Monday, April 13, 2009

Questions & Answers

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Threw together some forum posts/replies to intermittent fasting related questions made in recent weeks, just to let you know that I'm still alive.

Had two clients competing this weekend, and they both placed very well, so keep your eyes peeled for the client update I'm going to put up later this week or next.


Questions & Answers

Breakfast

Question: "Do you think it is possible that breakfast is actually unhealthy for humans and we're not wired for it?

When I was in elementary and middle school I never had breakfast, I didn't have any instinct to eat at waking time. My siblings and parents ate their breakfast looking like zombies and after their breakfast they were even more lightheaded.

On the way to school I actually would begin to feel extremely good and concentrated. At school I never had problems following the lessons, taking notes, memorizing. I would skip recession eating as well. I have always noticed my classmates being less productive and more confused after their recession. I had high grades and school was easy for me.

Beginning high school I was pressured into having breakfast and eating something at recession. As I introduced breakfast in my nutrition I started to lose concentration in classroom, I was ravenously hungry at recession and my grades started to suffer. I was lightheaded the whole morning and couldn't memorize things well.

After almost one year I was feeling worse the whole day (failing to make a connection with the addition of breakfast) I was so sick at the idea of eating one day that I skipped breakfast, and that morning I felt again good and concentrated in classroom. I finally decided to remove breakfast realizing that my instinct knew better than my doctor. I found out a lot of students who skip breakfast (consciously) feel a lot better and are a lot more productive and concentrated.

I have talked with people who keep telling me that if they have breakfast, a ravenous hunger is triggered the whole day and they would never stop eating. Yet if they follow their body lack of hunger in the morning, they never develop that hunger. Except for people who adapted by making an habit out of it, I don't know anyone who naturally feel the need to eat at waking time. Most people, expecially middle school students, I talk to gets sick at the idea of eating in the morning."

...I have always been told that at waking time our blood sugar are low and we need to eat. " (original post shortened)

Answer: While I don't necessarily think eating breakfast is 'unhealthy', it is certainly not a meal pattern we would be wired for from an evolutionary perspective. But then again, humans are highly adaptable and I'm not arguing that we should be clinging to what our ancestors did.

I can relate to some of the other things you've written, namely less alertness from consuming breakfast (and getting hungrier during classes). Some of my clients report better grades and motivation upon omitting breakfast as well.

Blood sugar is maintained within a very narrow range even during fasting. It never falls low enough to cause problems with attributes related to mental alertness unless you have a metabolic disorder (i.e diabetes) or raise insulin through exogenous means.

This was recently demonstrated in a study* using a wide variety of tests during a 48 hr time period, showing no detrimental effect of fasting (vs maintenance level calorie intake).

The authors of that study closes with the following

"It should be noted that preservation of cognitive function during
periods of restricted availability of food is a highly adaptive
mechanism. If adult human brain function rapidly deteriorated as
a consequence of underfeeding, the ability to obtain food would
be significantly degraded, which from a survival or evolutionary
perspective would not be desirable."

So, there is certainly no need to consume food upon waking in order to function properly from a cognitive perspective. And for some, like me, breakfast consumption may even impair concentration and focus for the remainder of the day.

*Lieberman et al. A double-blind, placebo-controlled test of 2 d of calorie deprivation: effects on cognition, activity, sleep, and interstitial glucose concentrations. Am J Clin Nutr. 2008 Sep;88(3):667-76

*More on this at the end of this post*

Feeding window

Question: "What are your thoughts about changing your window daily or weekly depending, Martin?

For example. I had my eating window from 13 to 22 yesterday, so I started my new window at 14 today. Now I'm thinking to eat my cals to 18:00 and then eat tomorrow @ 10:00 again. Seems logical?"

Answer: I would not recommend switching it up just for the sake of randomness. There are benefits in keeping the feeding window fairly constant, such as adaptations concerning the hunger hormone ghrelin (which tend to rise at times you're normally accustomed to eating). Vary it for practicality's sake, if anything.

Cortisol and fasting

Question: "Does fasting raise cortisol?"

Answer: No. Cortisol is regulated in a diurnal fashion and studies show that various meal frequencies and short term fasting has very little influence over it. Recent studies found no significant change in the rhythm of cortisol secretion, regardless of meal patterns, nor after 22 hrs of fasting.

