Cacao nibs cookies can be a great way to get in the groove and hop on the cacao nibs train. I love original raw cacao nibs and orginal raw cacao powder.
A cool way to consume these wonderful gifts of nature is to come up with a recipe that will make the cacao, the heart of the final product. Hence, the birth of these cacao nibs cookies.
I set myself this challenge and I’d like to think I succeeded with this cacao nibs cookies recipe. You should try it out and see for yourself what I am talking about.
These cookies are tasty, healthy and balanced in terms of macro-nutrients. The cookies have got carbs, proteins and healthy fats. All the good stuff plus micronutrients.
And they store well too…for days.
So, what do we need to make these cacao nibs cookies?
Whole oats X 2 – 3 cups Wholemeal Rye flour X 2 cups Peanuts X 5 handfuls Baking powder X 2 tbs and half Cacao nibs X 3 handfuls Cinnamon powder X 4 tbs
Bananas X 10 fingers Vanilla Extract X 3 tbs Coconut oil X 3 tbs
How to make the Cacao Nibs Cookies
Start off with the wet ingredients.
>> Peel your bananas and place in a bowl
>> Add Vanilla extract and coconut oil into the bowl with the bananas. Now mash up all 3 ingredients to create a banana paste. You may use a food mixer instead of doing the mashing up of the wet ingredients manually.
>> Now put all the dry ingredients into another bowl – the whole oats, Rye flour, Peanuts (you can use any other type of nuts), Cacao nibs, Baking powder and Cinnamon. Mix together.
>> Add the mixed dry ingredients into the bowl with the wet ingredients.
>> Now mix all together to form a thicker brown paste. How brown the paste and the eventual cookies become depends on the amount of cinnamon added.
>> So, do not worry if the cookies are paler than mine. It’s the cinnamon. I like to add cinnamon because cinnamon will slow down the release of glucose from the cookies upon digestion. That prevents blood sugar spikes.
>> Having made the thick brown paste, it’s time to make the cookies into moulds. You can go crazy with creativity here. Mold them into any shape you like.
>> Place cacao nibs cookie moulds on a lined baking tray. If you are not using a Parchment paper like me, line the baking tray with aluminium foil and spray the foil with oil spray to stop the cacao nibs cookies sticking on to the aluminium foil.
>> It’s time to bake the cacao nibs cookies. Bake them at 180 – 200 degrees for about 15 – 20 minutes.
>> But please check on the cookies intermittently to ensure they don’t turn out to be too dry. You want the banana moisture to be retained. So, you want to check on the cookies so, they are crispy on the outside and gooey on the inside. Yummy!
Get the cacao nibs cookies out when you are happy with them and serve with a cup of tea, coffee. Use as snack or as a meal. The possibilities are endless. Enjoy!
Why the 5-minute hummus? One of the things I like to do and I encourage people to do is simplify what they eat. Simplicity has always been in the forefront of what I do and preach.
If you follow this blog, you will attest to that.
And I am not about to change that. Not today. Not tomorrow. Not forever.
Hence, in an effort to continue with that principle, I set myself a challenge. I believe in legumes…a lot.
Legumes are great for your health. We just don’t eat them enough. And I want to change that. Get people to eat more legumes.
One way to up your intake of legumes is to eat hummus. Much of the hummus we eat is made from Chickpeas. Why not eat more of the stuff – chickpeas.
So, I set myself a challenge. To simplify the hummus we make. I have come up with a hummus recipe construction that is so easy, anyone (absolutely anyone) can throw this quick easy homemade hummus recipe together without fuss.
This oil-free quick hummus only requires 4 ingredients plus salt. How cool is that?
If you are vegan, you can eat this 5-minute hummus. If you are a vegetarian, you can have it as well. If you are a calorie counter, you can make this easy hummus recipe, because it is a low-calorie hummus.
Okay, let’s get started.
What do we need to make this 5-minute hummus easy recipe?
Lemons X 2 Red Onion X 1 Tahini paste X 4 scoops Chickpeas in water (drained) X 3 cans Salt to taste
How to make the 5-minute hummus
>> Slice your red onion and chuck them into the food processor.
>> Squeeze out your lemons to get your fresh lemon juice (not shop-bought lemon juice). Pour the lemon juice into the food processor.
>> Drain your chickpeas. Always use chickpeas in water for your hummus. Avoid the chickpeas in salt water (brine). You don’t need that. Anyway, drain your chickpeas and add the drained chickpeas into the food processor.
