Why I Skip Breakfast (Intermittent Fasting)

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It may come as a shock to you, but I always skip breakfast. Instead of rushing to prepare a large breakfast every morning, I practice intermittent fasting. Intermittent fasting consists of fasting for a minimum of 16 hours per day. It is a simple dietary approach to achieve longevity, better health, and fitness performance.

Aging: Calorie restriction vs. Intermittent fasting

A low calorie diet has often been shown to reduce aging and increase longevity (1, 2). A low calorie diet however, will decrease your physical performance and leave you with a skeleton-esque physique (not the look I’m going for). Intermittent fasting is a dietary approach many health experts have used with success that provides the benefits of increased longevity seen in calorie restricted diets without sacrificing physical performance or muscle mass. When compared to calorie restriction, individuals who practice intermittent fasting retain more lean muscle mass than those who are on a low calorie diet (7).

What are the health benefits of intermittent fasting?

  1. Decreases your risk of cardiovascular disease by reducing blood pressure and increasing insulin sensitivity (3)
  2. Increases the release of Human growth hormone (HGH aids in fat loss, retention of lean muscle mass and reduces signs of aging) (12)
  3. Helps decrease body fat while retaining muscle mass compared to calorie restriction (7)
  4. Decreases visceral fat (intra-abdominal fat) (7)
  5. Reduces your risk of diabetes by reducing serum glucose and insulin levels (4)
  6. Decreases cardiovascular inflammation by increasing levels of adiponectin (5)
  7. Decreases the rate of overall aging while increasing longevity (6)
  8. Decreases your risk of acquiring age related brain diseases like Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s (8).

“But wait, I was told breakfast is the most important meal of the day”

There are many myths surrounding the nutrition industry. Until recently it has been considered blasphemy to tell people to skip breakfast.

Here are a few myths and facts to be aware of before beginning to practice intermittent fasting.

Myth #1: “You must eat 6 meals a day to rev up your metabolism”.

Fact: Eating more frequently will not elevate your metabolism (9).

Myth #2: “Do not eat any carbs after 6pm”

Fact: I eat 90% of my carbohydrate intake between the hours of 6-8pm on a regular basis. Why? Eating carbs at night leads to greater reductions in abdominal circumference and body fat (10). In fact, subjects in the experimental group in the study cited above had lower hunger scores and greater improvements in fasting glucose, average daily insulin concentrations, total cholesterol, low-density lipoprotein (LDL) cholesterol, high-density lipoprotein (HDL) cholesterol, C-reactive protein (CRP), tumor necrosis factor-α (TNF-α), and interleukin-6 (IL-6) when compared to controls (10)

Myth #3: “If you don’t eat certain foods you will get cravings and crash”

Fact: Eliminating certain foods from your diet will not cause your body to have increased cravings of those particular foods (11). My personal experience has shown that a diet switch may have a 1-2 week adjustment phase. Many of my acquaintances that eat well, do not crave sugar or junk food.

A typical intermittent fasting template:

How you construct your specific individual diet depends on your goals. If you’re trying to add muscle, you will need more calories and carbs. If fat loss if your goal, limit your servings of starch and fructose in the post-workout period.

Excluding intricate details, here is a raw template of how to practice intermittent fasting:

12pm: Green veggie/whey protein super shake. For more on what I personally add, read these two articles: http://drmikehart.com/blog/how-to-add-nutrients-without-adding-calories and http://drmikehart.com/blog/10-reasons-to-blend-green-veggies

2pm: 2-5 free-range eggs + veggies

5pm (pre-workout): Raw honey/handful of blueberries + 5 grams of Creatine + 10 grams of branch chain amino acids

6pm (post workout shake): 1-2 scoops of grass-fed whey + 1-3 brown spotted bananas + kefir

7-8pm: Green veggies + 1/4 – 3/4 pound of grass-fed beef + organic jasmine rice (1-4cups)

**Note: I allow myself to drink black or “bulletproof coffee” during the intermittent fasting period**

Productivity and lifestyle

In addition to having the health benefits mentioned above, I feel it is noteworthy to mention how this dietary approach has improved my lifestyle. My morning productivity and energy have increased since practicing intermittent fasting. Given the simplicity of this diet, I spend less time preparing food and consequently have more free time. Because I don’t take a lunch break at work I am able to escape the office an hour earlier each day (it takes me 5 minutes to down a shake and eat a few eggs). It is also very convenient for eating out and socializing. I enjoy going out for dinner and do so approximately once per week (I often choose steak, vegetables, and potatoes). Given the fact that you are supposed to eat carbohydrates during this period (6-8pm/dinner time), I enjoy my rice and potatoes guilt free. To date, this has been my favorite dietary approach to achieve productivity, overall health, and physical performance without compromising my social life or causing any inconvenience.

References:

http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/16595757
http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/15768047
http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/15768047
http://www.pnas.org/content/100/10/6216.short
http://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S095528630900031X
http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/23639403
http://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/10.1111/j.1467-789X.2011.00873.x/full
http://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S1568163706000523
http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/9155494
http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/21475137
http://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/0195666393900033
http://www.eurekalert.org/pub_releases/2011-04/imc-sfr033111.php

About Mike Hart, MD

Head physician at My Regenesys Anti-aging & MediSPA. Bio-identical hormone therapy. Family doc. HuffingtonPost Blogger. Paleo-ish. Medical marijuana. Zen.

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Disclaimer

This article is for informational purposes only, and is educational in nature. Statements made here have not been evaluated by the FDA. This article is not intended to diagnose, treat, cure or prevent any disease. Please discuss with your own, qualified health care provider before adding in supplements or making any changes in your diet.

  • Sherri Coffman

    Hi Dr Hart, I have recently been experimenting with intermittent fasting with great results! I need to do my workout at either 9am or noon as that is when my schedule allows. Does this change any of your template recommendations? Thank you, I am SO excited that I have found something after all of these years that is lowering my weight, quieting my carb cravings and increasing my energy!!!

  • Barb Herbert

    Hi Dr. Mike… Thanks for the article on IF. I have a couple of questions..
    1. IF for women? Good, bad… a reduced fasting window? What are your thoughts on this?
    2. I have very recently been diagnosed as a T2DM and have been prescribed Metformin and a low carb diet. Is IF safe for me to do with the Metformin/LC diet?

    Thanks!

    • Armom

      IF for man and women are same..
      IF is not a diet but a lifestyle!

  • Mike Hart

    @barbherbert:disqus :

    1)Females struggle with IF more so than men do, but I know plenty of women, some with very competitive fitness physiques that have no problems and have had great results.
    2) I would be very careful about IF with T2DM. I would delay breakfast by about 30 minutes from your “normal” time until you reach a point where it works for you. You may not be able to reach 16 hours, but perhaps 12 or 14 would work. Check your blood sugar q30mins in the morning and see by how you feel.

  • Mike Hart

    @jjgregor:disqus I’m not exactly sure what you’re asking but I try to practice intermittent fasting everyday. Weekends tend to be 12-16 hours if I have late night glass of wine. Thanks for your comment!

  • Mike Hart

    @sherricoffman:disqus If you workout in the morning I would sip on some BCAA’s (Branch chain amino acids) to help maintain lean muscle.

  • Heinz

    I started skipping breakfast 49 yrs ago when 34 yrs old, for digestic problems which immediately disappeared. I had read about the pratice from an American doctor, dr. dewy. I skip breakfast every day making lunch my first meal of the day. Heinz.

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