Friday, July 12, 2013

New Blog, same pop fitness bashing.

If you haven't already, check out my new blog over on wordpress!  I've got a few new posts up already, including:

Bashing new forms of media, like Pinterest!
A twitter feed where you can watch me fail miserably at figuring out why Twitter exists!
MORE weight-loss experiments, this time with more failing and less success.

Hope to see you over there!

New Blog ==>

Monday, January 14, 2013

Women's Health - The 8-hour Diet


You would think that an article that directly contradicts everything that every health and fitness magazine has ever written about the best way to eat in the past probably 20 or 30 years would deserve more than a mere 3 pages and probably less than 1500 words.

But I digress.  I should be happy.  Finally, a health magazine has given validation to the world of Intermittent Fasting, the method of eating I roughly used during my weight loss.  Now that a popular magazine has bestowed its favor onto fasting, maybe the next time I mention that I don't eat breakfast to someone, an immediate freak-out won't occur.  (Who am I kidding)

The gist of the article is this:  give yourself only an 8 hour window to eat in during the day, and spend the rest of the time abstaining from putting food in your mouth.

And why do such a thing?  While I've written about this in the past, let's go over it again.  Your body takes fuel when it needs it from 2 places when you're fasted - either your stored glycogen (sugar) or from fat.  Your body is never in "100% fat-burning" or "100% glycogen-burning" mode, but generally at rest you will be more likely to use some fat.  Considering most of us are at rest at all points of the day, why isn't every office worker a super model?  Well when you eat, your body is given a quick energy source that it prefers to use over fat.  In fact, when your insulin is raised, which occurs when you eat (especially carbohydrates), fat is blocked from being used as an energy source until blood-glucose is back down.  How then, that the idea of eating 5-6 small meals a day was optimal got around, I have no idea.

It probably has something to do with that 'starvation mode' myth that has been going around for a while.  Don't eat for 3 hours and your metabolism crashes?  Don't have breakfast and you're screwed for the rest of the day?  Factually incorrect, and I'm glad to see that a popular source of health and fitness information has finally picked up on it!

How to Implement the 8-Hour Diet

No need to watch what you eat!  Except for the part where we tell you to watch what food you eat below!  It's almost like a direct contradiction.  Weird.

Well, you could follow the extremely silly guide given in the article:
Duration: Eight hours a day during which you can eat whenever you want 
Days / Week: Up to you! 
Meals: As many as you want  
Foods: At each meal or snack, try to get 2 of the 8 Powerfoods: 1 Fat Buster and 1 Health Booster. 
Foods to Emphasize: Lean protein, fiber, healthy fats, brightly colored fruits and vegetables 
Foods to Limit: Refined carbs, saturated and trans fats, HFCS 
The carb rule: Always include 2 Powerfoods in any carb-heavy snack or meal 
Beverages: Dramatically reduce your calorie intake by drinking more water.  Limit alcohol to 2 or 3 drinks per week. 
Messing up: Totally allowed. 
The Fat Busters - Turkey, eggs, leans meats / Walnuts and other nuts / Yogurt and other dairy / Beans, peanuts, other legumes. 
The Health Boosters - Raspberries and other berries / Oranges, apples and other fruits / Spinach and other green vegetables / Whole-grain breads, cereals, and oatmeal.
The inclusion of so-called "fat busters" and "health boosters" seems to just lend more confusion about food and what to eat.  The real "fat buster," as this article points out, is to just not eat.  The best foods to lose weight are: none!  I hope that makes sense, and I hope that doesn't get blown out of proportion.  I'm certainly not advocating anorexia or anything of the sort.  Stay within your calorie range and then stop eating - that's the real fat buster.

As far as the "health boosters" go, yes, raspberries will be more beneficial to your health than say a ranch-covered McDonald's salad.  But why wouldn't some grass-fed beef or salmon also be included as a health booster?  What in the world makes whole grain breads and cereal a health booster?  Did you know that Lucky Charms and other General Mill's sugary cereals are also technically whole grain?  The idea of categorizing food in this manner seems disingenuous.

As well, the 8-Hour Diet is based around the idea of burning out your liver glycogen so that your body can burn fat instead. (Not a necessary thing to do.  Again you're never 100% in fat or glycogen burning mode)  If this were the case, it seems to me they should also be advocating a no-carb ever diet.  I mean, that would burn out all of your liver glycogen super quickly!  Gotta get in that fat-burning mode!

Seriously though, the idea is quite simple - made entirely too complicated with this "Powerfood" junk.  Just eat your calorie limit in 8 hours.  Try to make sure they are quality, nutritious calories.  Then stop till the next day.  Try that on for size and you'll do just fine.