>> Add 4 scoops of Tahini paste into the contents of the food processor. For those who have problems sourcing Tahini paste, use Peanut butter instead. Peanut butter will give you similar results. I will advise you use peanut butter without added sugar though. No added sugar please. It might be sweeter but remember, refined sugar is bad for our health.
>> Add salt to taste.
>> Then blitz the content to a fine pulp. Shouldn’t take more than 3 minutes to blitz.
>> Pause the food processor. You might find that it’s not blitzing the content finely enough. That’s because the hummus being made is too thick. Add some water to thin it out a little as you saw me do in that video above.
>> After adding water, blitz some more. The texture of the 5-minute hummus will change for the better and indeed your food processor will thank you for it because it’s less work for it to do. By adding some water, you have made the blitzing job easier for the food processor.
>> Pause after about a minute or so. And your 5-minute easy hummus is now ready. Yippee!
Now taste the beauty. Hmmm, awesome taste.
Even though the hummus took you less time than it takes to open a pack of shop-bought hummus, this one tastes better and more importantly, you know what’s gone into it. No guessing.
And it’s healthier!
Healtheir in the sense that my blood sugar was 5.2 mmol/l (93.6 mg/dl) 1 hour after eating the 5-minute hummus with carrots. How cool is that?
I want to address this issue of BCAAs and insulin spike at once here. Mainly because there’s a lot of language mis-appropriation which ultimately results in mis-information or should I say fake news on the relationship between insulin and BCAA supplements.
BCAAs and insulin have a funny relationship. Insulin is a responsive hormone to BCAAs. Meaning, BCAAs provoke an insulin response.
With that in mind, the question on your mind and indeed all BCAA users mind is probably this: Do bcaas spike insulin? The short answer is; No, BCAAs don’t spike insulin. Surprised? You probably are because that’s not what you’ve been told. I shall explain this to you with the relevant science.
Do BCAAs Spike Insulin?
Let me explain.
Yes, BCAAs and insulin do have a relationship.
And what would the nature of that relationship between insulin and branched-chain amino acids (BCAAs) be? That’s what this page is about. Keep reading…
The truth of the matter is this. BCAAs do trigger the release of insulin. That much is true.
But here is the good news.
Yes, BCAAs do cause insulin secretion but it is NOT a spike. BCAAs do not spike insulin on their own when taken in isolation, contrary to what you may have been told elsewhere.
I will illustrate what actually happens when BCAAs are taken alone with 2 studies that looked into this issue shortly.
I see weight loss and exercise enthusiasts worrying about this concept of an insulin spike all the time. Well, let me reassure you that bcaas do trigger insulin release but it is NOT an insulin spike.
I needed to repeat that to emphasize the point. A spike is a sudden rise of a biological marker (could be a hormone, enzyme, inflammatory substance) above the basal level and usually sustained for a variable length of time.
It could be a brief rise but the magnitude of the rise has to be significant to be considered a spike.
The rise has to get past a threshold for it to be clinically relevant. Any rise below that threshold is a considered a sub-clinical event.
A sub-clinical rise is not a spike. That is wrong use of the word, spike.
A sharp increase in the magnitude or concentration of something
What happens with bcaas and insulin does not fulfil those criteria. Whether you examine the insulin secretion secondary to BCCA use from the clinical standpoint or from the Grammarly angle, the rise does not qualify to be referred to as a spike.
It is usually a small rise of insulin initiated by the bcaa supplement. Certainly not huge rise that is sustained.
Okay, let me illustrate my point further with the graph below. It’s from a study by Kalogeropoulo and his colleagues.
To understand that graph, you have to know that leucine is the main amino acid in BCAA. Leucine is the most potent of the 3 amino acids in BCAA. BCAAs are made up of 3 amino acids – Leucine, Isoleucine and Valine.
Now if you noticed, I have been talking about BCAAs not causing an insulin spike, when taken alone in isolation.
If you take your BCAA with glucose from whatever source for example with a sports drink, then of course you will have an insulin spike as you can see on the graph.
The spike is more than the rise initiated by having a glucose drink in isolation.
The researchers concluded that a combination of BCAA and glucose has a synergistic effect. Meaning both leucine and glucose will help each other to cause a significant rise in insulin levels.
Now look at the insulin rise with leucine alone. It’s barely off the “ground”. In fact, it’s only slightly higher than water alone.
