Why Intermittent Fasting Fails Most People
Alright guys. Today I’m going to review a blog post over at T Nation, as it’s been drawn to my attention via Twitter several times now. It’s called “Why Intermittent Fasting fails most people, and you can read it here.
Christian Thibaudeau is widely respected in the ‘fitness circles’, particularly in strength training. I’ve been aware of him for well over 8 years and have read plenty of his articles before.
So this is going to have to be one of those “with all due respect, but…” objections.
I have to say though, this is not the first time he’s written something ‘questionable’. I suspect he does it on purpose because he’s clearly smart, but I’m guessing he does it to generate controversy.
Let’s get into it…
First paragraph and straight away, you can tell he’s looking at Intermittent Fasting irrationally, and I’m not sure if he’s doing this on purpose:
“The appeal of skipping meals.”
If you’ve read any of my blog posts before, you know that I don’t advocate it as ‘skipping breakfast’. Because that implies you’re continuing to have a ‘normal’ lunch and ‘normal’ dinner without any adjustment for calories.
Which would be stupid.
Because you’d now be hungry as hell, in danger of losing muscle mass, and you’re not even eating any more in the evening which is one of the main benefits of Intermittent Fasting, due to the flexbility that it brings.
You’re not skipping anything. You’re shifting the calories from the morning (when you don’t need them) to the evening (when you do need them due to willpower being at its lowest).
You can get into a calorie deficit later (once you’ve adapted to the new eating patterns), and the size of this deficit is up to you.
But this is a separate issue from fasting itself. You could be in a MASSIVE calorie deficit under the Intermittent Fating system, you could be at maintenance, or you could be in a surplus. Up to you.
In the very same pararaph:
“People become easily seduced by the more extreme diets, and one that’s making a comeback is intermittent fasting.”
Yes, Intermittent Fasting is so extreme that it’s what our bodies have been doing since the dawn of time. So extreme that it’s what we were quite literally designed to do since we were cavemen.
Were cavemen chowing down on breakfast, lunch and dinner like little societally-programmed-conformist-pussy-robots?
But on a more serious note, if you’re consuming either a calorie surplus, maintenance, or a modest calorie deficit every single day (any of which is perfectly fine under IF depending on your goals), then I’m sorry, but you’re going to have a really hard time convincing anyone that IF is ‘extreme’.
Your case would be even harder if I was to tell you that technically, you can eat anything. I wouldn’t advise eating junk. Ever. But there are no bullshit (and usually unnecessary) restrictions on food choices like there are with:
- Just about any other diet out there
Which is why IF is not a diet. It’s a system that revolves around maximising the best use of your daily calorie ‘budget’ through timing.
No food restrictions. No starving yourself.
Yeah, very extreme.
Now, if you were to say “my friend was doing Intermittent Fasting and he was only eating 500 calories per day, and it seemed extreme to me” then yes, you’d be correct.
But it’s not Intermittent Fasting at this point that’s making it extreme, it’s the sheer lack of calories consumed. Same with any diet – if calories go too low at any point, it instantly becomes extreme, regardless of food restrictions or timing restrictions.
Simply making better food choices or tracking calories isn’t “hardcore enough.”
I agree with this in the sense that people seriously need to learn how to track their energy intake and get a good feel for where their maintenance calories are at any given point in time.
You can’t just guess with this stuff.
It’s not all binary. ‘Good’ or ‘bad.’ You’ve got to factor in quantity.
But the benefits of IF are nothing to do with ‘hardcore-ism’. If you want to be hardcore then go and do MMA or better yet, join the SAS or Seals.
The benefits of IF over ‘normal’ eating patterns are that it’s very easy to eat less food, thus you lose fat more easily and you keep it off.
You even say this later on in the article (or at least strongly imply it) when you say you never gain much weight whilst fasting.
And WHY do you think that is??
I’ll tell you – it’s because you have a hard time eating enough calories to get your ass into a surplus. It’s not because of some magical, evil, muscle-stopping demons that are released when you extend your fast from 10-12 hours to 16-18 hours (or whatever).
Again, it all comes down to calories. And specifically, your ability to manipulate your desire to consume the right amount of calories for your goal (whatever that may be).
A little rationality and common-sense is all that’s required here folks.
Further down the page:
“In all the cases you’ll notice one thing: I never gained a significant amount of muscle. Every time I used intermittent fasting it was to lose weight/fat or at least avoid gaining it.”
Yep, you’re proving my point here. Intermittent Fasting works really well for eating less food with relative ease, assuming you’re not a complete moron which you correctly hinted at before – moron, meaning either:
A) You think fasting means you can suddenly eat whatever you want later in the day and just binge on Ben n Jerry’s and cookies (I don’t think many people are this stupid, judging by my interactions on social media), or more commonly;
B) You end up being too aggressive with the calorie deficit and pushing it too hard to the point whereby you’re in a vicious starve-binge cycle (because you can’t psychologically maintain the deficit).
Now, you CAN gain muscle on IF if you get yourself into a surplus.
But most people struggle to eat enough, so they don’t. It’s not because going without food for an extra handful of hours suddenly stops protein synthesis from occurring…obviously.
“Who Can Build Muscle With It?
My estimate is about 20% of the population. Those would be the cortisol under-producers. People who have almost zero anxiety, people who don’t get stressed about anything, those who have ice in their veins, and are amazing under pressure. They can get away with intermittent fasting when trying to build muscle. Everybody else will either stay about the same (muscle wise) or lose muscle.”
This is a perfect example of why I always had a bit of a problem with his writings. I like his stuff on training most of the time. But he’s completely irrational, and it doesn’t sit well with me. Why?
Firstly he’s completely ignored the most important variable in determining your muscle gain success:
If you’re not in a surplus, you’re not gaining muscle! (Barring a couple of caveats with gear, newbies etc.)
You’re seriously going to sit there and tell me that you could consume a daily calorie surplus of 500+ and not gain ANY muscle with Intermittent Fasting?
For heaven’s sake.
It’s not about cortisol or anxiety. They factor in, but AFTER total net energy balance.
It’s about whether or not you’re eating enough. Now, if you were to counter me and say “Yes okay, I concede that the root of the problem is not fasting, it is indeed calories. But good luck eating a 500+ calorie surplus in a 6-8 hour window, dumbass!” then you would have a point.
But then it all comes down to appetite management. Some people need it, some don’t. Some people need IF to stop them from getting fat whilst bulking, etc.
You have things like caffeine, protein intake, fiber and lots more that will factor into your appetite.
If you’re eating ridiculous amounts of protein because your gym ‘bro’ told you to, you should probably cut back and get more carbs in. That 250g of protein (when you’re a 160 pound skinny-fat kid, or whatever) is going to keep you WAY too full.
You should also stop drinking coffee etc.
It’s not Intermittent Fasting that’s the problem. It’s not consuming enough calories that’s the problem. There are many other ways to make it easier to get more calories in than simply blaming IF.
Alright that will do me for today as this post is getting long.
If you want to know exactly how to lean bulk with Intermittent Fasting, then I am answering this in February’s newsletter at IFFT.
In this newsletter you will also learn:
- How to meal prep effectively
- How to get good at pull-ups
- How to do Intermittent Fasting when working out in the early morning
- How to maximise your natural testosterone
- How to develop killer home workouts
All in February’s edition.
You can get in for $37 here.