Intermittent Fasting: The Real Reason Ryan Gosling Won’t Eat His Cereal
Ryan Gosling has one of the best bodies in Hollywood.
If you remember Young Hercules, it was apparent that a 17-year-old Ryan Gosling was blessed with great genetics. It’s also apparent that he’s put in some time in the gym since then.
It’s no wonder why a Google search of “Ryan Gosling workout” has over a million search results. Interestingly enough, “Ryan Gosling diet” only pulls up half the results.
Well, let me tell you something you should already know: no workout will get you lean if your diet isn’t in check.
But Ryan Gosling has a secret weapon to ensure he has a Hollywood-ready physique all year long: intermittent fasting.
Sadly, most people still don’t know about it yet.
Everything You Know Is Wrong
A few weeks ago, a coworker asked me how she could lose some weight.
My response: “Just skip breakfast.”
The look on her face would suggest that I had advised her to commit the greatest of all dietary sins. And while nothing could be further from the truth, I completely understood her reaction.
You see, way too often, nutrition–which can already be confusing–is shrouded in even more mystery by conflicting information coming from traditional media, social media, and well-meaning friends. Even if their intentions are good, they only serve to make you more confused and take you further away from your goals.
This is what we like to call The Fitness Matrix.
Eventually, you get to a point where you can’t separate fact from fiction. You get stuck in minutiae like:
- Is breakfast truly the most important meal of the day?
- Will I enter starvation mode by going too long without food?
- Do I really need to eat six meals per day?
But, now, what if we told you that everything you’ve heard about nutrition is wrong? What if we told you that the number of meals you eat in a day doesn’t matter; that starvation mode isn’t even a thing; and–most importantly–what if we told you that skipping breakfast might be the smartest thing you can do to get lean without wasting time on yet another crazy diet?
Sounds crazy, right?
Well, after spending many mornings devoid of food, we can guarantee you that skipping breakfast, also known as intermittent fasting, is the simplest, most stress-free way of keeping the weight off for good.
But what is it, exactly?
Intermittent Fasting for Newbies
Most people associate fasting with a religious practice. And while practitioners of several faiths engage in fasting as part of their customs, it’s not limited to just them; we all fast.
When you haven’t eaten for a few hours, you’ve fasted. A good night’s sleep obviously prolongs the fast. And a busy morning at work extends it even further.
In fact, if you’re not eating something right now, then…congratulations, you’re fasting. As soon as you’ve eaten your first meal, you’ve broken the fast (hence “breakfast”).
Which brings us to intermittent fasting.
In some way or another, we all “do” intermittent fasting; we all eat and then not eat. But it wasn’t until just a few years ago when a nutritional expert by the name of Martin Berkhan outlined how to use intermittent fasting in order to lose fat and build muscle.
His Leangains protocol called for prolonging the naturally-occurring fasted state during sleep through the morning, skipping breakfast altogether, and eating lunch as a first meal. Also called 16/8 fasting, this protocol would have one fasting for 16 hours straight, and then consuming all calories within an 8-hour window.
Now, without getting into the science of how it works, the most important aspects of intermittent fasting (IF) are:
- Increased adherence to a diet: IF is not a diet. Rather, it’s a way to structure a diet. Regardless if you’re vegan, paleo, raw, etc., IF will make adherence easier since you’ll no longer have to worry about packing food to eat every few hours.
- Caloric restriction: while there are some hormonal benefits, the most important aspect of intermittent fasting is that it restricts your ability to eat to a relatively small window. Skipping an entire meal, cutting out a third of your usual calories, will result in fat loss for most people.
Not only that, but IF has been known to improve cognitive function, reduce the risk of cancer, and improve cellular repair. In fact, there’s a great BBC documentary on fasting that covers the health and life extension benefits called Eat, Fast, and Live Longer. We highly recommend that you check it out.
But now, getting back to the ins and outs of intermittent fasting, it’s fair to say that this style of eating has garnered some backlash as it defied traditional dieting practices. In fact, when this first dropped, it turned all of the collected wisdom of sports nutrition on its head.