The insulin rise caused by leucine (a BCAA amino acid) and water is as flat as you will ever get. It’s a sub-optimal rise of insulin. It’s a marginal rise of insulin level caused by the BCAA leucine. Almost similar to the rise induced by water.
What you see there is certainly NOT a spike.
What About Valine & Isoleucine bcaa effect on insulin release?
If you are pedantic, you might say, well, that experiment was done with leucine alone but BCAA supplements have 2 more amino acids in the form of Valine and Isoleucine.
That may be true. But Valine and Isoleucine don’t play any role in protein synthesis and indeed both do not have any influence on insulin release when you take BCAAs.
Valine’s role is to enable you fight exercise fatigue. Valine competes with the amino acid called tryptophan in the brain.
Tryptophan is a useful ingredient in the synthesis of 5-Hydroxytryptamine (5-HT) otherwise called serotonin. If less tryptophan is available, less serotonin is made. Serotonin is to blame for your exercise fatigue.
Valine by competing with tryptophan reduces the production of excess 5-hydroxytyptamine (5-HT). Low 5-HT (serotonin) means you don’t fatigue out quickly. You exercise more. More volume.
That’s the role of valine.
What about isoleucine?
Isoleucine is also a supporter of leucine. Its main role is activating PPAR receptors. When activated, these receptors promote fat burning. To make its role count even more, isoleucine also discourages fat storage.
That’s the role of isoleucine.
Both isoleucine and valine do not have any effect on insulin secretion and insulin levels. So, their exclusion from that study makes no difference to what happens inside our body when we take BCAAs.
If you are looking for further evidence, you can have a look at this other study that used BCAA in young men participants.
In that study, the peak insulin rise was 8.5 microunits/ml of insulin which is very similar to the previous study I alluded to earlier.
The peak insulin rise occurred at around 15 minutes also similar to the other study.
That insulin rise was described by the authors of the second study as modest. Indeed, that’s about the only way to describe 8.5 microunits/ml rise of insulin.
It certainly cannot be described as a spike.
The findings from those 2 studies should have made it clear to you by now that; BCAAs do not cause a spike of insulin but a gentle marginal rise.
I just hope the gurus will stop using the word ‘spike’ when referring to the relationship between BCAAs and insulin.
When your fitness guru uses the phrase “BCAA insulin spike”, as a follower, your mind visualises something more dramatic than you saw on that graph.
That’s not the case and it has been tested in other studies. Those are just two studies I pointed out to clarify the situation.
BCAA intermittent fasting implications
Does the insulin rise have any fasting implications? Not if you put things into perspective.
Remember intermittent fasting has a lot of benefits and yes, having BCAAs may mean you are technically breaking your fast but only by a very small margin.
It’s a small insulin rise. One of the ways intermittent fasting works to promote fat burning is the fact that fasting keeps insulin levels low. Really low.
Low insulin level enables your body to access your body fat stores to be used as energy source.
Even though leucine in the BCAA may trigger insulin rise as you saw in the graph above, the level of rise is too small to have a negative effect on fat burning.
These things are dose-dependent. The 10 gm of BCAA which is about the maximum dose of BCAA I recommend you take is not going to provoke a significant insulin rise to sabotage your intermittent fasting goals.
It’s NOT a spike!
You will still burn fat regardless.
To attain a spike in insulin, your dose of BCAA will probably be in the range of 70 gm taken at the same time as a single dose. Not recommended.
If you still have doubts, do the following:
==> Reduce the dose of the BCAA to half the recommended dose.
Take 5 gm of BCAA instead of 10 gm. There. That should certainly fix your fears and concerns about any BCAA-induced insulin rise.
Of course, by reducing the dose you are correspondingly reducing the beneficial impact of the BCAA.
In fact, this same study done with 5 gm of BCAA actually confirms that the insulin rise you experience with 5 gm of BCAA is just a temporary elevation. 5 gm of BCAA is a manageable dose that will guarantee metabolic stability.
In any case, whatever insulin response you experience from taking BCAA supplements, it’s a mono-phasic response. This is in sharp contrast to what happens when you have a meal.
A regular meal will usually provoke a second-wave insulin response to peg blood sugars down unless you are very insulin-sensitive. Not so with BCAAs. No metabolic disruption at this dose.
