting is becoming popular, I am sure that more research is to come.

Two weeks into it, anecdotally, I am a believer. I am already leaner than I have ever been, eat healthier than I ever have before and am bursting with energy. Hopefully, this will also have a positive effect on my LDL levels.

If you have tried intermittent fasting, please share your experiences below.