Of course, what kind of diet plan would this be if they also didn't have an "8-hour Diet" exercise plan?!
"Now, what if you could torch all that glycogen early in the day and program your body to start burning fat instead?  That's what the 8-Hour Diet does.  With the most moderate bit of exercise before your first meal - a mere eight minutes! - you'll begin to burn through those glycogen stores and spend more of your day in fat-burning mode."
This seems to go on the age-old bodybuilding tactic of going on a walk after drinking coffee before breakfast while you're fasted.  However, the key is that going for a walk is low-intensity (not straining yourself, or your muscles).  The workouts given here (which I'm guessing are 8-minutes long because, haha, it's the 8-Hour Diet, KEEPING IT IN THEME!) are a bit high-intensity.  Again, for what they're saying (burn all of your glycogen asap), it makes sense.  But how much sense does it make when they then say to eat your first meal afterwards?
"By exercising before your first meal, you'll boost your metabolism and maximize the amount of time your body is burning fat."
Well, yes you'll raise your metabolism for a bit, and I'm all for having a post-workout meal (although 8-minutes doesn't really seem to warrant much, and it's really not the end of the world if you don't have your post-workout meal within that magical 2-hour window), but if the stated goal is to deplete your glycogen stores, why eat right after they've been used, especially since your "Powerfoods" include some high-carb stuff?  It just doesn't seem to make much sense.   Also a nice excerpt:
"These two exercises use your own body weight to target hard-to-tone areas like the butt, thighs, arms, and shoulders"


I'm so so glad to see a magazine finally admitting that it is safe to not eat for extended periods of time.  However if this way of eating has perked your interest, I highly recommend using an alternative source other than Women's Health to structure your plan.  It simply doesn't seem to be getting everything straight - as though it is trying to add some extra flair in there to separate it from other fasting plans that have been around for much longer.

If you want to try out this kind of eating plan - take it for what it is.  Don't worry about "burning liver glycogen" or moving yourself into the "fat burning zone."  Fasting is a means to an end - the end being eating within your caloric limit.  Are you like me and you hate small little snacks, preferring to eat huge feasts?  Well good news, Women's Health says it's okay now, so you're golden.  Perform some kind of strength training, stay within your caloric limit whenever you choose to eat, and you'll probably lose weight.

Take it from Martin Berkhan of Leangains, probably the most popular Intermittent Fasting site out there:
"But to cling to intermittent fasting, or to hop on the  fasting bandwagon and fast for 16+ hours with the naive expectation of a magic trick - to willingly fast for fasting in itself, even if it's not really for you - is very foolish.
Remember. That's what people did in the mid-2000's - what we all did. We subjected us to rules that proved to be incompatible with long-term success, balance in life, and peace of mind. The role I played was in opening up your eyes to the alternative - to give you more options, and improve your decision making skills on dietary aspects that are of critical importance (i.e. the choice of meal frequency). 
Back then, we ate every 2-3rd hour for the sake of eating every 2-3rd hours, we ate breakfast for the sake of eating breakfast, and we didn't eat much in the evening. But now, I see this might be happening again - in reverse.
See, now everyone's riding the fasting bandwagon. Perhaps best exemplified by the "The 8-Hour Diet", this the result of a marketing engine fueled by false promises, bullshittery and the disingenous make believe-science that impresses the lay man, pleases the crowds, and disgusts the one who sees right through it. 
This is what corrodes this industry. This is what keeps people confused. This is what obfuscates success, and makes you forget the critical importance of personal preferences - not slavery under rules that doesn't really make sense for you."
Well then.

If you're looking for more information about fasting in general, I have linked in the post several sources, but I'll post them again here:

1) A good place to start is looking at studies on Ramadan - most people don't consider the fact that plenty of people throughout the world annually participate in fasting during Ramadan without gaining massive amounts of weight from crashing metabolisms.

2) Eat Stop Eat is a FANTASTIC book by Brad Pilon written about the effects of fasting on the human body.  If you ever had a question about what going for prolonged periods without eating would do for you, this is the place to go.  It's a very quick read because there is no fluff, no weird diet plan or exercise routine.  Just straight up information.  I rarely buy, well, anything, but I purchased this.

3) Leangains - a website with a wealth of information about fasting.  I've linked to this site before, but if you're at all curious about fasting and the biggest popularizer 8 hour eating window guy, this is the place to go.

4) The Warrior Diet - it's kind of like the 8 hour diet, but it's the 4 hour diet.

5) Precision Nutrition - John Berardi did a great, thorough write-up on his experiments with Intermittent Fasting.

Well there you have it!  One of my many, many goals for the New Year is to write at least 1 blog post a month - so here's to trying to keep up with that!  Let me know your thoughts in comments below.

P.S. - For bonus fun, turn 1 page behind the article on the 8-Hour Diet in Women's Health this month.  There is an article titled "Your Flat-Belly Day" which advocates that you have 5 small meals.  I want to laugh, but also to sigh.

For bonus BONUS fun, turn to page 77, under the question "Why am I always chilly when everyone around me is fine?", read: "Also, fasting - not that we recommend it! - can force your body to conserve energy and give off less warmth."