==> Do not take your BCAA supplement with any sugary product
As you saw in the preceding chart, taking a combination of BCAA and glucose, is guaranteed to give you an insulin spike.
Never combine the two, unless you desire an insulin spike of course. Sugary products will include sports drink, smoothies, energy bars etc.
==> Take your BCAA close to when you are about to end your fast
I usually advice taking your BCAA supplement in the last hour of your intermittent fasting.
This certainly takes care of any concerns you have because your fast is coming to an end shortly anyway, so any insulin rise will no longer matter.
You are bringing your “end of fast” (if you like) forward by an hour. So what? It matters not. You can’t be too pedantic about these things, otherwise you miss out on proven benefits.
==> Take your BCAA supplement about 30 minutes before your workout
Doing so ensures you are feeding your muscles directly before your workout.
BCAAs are protective of muscle. BCAA are usually spared of the journey through the liver. Normally protein from your regular food goes through the liver after digestion. After digestion the absorbed amino acids from the proteins get redistributed from the liver to peripheral sites like your muscles.
Amino acids from BCAA however by-pass the liver and head straight to your muscles. In the muscle, BCAAs promote synthesis of proteins through the mTOR pathway and reduce breakdown of protein.
You get the muscle protection benefits whilst seizing the anabolic effects of the available insulin in circulation. A win-win situation.
To put things in perspective, use the following regime. Of course, you can change the hours of the day to suit you.
11:30 – 12 Noon Take your 10 gm of BCAA (or 5 gm, if you prefer) supplement 12 Noon – 1 pm Training hour 1 pm – Have your After-workout meal 4 pm – 2nd meal of the day (Optional meal. You can just eat twice) 8 pm – Have your last meal of the day. Start your intermittent fasting again.
If you use this regime, you can exploit the little rise in insulin from using BCAA supplement. Remember, it’s not a spike.
Is Taking BCAAs During Intermittent Fasting Necessary?
So, I get asked often this question: Is taking BCAAs necessary during intermittent fasting? Framed in another way: Is intermittent fasting BCAA necessary?
Both questions are essentially needing the same answer. So, let me answer those questions on this page.
But before I answer the question, let me quickly settle this other query: Can you have BCAAs while fasting? That seems to bog a lot of people too, but that’s okay. My blog was created to solve questions.
So, can you take BCAAs during fasts?
Answer: Yes, you can take BCAAs during your fast, but it’s always better to take your BCAAs towards the end of your fast.
Why is that? Well, BCAAs do have a calorific value. That means in essence, taking BCAA supplements, you are technically breaking your fast.
Okay, now that we have established that you can take BCAAs during your fast, let’s get on with the main event of this page.
Is intermittent fasting BCAA necessary?
The answer to that is Yes and No.
Okay, now you are thinking, Dr Joe is hedging his bets here.
No, I am not. Because there are arguments on both sides of the divide.
As I am not one to shy away from a scientific argument, I’m going to explain why you may or may not have intermittent fasting BCAAs.
Whether you should take BCAAs during intermittent fasting depends on what you are trying to achieve, in the first place.
Okay, let me explain. I will start with the ‘Yes, you do’ and finish up with the ‘No, you don’t’
Yes, you do need bcaa supplements during intermittent fasting…why?
Here is why.
If muscle gain and fat loss are your objectives for doing intermittent fasting, then yes, you need BCAAs.
Don’t forget that not everyone wants to sculpture their body with intermittent fasting. Some people just want to lose weight (lose fat) without bothering with muscle gain.
BCAAs are amino acids. Amino acids are the building blocks of proteins. Muscle is mainly made up of proteins.
If you are going to build muscle, you are going to need proteins. Lots of it.
There are people whose diet may not be as sophisticated as those in the fitness know. In which case, they may not consume the required dietary amount of proteins necessary for a good muscle build.
BCAA supplements will bridge that gap in these individuals.
Of course, you are going to work out if you desire muscle gain. Good resistance training to build muscle. I don’t need to tell you that building muscle will require some serious lifts. No Pain, No Gain is the well-worn out parlance, right?
Go gently though, to avoid injuries. But to reach your muscle gain goal, you will need to exercise about 3 times a week with rest days to allow your body to recover.
Do you need to workout more than 3 times a week? You may. But you wouldn’t want to do it more than 4 times a week at a push (no pun intended).
Like I said earlier on, to build new muscle and even to preserve existing muscles, you need proteins. And proteins are made up of amino acids inclusive of the branched-chain amino acids in BCAAs.