Needless to say, there was, and still is, some resistance to this idea. Which, we’ll address next as we step into myth busting territory.
Myth Busting: Six small meals burns more calories
The idea–well, the myth, really–that eating six, small, evenly-spaced meals was necessary for fat loss or muscle building was popularized in the bodybuilding community about 20 years ago.
Though the explanation of why it worked seemed scientific enough and plausible enough, that eating more often stoked the metabolism and burned more calories, it was based on a bad understanding of some studies. Some people saw that data and figured that if eating burned calories, then eating more often burned even more calories.
What’s worse, one person told another person, and that kept happening, ad infinitum, until everyone believed it to be a fact; it trickled its way into the mainstream, replacing the age-old idea of “three square meals a day.”
See, what the studies actually showed was that eating burns calories.
In fact, about 10% of the food you eat gets burned in digestion. When you eat, how much you eat in a single sitting, the time of day, or how many meals you eat doesn’t change that.
What matters, the only thing that matters, is how many calories you consume by the end of the day.
Now, you might be saying, “yeah, but my friend told me that if I don’t eat often throughout the day, my body will go into starvation mode and hold on to fat.”
Well, that brings us to our next myth.
Myth Busting: Starvation Mode
Before we talk about the science, let’s talk common sense.
In countries where there are famines and food shortages, people don’t retain fat because they’re not eating enough; they starve and lose weight.
The residents of Venezuela, a country which is currently suffering from some very hard economic times, have lost an average of 20lbs. in 2016 because of how hard it’s been come by food on a regular basis. If starvation mode were true, then the inability to find food would, at a minimum, keep the people of Venezuela at their previous weight, or worse–lead to an obesity epidemic.
Obviously, that’s not the case.
While it is true that the body does lower the metabolic rate in times of famine, notice we said famine. Skipping a meal isn’t famine; not eating for 24 hours isn’t famine; not eating for even 3 or 4 days isn’t famine.
In fact, most studies show that the metabolic rate starts to slow down after three to four days of not eating at all. Skipping a meal, or even fasting for a full day, will not negatively impact your metabolic rate.
Interestingly enough, some studies even show a small increase in metabolic rate during short-term fasting.
So, go ahead and skip breakfast.
Myth Busting: Fasting Will Cause Muscle Loss
Earlier we mentioned that bodybuilders in the 90’s, many of who believed that eating six small meals a day, in addition to helping with fat loss, also thought that they would preserve muscle by eating more frequently.
Again, possibly based on a poor interpretation of a study and the game of telephone, the idea got around that the human body could only use 30 grams of protein in a single sitting.
What happened to larger amounts of protein consumed in a single meal, you ask? Good question. The assumption was that the protein just went to waste; the body would be so overwhelmed trying to digest and absorb 30 grams of protein, that it would just dispose of any additional protein.
Ergo, if a person needed to eat 150 grams of protein per day, they’d have five small meals, each containing 30 grams of protein. Larger individuals with larger protein requirements would either push up the protein 10-15 grams per meal and/or eat a sixth meal, lest they risk losing muscle or wasting protein.
This myth is the single reason why gym bros always carry around a protein shaker bottle.
What the study actually said was that 30 grams of protein is broken down and absorbed in about 3-4 hours. So, instead of assuming that 60 grams would be broken down and absorbed in 6-8 hours; it was just assumed that it was lost in the ether.
So, to recap, the myth that the body could only use 30 grams of protein in a single sitting was based on a layman’s interpretation of a study and assumptions with no science to back it up.
What actually happens?
As we mentioned earlier, fasting for short periods of time causes no change to the metabolic rate. The metabolic rate is heavily dictated by the amount of muscle mass a person carries. So, if the metabolic rate isn’t affected, it’s because the amount of muscle mass is also not affected.
This also brings us to one of the nice things about IF: large meals.
Eight hours isn’t a ton of time to get in all of your calories. This means that you can eat some pretty large, satisfying meals without having to watch the clock.
And that brings us to our last and final myth: The Mogwai Myth.