Periods of environmental light are more important than meal times/frequency in regulating this hormone. Cortisol secretion is always highest in the early morning and lowest between 2000 and 2400 h.

Ramadan fasting alters diurnal rhytm, but leads to a decrease in mean cortisol.

Prolonged fasting and/or starvation is another deal.

Hunger and adaptation

Question: "13 hours in to my first day of IF and OMG I am hungry."

Answer: The hunger hormone ghrelin adapts to your habitual meal pattern, meaning you tend to get hungry on the times you normally eat.

A few days of adaptation may be required. And this varies between individuals, as some people find fasting easy from the get go, while others require a few days for the transition to the new meal pattern to be complete (meaning the fasting will become more or less effortless).

Fasted workouts

Question:"I have done workouts on an empty stomach for over a half a year now and I think it's better on empty than eating a regular meal a few hours before it. Biologically we humans are programmed very well to train this way."

Answer: Yes, training on an empty stomach is not a big deal, had some fantastic fasted workouts myself, but like I've said countless times before pre-workout nutrition is almost as important as post-workout nutrition. This is verified by research.

Now, pre-workout nutrition doesn't necessarily mean a full meal, but based on everything we know having some whey or BCAA shortly prior to, or during, the workout would be a much wiser choice than going through it completely fasted.

"Clean" eating

Question: "Ive been reading through the forums. I thought you have to get the clean foods like egg whites,chicken, fish, vegtables oats, sweet potatoe in order to get to 6 or 7% body fat. Some you you say you eat mcdonalds and cookies and still get the leanest you ever got. How is this possible when you see bodybuilders and most nutritionist on the websites saying you have to eat clean for you to get results? "

Answer: I've gotten ripped eating ice cream and cereal 3x/week. Clean foods are beneficial in terms of providing satiety and not providing as much temptation as 'unclean' foods or whatever you wanna call them.

I do agree that the majority of foods eaten on a diet should be clean*, but it's not an all-or-nothing deal (even though a lot of bodybuilders make it out to be). Regularily including some unclean stuff, may help with diet adherance and protect against unplanned binges - and may ultimately help with diet maintenance in the long term.

* not interested in semantic analysis, everyone knows what I mean.

Breakfast again

(in reply to another question pertaining to the need of eating breakfast and studies on the topic)

There's been heaps of studies "showing" that breakfast is good and healthy. How? Well, they're correlational.

Example

Breakfast eaters weigh less, as seen in a studiy looking at the eating habits and BMI of 10k+ US adults*

Conclusion

Breakfast must be good for you

* = eating breakfast implies fairly regulated eating habits.

That is, people who don't eat breakfast are more likely to show dysregulated eating patters; average joe skipping breakfast sure as shit isn't thinking "I'm doing IF now". He's the type to grab a donut on the way to work, eat junk food for lunch and finish the day off with a big dinner and snack in front of the TV.

Now, I'm not against children and teens eating breakfast, or anyone else for that matter, but given what I just demonstrated above, it might give you a hint on what the claim that breakfast = good for studying/tests is based on.

For example, breakfast skipping children probably usually come from different socioeconomic backgrounds/households vs breakfast eating children.

It may very well be that breakfast eaters ---> perform better than breakfast skippers ---> because they come from a familiy where breakfast eating is enforced ---> this implies a supportive or "stable" family---> children from supportive/stable families perform better on school tests etc.

Just an example. I'm not familiar with the particular study your teacher refers to.

In adults however, it has been demonstrated that fasting does not impact negatively on various cognitive tests (as recently evidenced by a study that had participants fasting for 48 hrs).

24 comments:

Anonymous said...

Nice post man. You should do this more often:) Keep up the good work!

- Aron

PS. Been doing IF since october and I'm loving it.

Jones said...

Hi Martin,

Thank you for taking the time to awnser some questions, I have some mroe :P

Related to you awnser @ pre-workout nutrition,

Why is pre workout nutrition better if your GH levels are higher on an empty stomach?*EatstopEat

And what is your oppinion on post work out nutrition?
My confusion is here--> To be able to digest protein you need fats, right? What is the function of the carbohybrate in the recovery process? And how much is needed during cutting/adding process?

