Intermittent Fasting: Is It For You?

Most of what we know to be good dietary practice revolves around a few tenets that we’ve hammered home: Eat six small meals a day; eat protein with every meal; do not let yourself go into “starvation mode,” etc. One dietary trend that is gaining traction, however, throws all of these to the wind — and people are getting results with it.

It’s intermittent fasting, the most popular form of which is a “feast and fast” mode that gives you a specific time period in which you can eat, followed by another in which you don’t. There are three major components to intermittent fasting that, when we consider their role in fitness and dietary nutrition, become very interesting: insulin sensitivity, hormone production and energy storage. This article is meant to focus on the role of insulin sensitivity and the possible benefits of intermittent fasting.

Intermittent fasting: It's good enough for Wolverine. Is it good enough for you?

Intermittent fasting: It’s good enough for Wolverine. Is it good enough for you?

Anyone with a famous body do it? Yep.

What we know about how the pancreas reacts in different stages can clue us in to why intermittent fasting very well could be a viable dietary strategy. Everything we’ve come to know about the role of insulin, not only in fat loss but in muscle gain and even in diabetes, suggests that we probably don’t need to be providing blood sugar to our bodies every three hours; true enough, most people following a nutritious diet tend to stay away from the frequent carbohydrates that are eventually turned into glucose anyway. But, large calorie spikes, carb or not, can indeed cause jolts of insulin to help move and transport all those nutrients — the question is, how do we 1) take advantage of insulin, which is a natural anabolic hormone, and 2), keep our bodies sensitive to it so that we get those advantages more frequently?

Intermittent fasting — in our context, eating only in a four-to-eight-hour window immediately following exercise and eating no other calories outside of it — helps promote insulin sensitivity. When your organs and tissues are already saturated with stored glucose, ready to be used as energy at a moment’s notice, and you eat a meal, the pancreas still secretes insulin. When insulin saturates the body, though, it remains in the bloodstream, and your body becomes more and more resistant to its effects — continuing down this road of constant insulin presence in the blood leads to diabetes. Those who exercise frequently use this stored glucose as fuel, which means that when they eat, the insulin has a place to go, a role to play, instead of settling in the bloodstream. That concept is one of the main ones behind intermittent fasting: by diminishing the frequent supply of glucose in the body, you can encourage your body to instead turn to stored body fat for energy and at the same time keep it sensitive to insulin.

The Journal of Applied Physiology took a good look at this very topic, and the basic premise of its findings: the body responds to insulin the most after a period of fasting. Your blood sugar levels deplete as you sleep, and do so even more as you fast (and, as we’ll explain later this week, do so even more as you train). This can set you up for massive anabolic boosts if you choose healthy foods and time your feast periods properly (i.e., right after your workouts), and also add another major benefit: body fat loss.

Upper-Body Isometric and HIIT Workout

The true beauty of HIIT (high-intensity interval training) aerobic exercise is that it efficient AND effective. It takes less time than distance running, and burns more fat — why not do it?

The easiest way to put together an HIIT cardio plan to incorporate to your workout schedule is simple: Just paste it on to the end of your weightlifting sessions, and alternate 1 minute at 85-90 percent intensity and 1 minute of low-intensity training. So, if you’re running, you’d be sprinting for a minute followed by a minute of walking.

But, we can do you one better. For one, we’re going to cut down your intervals to 30 seconds. This will mean you can give a higher percentage of effort (over 60 seconds, your “90 percent” will be vastly diminished as opposed to just 30 seconds) and cut your rest times in half. The upshot is that you’ll work harder, but it will take less time. Again: More results, faster. Life should be as great as HIIT, right?

On top of that, we are going to add an anaerobic twist to this aerobic workout: Isometrics. If you’re pinched for time, this is a great way to add some muscle work to your HIIT routine. Since all your sprinting and walking is aerobic (requiring oxygen) and lifting is anaerobic, you can use the two in conjunction. Be warned: You really won’t be strength-training here, since most of your body’s energy will be going to the HIIT.

HIGH-INTENSITY INTERVAL AND ISOMETRIC UPPER-BODY ISOMETRIC WORKOUT

First Set: 30 seconds sprint @ 85-90 percent of max effort/30 seconds walk/30 seconds bench press hold. — For the bench press hold, simply begin a standard barbell bench, but instead of lowering it to your chest and up for reps, you’ll flex your chest and hold the barbell about 6-8 inches off your chest.