Myth Busting: Eating Late at Night Causes Weight Gain.
It’s often said that eating late at night causes weight gain. Like all the other myths we discussed, it’s repeated so much that it’s treated as fact.
And it’s wrong.
We wrote a whole article about the Mogwai Myth, which you can check out here. In the article, we go over the studies that prove that eating late is not the culprit of weight gain.
So what is?
The single most important issue when addressing weight gain is calorie balance. If you eat more food than your body burns, you’ll gain fat. If you eat less food than your body needs, you’ll lose fat.
And while we agree that it’s an oversimplification, people would be better served by accepting the fact that gaining weight comes from eating too much. There’s no need to worry about about eating six small meals or not eating in the evening.
How to Fit Intermittent Fasting into your Day
The great thing about intermittent fasting is that you are in complete control. What this means is that the times of the day you choose to fast or feed is completely up to you.
For some, starting their feeding window at 9 AM while ending at 5 PM works for best. For others, 3 pm through 11 PM makes more sense. However, a feeding window of about 1 PM – 9 PM seems to be the sweet spot for most individuals.
Here’s what that schedule would look like:
10pm – Sleep
7 PM- Rise and shine
1 PM- First meal of the day
9 PM- Last meal of the day
Note that this is just an example. Personal preference and daily routine will dictate an IF schedule that works best for you. Granted, once you choose a schedule, you’ll soon realize that sticking to it makes the process a whole lot easier to follow each day.
Additionally, the 8-hour feeding window allows you to worry less about how many meals you consume during the day. In fact, with such a small feeding window you’ll soon realize that 2-3 meals per day are enough to keep you satiated, especially if you’re a 9-5 desk jockey.
Is Intermittent Fasting Right For You?
The answer we would love to give is “yes,” but quite honestly, it all depends. While some might see and feel immediate results, it might take a little bit more time for others to reap the rewards. This is evident when you start to compare the effects that intermittent fasting has on both men and women, in particular, the manner in which each handles the regulation of the hormone insulin.
As studies have shown, while IF has improved insulin sensitivity among males, females on the other hand, have seen lesser improvements.
Now, while a breakdown of how insulin works is beyond the scope of this article, it’s important to note that the more sensitive your body is to insulin the better it will become at keeping food from being stored as fat. Too much insulin, on the other hand, leads to insulin resistance which causes the body to have a difficult time burning fat.
IF For Women
So, should women do IF? While both men and women have seen great results using intermittent fasting, women have special considerations that need to be addressed. It comes down to the metabolic and hormonal differences (estrogen, the menstrual cycle, insulin regulation) between men and women that ultimately determine how we respond to intermittent fasting.
A good starting point would be to do a shorter fast, see how you feel. Then slowly increase the duration over the course of several days. If you try it out and realize that it’s not for you, that’s completely fine. At the end of the day, it’s much more important to do what works best for you.
A few additional signs that might indicate that intermittent fasting might not be right for you include (for both men and women) if you’re:
- pregnant (for women, of course)
- suffering from constant stress
- having trouble sleeping
- dealing with an eating disorder
- a person who’s done IF before and didn’t like it (sorry, not sorry)
Of course, above all else, if you have a history of medical conditions or simply want a second opinion to know if intermittent fasting is right for you, then be sure to consult with your doctor before jumping on the IF bandwagon.
The best diet in the world won’t work if you don’t follow it. Just like the best workout routine won’t work if you hate doing it.
The most important aspect of anything in fitness is that you like what you’re doing.
That’s the best part of intermittent fasting: it allows you the freedom to decide when and how to eat. With IF, you won’t be daydreaming about the foods of which you’ve been deprived.
On the contrary, when combined with tracking your macros, intermittent fasting puts you in control while giving you the ability to continue eating the foods you love.
Over time, you’ll find the schedule that works best for you; the specific meals that work best for you; the size of meals that work best for you.
Its simple approach means that you’ll actually stick with it and continue to see results for years to come, or maybe even be voted as the Sexiest Person Alive.
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