To Breakfast Or Not?

Intermittent Fasting has become one of the most talked about nutritional protocols recently, but it has left some people confused. Here’s our Intermittent Fasting 101:

Intermittent Fasting is a nutritional protocol that basically has you fasting for a prescribed period of time, then eating for a prescribed period of time. There are two main approaches:

5/2 – the 5/2 gained popularity as it is easy to follow, and does yield short term body fat reduction results. In a nutshell, you eat what you want for 5 days (note with both these approaches having a good diet with calorie and macro targets will increase their effectiveness) then you fast  with 500 calories a day for women, 600 a day for men, for 2 days. Sounds good right? And reasonably achievable? We don’t like this approach for a few reasons: people think they can actually eat what they want  – gorging on cheeseburgers and fries (or similar) for 5 days then eating nothing for 2 is not a healthy way to live. At all. Training on fasting days is challenging to say the least and and even the proponents don’t recommend it for anyone with eating disorders due to the literal “feast and famine” approach. You have to think whether this is actually a healthy approach is supporting your body, mind and spirit…

The other protocol is the 16/8 or 14/10 – in this approach you fast for 16 hours and eat for 8 (for women it’s recommended to fast for 14 hours and eat for 10). That might sound hard, but its not really (we’ve done it) – your fasting time is when you are asleep – if you think about it most of you are probably already fasting somewhere between 8 to 10 hours. If you have dinner at 7pm and then breakfast around 7:30am that’s a 12 hour fast, so pushing breakfast back or dinner forward isn’t too tricky.

We actually like this approach because you get to eat a normal balanced diet, you can train around it, it’s not that hard, and it gets results in reducing body fat. However, the caveat is that you have to stick to it, and for most of us organising meals, social life (remember a fast means no alcohol so kiss those evening drinks goodbye) around a diet like this over the long term is problematic.

We favour it as a 2 – 4 week fat loss approach, supported by followed on fasted HIIT – which is actually how we live our lives and what we use as the cornerstone of our training to keep body fat down (despite wine and pizza binges!).

So our approach is to eat a healthy diet in a normal time frame. We have our dinner between 6 – 7pm depending on our day. We’ll train fasted around 6:30/7am (a short but intense HIIT session), then have our high protein breakfast straight after.

You can see that there’s already around a 12 hour fast in there – but with this approach we don’t stress about it. Late meal out? No probs, routine stays the same. It’s the best of both worlds. We’ll explain the science below, but first, the question of breakfast…

Let’s look at one aspect of this trend we’re being asked about a lot – we’ve always been told that breakfast is the most important meal of the day, and increasingly clients have heard about intermittent fasting and are asking us if that has changed?

It hasn’t changed BUT complex area. Eating breakfast will kick start the Krebb cycle which in turn fires the metabolism. As stated above Intermittent Fasting on the 16/8 – 14/10 protcol above works as long as you stick to it – but a lot of people find it a little too hard to work around their lives, social engagements etc.

If your lifestyle will allow 14-16 hours of fasting 6 days a week then this approach works but for most people its not realistic over the long term.

So, an effective solution is fasted HIIT first thing. You’ve probably fasted for 8 – 12 hours (while sleeping) so your glucose and glycogen levels are low – by training at intensity you burn through those reserves and tap into body fat as fuel. It is super important though that you then re-fuel straight after – why? If you have no fuel in you after training your body – now primed for protein synthesis but having no source – will go into a catabolic state – breaking down muscle tissue in a bid to get protein. This is why a protein rich meal (like a shake) is super important after training.

If you were to train at intensity and not eat for sometime afterwards the initial result will be weight loss (muscle, and fat, but more muscle), followed by fat gain as your body tries to compensate by storing more energy reserves for next time it has to exert and has no fuel.

Where people go wrong and are mislead is training hard and not eating enough – we want a slight calorie deficit for fat loss, but slight, through the day, and after hard training when the body is primed for synthesis, you want to refuel immediately.

Don’t think of it as skipping breakfast – you’re having breakfast post training. If it is a none HIIT day, have breakfast – at the time that feels right for you.

Where breakfast has got a bad name is that in less than the last 80 years it’s gone from being quite a protein and fat rich meal (bacon, eggs etc) to high sugar (cereals, baked goods, lattes etc) – which spike insulin and sets off the insulin roller coaster for the rest of the day.

What we eat first thing plays a big roll in our insulin response for the rest of the day – our goal is to be more insulin sensitive so we better process food for energy and stay stable through the day. So high protein, low GI Carbs (like oats) small amounts of high GI (fruit) as the fibre in the oats will help prevent insulin spikes.

Short answer – yes breakfast is a must – timing of it depending on your body goals, workouts and nutrition protocols is what is different