Second Set: 30 seconds sprint @ 85-90 percent of max effort/30 seconds walk/30 seconds isometric pull-up hold. — Iso holds are simply holding the top of a pull-up position (chin above the bar) with an overhand grip, using your back to keep yourself up. Remember to draw your shoulder blades back, your elbows back and down, to force your back to do the work and not your arms.

Third Set: 30 seconds sprint @ 85-90 percent of max effort/30 seconds walk/30 seconds plank.

Repeat above at least three times for a total of four times.

How to Burn Fat Through Exercise

We’ve said it a million times: The fastest way to losing body fat is through diet (or “Abs are made in the kitchen.” Take your pick). And it’s still true. Our estimate is that about 75 percent of the body fat you’ll lose has to do with what and when you’re eating. But that doesn’t mean that other 25 percent — your training — can’t figure in massively, too.

This week, we will examine four ways you can train to start burning fat: prolonged cardio, HIIT cardio, super-, tri- and giant-sets and skilled recreational training, plus we’ll provide a sample of each one and list the best supplements you can use to complement your fat-loss training. Each day, we’ll have an addition to this running blog with a way to burn fat through exercise. We’ll start today with No. 1: Distance cardio.

DISTANCE/PROLONGED CARDIO

Cardio-RoutinesThe most popular, long-touted form of aerobic exercise is about as simple as it gets: You just run around for anywhere from 10 minutes to an hour, and that’s your workout. You maintain a steady pace, focus on your breathing and keeping your legs and, sure enough, you’re beat when you’re done.

Is this our favorite form of cardio? No. But it can be effective in spots. Plus, some people really do find the run itself to be a time to decompress and think lucidly. A 2-to-3-mile jog has its benefits; runs that long definitely can start burning up fat, provided you allow your body to do so instead of catabolizing and eating muscle.

Our basic say on distance cardio wants you to follow just a couple rules:

  1. Don’t do it before your weight training, or as a warm-up. Your muscles need all the energy (glycogen) they can get for weight training. When you run before you lift, yes, you use up blood sugar and body fat for energy, which is what you want. But if you use your glycogen stores for your weight training first, your cardio will get to body fat anyway, and without the risk for catabolism. (That’s provided you supplement correctly … which leads us to our next point.)
  2. Take BCAAs before prolonged, static-state cardio, and even during if your sessions are extended. Most distance runners have a certain look: Very skinny, yes, with low body fat levels and scant musculature to go with it. Prolonged aerobic running/elliptical/treadmill activity eats up body tissue, fat and muscle, alike. Once your body is done with glucose, it turns to muscle BEFORE it turns to fat for energy. If you invest in branched-chain amino acids (BCAAs), however, you can provide a “buffer” — your muscles are protected, and fat stores are targeted instead.
  3. Challenge yourself. Our experiences, and those of the thousands of clients we’ve helped, have yielded one truism above all else when it comes to training: Intensity matters. A 3-mile jog is not as good as a 3-mile run; a 3-mile run with intervals or a “kick” of high-intensity speed at the end is even better.

HIGH-INTENSITY INTERVAL TRAINING

imagesWe’ll come out and say it: This is the best cardio you can do for fat loss — our apologies if you just really love running long distances. The basic principle is that you bust your butt as hard as you can for a minute, then take another minute to slow it down or rest before cranking up the intensity again. The idea isn’t that you run a certain distance in a certain amount of time; it’s that you run for specific amounts of time at varying degrees of intensity.

Studies across the board show that HIIT is superior to prolonged, single-state cardio for fat loss, metabolic change and muscle support. It’s harder — you go for about 85-90 percent of what you can do given your state of fatigue in your “on” intervals — but it is much less time-consuming and much more effective. The calorie burn, additionally, can last up to 24 hours. A few notes on HIIT:

  1. Sprint, swim, jump rope, use a machine — whatever. Anything that gets your heart rate up and your body moving is a good option. Swimming is particularly good for you, given that it requires full-body support and it’s easy on the joints compared to pounding the pavement.
  2. Use a stopwatch. Simply put, there is no other way to keep yourself accountable than to actually know that you’re going for a full minute of all-out intensity (followed by a minute of rest, or low-intensity cardio). You’d be surprised at how long a minute actually is, and how horrible your mind can be at “counting” seconds when your body is exerting itself.
  3. Supplement properly. Just as with distance cardio, HIIT is much more effective at burning fat when body fat becomes the primary energy source. Try to avoid all carbs in the period before your cardio workout; instead, take a dose of BCAAs and stack regularly with KETOLEAN (for advanced lipid replacement to further promote body fat loss) and METABOLIC SPIKE. This trio will help ensure that your fat stores are getting targeted through exercise and from within.

