Week 1 – The 16/8 Diet and Squat, Bench and Deadlift x 5 Days of Week
I’m going to start this with a little disclaimer in that I am not suggesting you do any of the diets or training programs I am writing about. I do not know your personal situation. These are simply my own personal experiences and if you would like to try any of them please come in and see me first or consult your doctor before making any drastic changes.
Across week 1 you can see I had a rapid change in my body-shape. I was using an intermittent fasting approach known as the 16/8 Diet and I was using a training protocol where I was squatting, benching and deadlifting 5 days of the 7. I thought I’d start with the first week transformation as this is where you can see a lot of changes. I’ll cover the basic changes I made to my diet and explain why before I go into the actual 16/8 eating protocol and the exercise protocol I used.
The first week’s changes look a lot more impressive than they actually are. Would you believe I only lost 1kg of bodyfat? What did happen though is I lost a massive amount of fluid which I was retaining. So overall although it was only 1 kg bodyfat the scales showed a drop of 2.6 kg. How I achieved this was by changing the parts of my diet which could negatively impact the rate at which I lose bodyfat and those that could cause me to retain more fluid then I should.
- Eating at regular and consistent times. This has affects on the hormonal response that occur post meal which I explain later in this article.
- Cut alcohol to no more than 2 drinks of a Friday and Saturday night – A single alcoholic drink will supress testosterone production. Testosterone is a key hormone involved in the fat burning process. By limiting T-production you severely impact both your muscle gain and weight loss potential.
- 1 x Coffee per day – Caffeine can cause cortisol to rise. If you are a fast caffeine metabolising individual caffeine can speed up weight loss results but if you are a slow metabolisers like myself it will cause cortisol the stress hormone to rise causing excess fluid retention and negatively affect weight loss.
- Sweets/deserts down to one each day on the weekend. Simply calorie reduction.
- Bread down from around 6 slices per day to 4. Bread is probably one of the most common and evil things for weightloss and I recommended getting rid of it almost completely if you are serious about losing fat.
- Dropped processed (i.e., sausages, ham, bacon, etc) and roast meats and roast dinners. These are very high in calories and will severely affect the rate at which you can lose weight.
The Diet –
I used the 16/8 diet which is a form of intermittent fasting. The premise of the diet is that you fast for 16 hours per day and eat during an 8 hour window. So for me I only ate between 1 pm and 9pm. Essentially skipping breakfast and morning tea. During the fasting time you are allowed to drink fluids but it should be zero calorie liquids such as water, green tea, peppermint tea, black coffee, etc but not allowed to eat any foods. By skipping breakfast you are reducing the overall calories you take in per day in addition there a number of other positive metabolic effects which I will list in the pros section.
Before I get into the pros however I will make note of one important aspect of the 16/8 which a lot of individuals don’t realise. Although you are skipping a meal (i.e., breakfast) you must make sure you are consistent with both having lunch and having it at a regular time. Two reasons, meal times and variation of have been shown to both affect circadian rhythm and weight loss results. There was one study done where two groups eating equivalent calorie deficit diets ate either at regular times or on an adlib schedule. The group eating on a regular schedule lost weight whereas those eating on an adlib schedule although eating the same amount of calories didn’t lose any weight.
Another note, when breaking the fast with your first meal it is important to keep your first meal low in simple carbs such as bread, rice and white potato. This reduces the insulin spike after breaking a fast, as your body will be extra carb sensitive after a prolonged period of not eating.
The pros of the diet:
So why do this diet, what are the benefits?
1. Studies have shown that the 16/8 diet doesn’t result in a slowing metabolism the same way as what occurs with being on a calorie restricted diet for a prolonged period.
2. Studies have shown that the diet works.
3. Muscle sparing effect of the diet. This is a little counter-intuitive as you’d expect not eating frequently and being on a calorie deficit would result in muscle loss. However due to an elevation in growth hormone and a depression in insulin whilst you are fasting there is actually a muscle sparing affect. In addition this hormonal environment whilst fasting creates an excellent fat burning environment.
4. Potential for your body to become better at utilising fat stores for fuel. This is due to the fact whilst you’re fasting, carbohydrate (glycogen) stores will become low. As a result your body may be required to produce ketone bodies from fat stores in order to supplement the wavering carbohydrate supply. As our western diet generally means we almost always have a surplus of carbs in our diet we have become poorer fat burners and heavily carbohydrate reliant beings. This diet forces our body to adapt/re-adapt to using fat as a primary fuel source as it was intended.
5. AUTOPHAGY, this is essentially the house cleaning of unnecessary cells in the body. I won’t go into it too much here but is a really-really good thing and has huge implications for overall health and wellness including for those individuals not overweight.
6. This diet is easier to adapt to eating habits long term then a lot of other diets which is a strong positive.
Cons of the diet:
1. There can be some headaches or dizziness when first starting this diet due to the requirement for ketone body adaption. Hence it may require you to work up to a 16/8 split rather than just hitting the ground running
2. It can exacerbate poor eating habits or binge eating if you are someone prone to this. You can’t go into the diet with the mindset that you were really good skipping breakfast so now you can reward yourself for the rest of the day.
3. Studies show it is more difficult to gain muscle on a 16/8 diet then during a traditional eat every 3 hrs diet. However muscle loss has not been shown to be an issue as per what one might expect.
4. If you’re a breakfast lover you might find that you miss having breakfast.
5. The diet is not suitable for everyone. If you suffer from depression or chronic fatigue this diet may not be suitable for you.
6. If you are type 2 diabetic or pre-diabetic there is still a question mark if this diet is helpful or harmful.
7. To get the best results you still need to apply the other good eating principles(i.e., eat clean and healthy, eat at regular times and don’t skip meals excluding the obvious, reduce calories, etc)
How did I find this diet?
I actually found this diet a lot easier then I was expecting. I have tried it before and the first time I did it I had to work my way up increasing my fasting length by an hour a day due to dizziness. However for someone who has never skipped a breakfast in their life the hunger is surprisingly easy to adjust to and actual just goes away. Unlike what you expect, which is that the hunger will just build up and up until your stomach devours you from the inside out. It actually hits you more like waves building up then going away completely. The diet has also taught me to better control my hunger and how to better cope with hangriness which I don’t get anywhere near as much.
My energy levels on this diet were great which I do really like about this diet and I did find I had from free time in the mornings. I will make a note though that you definitely need to commit to this diet for a minimum of two weeks to get a proper feel for its effect on energy levels. It takes the body a while to adapt the first time. This being my second time doing it I found I was just about able to hit the ground running unlike the first time.
On the negatives though, I really didn’t like exercising in a fasted state. I found it made exercising much harder in the mornings. Although I did feel like it helped with the fat burning. I also missed having breakfast, not because of the hunger but just because it is a meal I really enjoy. The other big thing for me is I did feel like it hampered my ability to gain muscle and as this was one of my goals for this transformation it was a bit of a negative tick. However as a maintenance or weight loss diet I’d rate it positively.
Would I recommend this diet, providing you’re in good health, you’re not a binge or reward eater, you get ticked off by your Dr and get a blood test pre- and post-diet and you monitor your health weight and measurements whilst doing it I’d say yes. The diet teaches you to better understand your body and your appetite, I think it can assist with some important physiological adaptions such as utilising ketone bodies and may have positive health benefits based on the autophagy that occurs. A majority of research reflects positive changes in regards to bio-markers for health.
Let me know if you enjoyed this and/or if you have had any experience with this diet, positive or negative and what your opinion of it is. I’m sure there are lots of readers interested to hear what you have to say too. I will write about the exercise program I used next week in the second part of this article as it was becoming very long article.