Some Intermittent Fasting questions answered

Some questions that I had about IF hope that you read the last IF blog and it may have peaked in your interest, heck maybe you even went a head and ordered Eat Stop Eat (highly recommend it). For today I’m going to go over some of my initial questions that I’ve had when I began researching IF.


You need to eat every three hours to keep your metabolism up:

This initial question was the my very first response to IF. I mean come on we have all heard it that we need to eat small frequent meals to lose weight, this has been posted in just about EVERY website, magazine and news series about weight loss. I remember this was the first thing that was ingrained in my head as a young gym rat.

Ever felt like your day was tied to the clock with food?

So I thought, heck I’ll find plenty of research proving that small frequent meals promote weight loss and honestly its was very difficult to find research that really supported this. Weird huh?

You see when I did find a journal article that was cited small frequent meals as a case for weight loss I did real rescarch into the journal article, otherwords not just was was quoted to me but I wanted to read it myself… the entire thing.

One article I came across had a group of 40 obese women who went on a 12 week “diet”  of smaller freqent meals to see if they would lose weight. Well sure enough they did (I believe about 18lbs) but what I learned from really diving in was that these women were put on a 1500 calorie a day restriction (most were consuming nearly 3000 calories to begin with) and these calories were broken up in 4-5 meal intervals. Read that again… they were initially eating around 3000 calories a day but now they were eating 1500 calories a day. Well DUH they are going to lose weight! Doesn’t’ take a genius to figure that out if you eat less you’ll lose weight.

The problem came when company’s would take just the excerpt out of the journal articles to support their claim. “These 40 women lost 18lbs of fat in 12 weeks by eating smaller more frequent meals”, but what you didn’t know about is that these women had their caloric intake significantly decreased, heck that alone will help you lose weight.

This was just one example of MANY that I found of magazines only taking out excerpts to support their methods or products.

What they didn’t discern is correlation vs causation. Big difference

Before I get on a big tangent here most fitness professionals will quote something called TEF (Thermic Effect of Food), that when you eat the food elevates your metabolism. Now there is a degree of truth to that statment but there is more…

What most really haven’t told you is that TEF elevates in DIRECT proportion to the amount of calories that you eat! Other words if you eat a meal that has 400calories you get a 400 calorie increase, you DON’T get more than that. If that was true then the more food you eat the higher your metabolism would be and the more weight we would lose… I can honestly say we can tell that TEF has a limit on how much it will increase.

You’ll fall into “starvation” mode and burn muscle if you don’t eat every few hours:

This really piggy backs onto the previous comment I had but does anyone really know what starvation mode really is? See the kids in Ethopia? Thats starvation mode (at its extreme form I know), true starvation mode take MUCH longer than hours for it to it and start burning muscle, its more along the line of 4+ days before we even begin to see the bodyMetabolic Fire Mythutilize proteins for and energy source.

Side Note: 4 days of fasting is by far MUCH long that I would ever recommend a client doing. Most of my clients that do practice fasting I recommend 24hrs NEVER for 4 days.

Think about it guys if that statement was true (starvation mode hits after hours of not eating) then we as a species would have been dead long ago; our ancestors did NOT have the luxury of 6 meals a day like we do. They survived and I can assure you that obesity wasn’t a big issue then either.

As long as you continue to do a resistance training program during fasted states you will keep your body’s muscle, but if you stop the ol’ adage you “you don’t’ use it, you lose it” becomes true.

You get headaches if you don’t consume food every few hours:

Now I’ll say this is a bit true but do you know why your getting head aches? Its not all necessarily from food I can assure you.

You ever heard of Pavlov’s Dogs? The story is that everytime Pavlov would ring his bell for dinner his dogs would coming running salvating ready to go. The dogs got into the routine of food time everytime Pavlov would ring his bell.

Now even though we really don’t use bells we do have an internal bell called Ghrelin in the body. This hormone signals that its time for us to eat AND the kicker is whether you realize it or not you can train the hormone to elevate at certain times of the day. Thus your training your body to be hungry at your typical meal times.

Starvation Mode
Got a point...

Where does the headache come from though? I’ll be honest I haven’t found anything in particular that really pinpoints that down but I can say this from MY and my own clients personal expierence that if you notice a headache in your fasting it will go away with minitues and eventually they will disapear all together when you retrain your Ghrelin pattern.

I personally feel though that part of the headache response it actually a food/chemical detox. A number of the foods we eat on a daily basis have some form of chemicals in them and your body has begun to get use to those chemicals at certain times of the day, coffee is a loose example of this. When you begin to change your ways of eating and are not longer getting that chemical fix that your body has become accustomed to then you begin withdrawal symptoms, headaches being one of them.


That’s enough for this one, because trust me I do have a list of other questions that I had about IF and these were some of the top of my list as others as well. I’ll bring out my next set of questions and comebacks in the next blog, but in the mean time do some research for yourself on IF and see where it takes you. I promise that taking a break from food will do you some good 🙂

If you want to do more research take a look at Brad Pilion’s book Eat Stop Eat. Its a great place to start.

Eat Stop Eat











In Health and Fitness,




Travis Merritt, BS, CPT, CES, RBT is the owner of Fitness Revolution in Rowlett, TX.

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