Have you read the book: The Warrior Diet and/or the Anti Estrogenic Diet, by Ori Hofmekler ? What do you think about the principles of undereating and overeating, and the statement of that we are "noctural" eaters, and supposed to eat the gross of our food at night and only lightly during the day?

LOlfitness said...

Nice post. I have only been IF'ing for two weeks, but I love it! I'm a woman and I do the 16/8 fasts, I know you advocate 14/10 for women, haven't noticed any averse effects you talked about...

David said...

Great post, as always Martin.

Max said...

I am also interested to hear your opinion about Warrior Diet / Hofmekler approach to IF. I have read Ori's books and they sound fairly reasonable to me.

Your clients results seem to be quite good, however most of them seem to be already in pretty good fit and have rather low fat% in the beginning (Robert beeing the expection).

Have your clients had good results when trying to increase muscle mass and loose fat? I am looking forward to buy your book!

Martin Berkhan said...

"Why is pre workout nutrition better if your GH levels are higher on an empty stomach?*EatstopEat"

GH is mainly a catabolic hormone (though it has protein sparing effects). It's primary function being to mobilize fatty acids; good for fat loss, but it's certainly not an anabolic hormone. If it was, everyone would grow muscle by going through dehydration, starvation and sleep loss - factors which all tends to increase GH output.

During and after workouts, you'd be well served to take advantage of the benefits of pre-workout nutrition on protein synthesis. Omitting the pre-workout meal is simply not a sound choice, considering the scientifically proven benefits (for example, the superior ps rates in groups ingesting amino acids pre-wo vs fasted control groups) that no doubt would outweigh the benefits of any small extra GH completely fasted workouts would generate.

However, I do think that compromising, by doing "fasted" workouts with 10 g BCAA pre-workout might be quite close to getting the best from both worlds (extra GH, extra protein synthesis) in this case.

"My confusion is here--> To be able to digest protein you need fats, right? "

No.

"What is the function of the carbohybrate in the recovery process?"

Muscle glycogen replenishment first hand, inhibition of protein breakdown second hand.

"And how much is needed during cutting/adding process?"

Depends.

"The Warrior Diet and/or the Anti Estrogenic Diet, by Ori Hofmekler ?"

I've read the Warrior Diet, yes.

"What do you think about the principles of undereating and overeating,"

I think highly of it, and it is the way I've set up diets for myself and my clients for years.

"and the statement of that we are "noctural" eaters, and supposed to eat the gross of our food at night and only lightly during the day?"

Maybe not nocturnal, but certainly not a breakfast eater. But it doesn't matter, man is extremely adaptable. We ate in terms of food availability.

Martin Berkhan said...

"I'm a woman and I do the 16/8 fasts, I know you advocate 14/10 for women, haven't noticed any averse effects you talked about..."

That doesn't surprise me, many women do well on the 16/8 split. However, there is a slight tendency for men being able to tolerate longer fasts better, supported by both anecdote/client feedback and studies, which is why I use the 14/10 by default and leave the option of 16/8 open.

Martin Berkhan said...

"I am also interested to hear your opinion about Warrior Diet / Hofmekler approach to IF. I have read Ori's books and they sound fairly reasonable to me."

Warrior Diet is not IF. I'm not sure what part of WD it is you found sounded fairly reasonable, as I personally found it to be full of esoteric gibberish and no scientific discourse.

"Have your clients had good results when trying to increase muscle mass and loose fat?"

I would say so, yes. Relatively speaking of course, given the time frame I put up the before/afters (4-12 weeks usually).

sandro said...

hi Martin!

good site,good information,thanks..

I know that Carbs have proteins sparing effect.is it same things about liver glicogen?if our liver is empty,and our brain can't be refueled with is primary source of "gas",is it true that our body start to break down protein as fat for refuel our brain?

Ciao
Sandro

Adam of Eden said...

I understand that carbs are protein-sparing, but are there any types of studies where there is a figure of a certain amount threshold? I remember Lyle saying somewhere along the lines of 15-50 grams.

Also, I don't get why people are making such a big fuss over growth hormone levels. Its not anabolic, unless taken in extreme amounts.

Jones said...

Adam of eden:
"Also, I don't get why people are making such a big fuss over growth hormone levels. Its not anabolic, unless taken in extreme amounts."

I think it is just a matter of what you read, and what is the "trend" in the media,

Martin Berkhan said...