SUPER, TRI AND GIANT SETS

Supersetting pull-ups and push-ups: Classic antagonistic work.

Supersetting pull-ups and push-ups: Classic antagonistic work.

Not all fat loss has to come from running, swimming, hiking or other forms of cardio. In fact, many cardiophobes prefer this very method for that reason: You can still get your heart rate up and avoid traditional aerobic exercise with your weight lifting — it’s all about blood flow.

Super sets involve consecutive sets, with no rest in between (trisets feature three sets, and giant sets four or more). It’s particularly effective for rushing blood all over the body to mix an upper-body lift with a lower-body one; say, pull-ups and Romanian deadlifts. Other supersets depend on your goal, but none of them are bad for fat loss as long as reps are toward the high side (usually a minimum of eight reps per set; so 16 per superset, is what you want).

Versatility is one of the keys of this type of exercise; how you pair them can mean quite a lot. An explosive movement, like box jumps, could pair well with a heavy one, like deadlifts; likewise, you can get a great pump and build strength by working antagonistic muscles (a set of bent-over rows, paired with incline dumbbell press).

Finally, super-, tri- and giant sets are a great way to shake up your workout routine. I’ve always found that when things are stagnating a bit, throwing in a few supersets gets the blood flowing and energy going (plus, it saves on time).

SKILLED RECREATION/SPORTS

Some people like putting in the time for cardio, but playing a competitive sport like basketball, soccer or football is an outstanding way to not only burn fat through exercise, but to have fun while doing it.

Basketball and soccer, in particular, are fantastic options because they offer a very similar approach to HIIT — lots of full-speed sprinting, plenty of endurance training and the added benefit of lateral and backward movement. Running and jumping competitively, for even short periods of time, provides an excellent aerobic workout, and when you add in things like body control and skilled movement — necessary in sports — it becomes even more challenging and rewarding. Other extremely underrated sports for fat loss (and, obviously, muscle gain) are wrestling, boxing and variations of mixed martial arts. If you can find a good trainer or gym, you’ll see just how hard of a workout these sports can provide.

Even if you’re not looking to play sports, you can train like an athlete would. Basketball wind sprints (“suicides”) are renowned for their HIIT style and can torch the fat in no time, and they’re a personal favorite of ours for in-the-gym cardio when you don’t want to give a bunch of time to aerobics.

The NUTRISHOP Weight Loss Challenge Winners!

The winners have been announced for the NUTRISHOP CDA Weight Loss/Muscle Gain Challenge! Great job by everyone who participated, especially our winners!

Zack Jones was the overall winner of the NUTRISHOP Transformation Challenge!

Zack Jones was the overall winner of the NUTRISHOP Transformation Challenge!

ZACK JONES, 28, is our overall contest winner and wins FREE PROTEIN FOR A YEAR! Zack gained 2.33 pounds of muscle and lost 12.24 pounds of fat, for a 14.57-pound swing!

“I’ve always lifted and to be honest,” Zack says, “I just always wanted a six-pack. I was more motivated to go for that and just needed some structure to follow basically.”

Joining the Transformation Challenge certainly helped him do that. Already a NUTRISHOP client by the time to challenge came around, Zack thought he may as well try — he had been lifting with no goals in mind, and he knew it would give him something to shoot for and push himself harder.

His training stayed virtually the same — in fact, many of his workouts were the ones we post all the time —and he just hit it consistently, about an hour or so, five to six days a week, hitting legs twice.

“I’d been shooting from the hip as far as workouts go, but then I started following NUTRISHOP’s workouts,” he explains. “I’ll go heavy on my chest and leg days, and back is really more of a pull-up, higher-reps-and-endurance style. And I do a lot of supersets after the heavy core lifts.”

As with most people who lost a lot of body fat, the dietary changes for Zack were the most important. The timing and intake of his carbohydrates, for instance, was something he wasn’t familiar with until NUTRISHOP set him up with an individualized meal plan, which was “by far the most valuable thing for me to follow,” he says. “And it was easier to stick to than I thought it would be.”

All of his results and the process has made Zack not only a Transformation Challenge winner, but a NUTRISHOP loyalist.

“The place is fantastic, by far my favorite shop that I’ve ever been to,” Zack says. “Once I met the guys there and got to know them, I haven’t bought supplements anywhere else. I can stop in after work with questions and they’ll just talk with me for a half-hour.

“Everything was easily laid out for me and the knowledge they had was awesome,” Zack continues. “Once they gave me a structure to follow, it was just a matter of doing it.”

Congratulations, Zack — and enjoy the protein!

Before Mike McConnell decided to change his life for the better, he was suffering back pain from a military injury and had gained 100 pounds in six months.

Before Mike McConnell decided to change his life for the better, he was suffering back pain from a military injury and had gained 100 pounds in six months.

MIKE MCCONNELL, 34, is a former Marine who saw his health slipping when he returned home from the service. He gained 100 pounds six months after getting out of the military, having hurt his back in service, and decided it was time to make a change.

“I just want to be healthy,” Mike says. “It’s been dragging me down and I decided this is something I need to do. I want to be healthy for my kids. When I sit on the couch and I’m in pain, my back’s bothering me, I know I’ve got to be more active.”

A couple years ago, Mike moved to Coeur D’Alene and he and his wife decided to choose a healthier lifestyle, making a fresh start in a new area. One of his first stops was NUTRISHOP, where he saw experienced nutrition and fitness experts not only giving advice, but practicing what they preached.

“A lot of people can feed you the diet stuff they read from a book,” Mike says, “but the guys at NUTRISHOP had experienced it and done it themselves.”

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Mike has lost almost 60 pounds since October, when he began working with NUTRISHOP's help.

Mike has lost almost 60 pounds since October, when he began working with NUTRISHOP’s help.

Since October, when Mike first started getting involved with NUTRISHOP, he has lost 60 pounds and won $75 in store credit with muscle gain and fat loss that netted him a 7.72-pound swing in body mass. He won his category in the NUTRISHOP Weight Loss Challenge with a ferocious approach to training, a personalized diet plan and some of his favorite supplements including glutamine, BCAAs and ERRATIC for his pre-workouts.

He was training seven days a week, twice a day, with heavy sessions in the morning and volume-based training later on. He did fasted cardio early in the day, with BCAAs to help prevent muscle breakdown, and high-intensity interval training after his weight sessions.

Such an intense regimen had him close to a plateau, he says — and then the Weight Loss Challenge breathed new life into it.

“I was doing that routine four months before I started the contest, and I felt like I was maybe peaking,” Mike says. “The contest just kept me going.

“I need to show up at that gym parking lot every day,” he continues. “As long as I walk in and do something, at least I’m not going backward. And that’s important to me.”

Great job, Mike!

LAURIE LITTMAN, 55, won her category and $75 in credit with a 2.4-pound swing. She had been building good fitness momentum beforehand, and saw the Weight Loss/Muscle Gain Challenge as a way to up her results.

“I’ve been working toward all this anyway, so it was nothing really new to me,” Laurie says. “I’ve done the Biggest Loser at the gym, and came in second on that in my category, and I’ve just been working on it ever since. Exercising and eating right has become a big goal of mine.”

Laurie has always been into exercise, but had never concentrated on building muscle and suddenly found herself with 15 pounds of fat she wanted to lose. She knew that implementing a lifestyle of clean eating would be the first step, and that she could accelerate her progress with weight training.

“I logged all my food and that helped quite a bit — realizing what I was eating and what was in everything I was eating,” she says. “At first it was a little strange — I wasn’t used to eating that much protein. I didn’t use to measure things. Now I am much better about knowing exactly what I’m eating and how much.”

Laurie’s goals and motivations throughout were simple enough: trying to stay in shape and feel healthy, keeping up with her grandkids and, of course, looking good. But most of all it was all about simply feeling good.

NUTRISHOP helped get her on track with her eating and showed her which supplements would be best for her. Laurie still uses FORZA PRO, PRO7, N’FUZE, GLUTAMIC and BCAAs. And of course, on top of the products, Laurie says she could always rely on NUTRISHOP for encouragement and expertise.

“They’re always very encouraging and knowledgeable with what they have there. That was very helpful,” Laurie says. “They’re all just very positive. I could ask anything and they’d spend time telling me. I like a store that knows what they’re doing.”

Way to go, Laurie!