"if our liver is empty,and our brain can't be refueled with is primary source of "gas",is it true that our body start to break down protein as fat for refuel our brain? "

Gluconeogenesis, the conversion of protein (primarily alanine and glutamin) to blood glucose, increases as liver glycogen gradually becomes depleted. This is normal, occurs between meals and it occurs during fasting; however, without being too technical, this does not mean you burn up muscle during fasting. The amino acids used in the process are rapidly repleted/replaced with the next meal.

Also, consider that, if you're following my approach to IF, you will have dietary amino acids in the bloodstream for many hours into the fast (thus providing further 'protection' against potential muscle catabolism).

Martin Berkhan said...

"I understand that carbs are protein-sparing, but are there any types of studies where there is a figure of a certain amount threshold?"

Yes, there are, but in conclusion, it's a dose-response type of relationsship. The more dietary carbs you ingest, the lesser the need for de novo gluconeogenesis.

Anonymous said...

Martin,

I just want to take a quick second and thank you; not only for the site, but for taking the time to respond to questions, comments, etc. I'm sure you're busy as hell and commend you for taking the time to still interact with guests of your site.

It's a breath of fresh air to run across someone in this industry who is intelligent, analytical, and espouses principles rooted in science vs. pure rubbish.

IF is great - your site is great - keep spreading the word and changing lives!

-a fan of your work

Martin Berkhan said...

Glad to hear my writings are appreciated. Thanks for your kind words.

Anonymous said...

Would your IF setup work with an high-fat and low-carb diet? Or something about IF makes it usable only with lower-fat and higher carb nutrition?

By low carb I mean 70 grams of carbs a day and by high fat I mean 180 grams of fats a day. Protein would still be 1 gram per 1 pound of lbw.

Martin Berkhan said...

"Would your IF setup work with an high-fat and low-carb diet? Or something about IF makes it usable only with lower-fat and higher carb nutrition? "

I set up the diets in a cyclical fashion. Carbs low on rest days, carbs higher on training days. "Higher" is a relative term, but most people I've worked with did at least 1,25 g cho/kg and that's quite low by usual standards. Enough to take you out of ketosis though.

Now, if you ask that as a general question, if IF can be be used in conjunction with a non-cyclical low carb diet (i.e carbs always at 70 g per your suggestion), then yes, sure, but I don't think it's optimal if you're weight training, or are engaged in some other form of anaerobic activity.

Wil said...

Hey Martin,

Just wanted to thank you for this blog and your generosity in sharing what you know... speaking of which, how is your book coming along?

Thanks again,
Wil

Martin Berkhan said...

Wil,

glad you like my blog.

As for my book, I haven't found time to write much on it lately. One might ask why I don't take a month off from everything else and finish the damn thing, but that's not an option.

But don't worry, it will be out and it will be good. That last part is my first and foremost priority, as opposed to a faster release.

6p00d83451612b69e2 said...

Martin,

In reagrds to breakfast and evolution: in one of Loren Cordain's newsletters, he talked about hunter-gather meal patterns. He stated that there was almost always a large evening meal, sometimes leftovers for breakfast, and that lunch was rarely or never consumed.

Therefore, I think that eating breakfast is natural, though perhaps just not every day.

VegardGoogleGroups said...

Great post! As written: Post more often! :) And we need a forum, also. To discuss

I am a very happy customer from Martin Berkhan.

The Intermittent Fasting approach is just what I was searching for.

Reason beeing? Easier to eat less calories without the hunger and hassle with eating the whole day as dictated in the 80s.

Better alertness, productivity, mood and concentration in the work day.

A lean body with less effort == easier to stick to the diet.

Frank said...

great blog and great client results. I was wondering your take on health, like people that suffers from allergies, asthma etc. do you work on curing that aswell?

Frank said...

forgot to add, have u ever experienced with people struggling with thyroid problems or other metabolic problems? after so much fasting?

Martin Berkhan said...

"I was wondering your take on health, like people that suffers from allergies, asthma etc. do you work on curing that aswell?"

Not my area of expertise.

"forgot to add, have u ever experienced with people struggling with thyroid problems or other metabolic problems? after so much fasting?"

No, since it's not the fasting per se that causes these problems.




My name is Martin Berkhan and I work as a nutritional consultant, magazine writer and personal trainer.

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