Here are the advantages of using Intermittent Fasting BCAAs
Intermittent fasting BCAAs help with Protein Manufacture The muscle cell is called a myocyte.
Myocytes are one of the most metabolically active group of cells in the body. There is constant breakdown of amino acids by a process of oxidation inside the myocyte (muscle cell).
The more activity the muscle cells are engaged in, the higher the level of breakdown of protein that will occur.
Any breakdown of protein inside will have to be replenished. Without that, muscle loss will occur. This research tells us that indeed, exercise is one thing that generates a lot of oxidative activity inside the muscle cell.
But that’s not all, that study is also telling us the BCAA requirements do go up during exercise.
If we then agree that essential amino acids requirements inside the muscle cell increases during exercise, then taking BCAAs for workout purposes during intermittent fasting won’t be a bad idea.
We will simply be replenishing the amino acids our muscle cells are burning during workout when we are fasting.
This is particularly important if we are working out when we haven’t broken our fast during intermittent fasting.
In fact, that study did conclude thus:
“BCAA supplementation before and after exercise has beneficial effects for decreasing exercise-induced muscle damage and promoting muscle-protein synthesis”
You and I know that when you exercise, you may experience muscle soreness usually about 36 – 48 hours later. It’s called; Delayed-Onset Muscle Soreness (DOMS).
It happens to everyone. Of course, the more trained your muscles are, the less the effect of DOMS.
For those who are not so well trained in terms of physical fitness, muscle soreness can actually become a discouraging factor not to exercise. Not what you want if you are keen to build muscle.
But the fact is; muscle pain can reduce your frequency of exercise against your will.
Now, if you are doing intermittent fasting and you want to build muscle at the same time, the last thing you want is infrequent training regimes.
Here comes, BCAAs to your rescue.
This study took untrained participants and subjected them to squat exercises. You know how squats can make you walk funny a couple of days later because of muscle soreness.
The group that had BCAA supplementation in that study had reduced muscle soreness compared to the placebo group. This led the researchers to conclude that muscle damage during exercise is actually suppressed by BCAA supplementation.
So, if you want to exercise whilst doing say for instance, 16/8 intermittent fasting, then BCAA supplementation is necessary for you to avoid delayed-onset muscle soreness.
3. Intermittent fasting BCAAs limit muscle damage at workouts
You are doing intermittent fasting, working out and are now wondering if taking BCAAs during your intermittent fasting is necessary to limit muscle damage.
Yes, BCAAs do limit the degree of muscle damage that occurs during workouts. It really doesn’t matter whether you are fasting or not. BCAAs limit muscle damage from exercise regardless.
But it becomes more important when you are fasting. Exercising at the time of intermittent fasting means you are exercising at the time of calorie restriction.
So, if you take a supplement that feeds your muscle with the necessary essential amino acids it needs to prevent muscle damage, wouldn’t that be a good thing?
I sure think so.
There are biological markers that can correctly indicate muscle damage following exercise. Markers like creatine kinase and lactate dehydrogenase.
If a sample of blood is taken from you following an exercise session, we can tell how much muscle damage had taken place in that session.
That’s because damaged muscle releases markers like creatine kinase, myoglobin, aldolase and lactate dehydrogenase. Measuring any combination of these markers will reveal the degree of damage.
Give one groups of individuals BCAA supplements for 14 days. Pitch them against another group not given BCAA.
Now make the two groups perform 2-hour cycling workout. Test the creatine kinase and lactate dehydrogenase levels in both groups. That’s what this study did and they found that creatine kinase and lactate dehydrogenase levels were significantly lower in the BCAA supplemented group.
The point is; BCAA supplements are protective of muscle damage.
So, it makes sense to use BCAAs whilst doing intermittent fasting to limit muscle damage when we exercise to tone up and gain muscle.
4. Intermittent fasting and BCAA may stimulate muscle growth
There is a study that appears to support the view that working out in the fasted state is beneficial for muscle growth.
This study should be important to you, if bodybuilding to whatever degree, is something you desire.
Indeed, you don’t have to bust a gut to get anabolic response going according to that study. Simple weight training exercise like bench press, leg press, curls and overhead press are just about enough to experience muscle growth.
It’s a cross-over study with a 3-week washout to remove the confounding factor of one intervention influencing the outcome of the previous intervention.
The outcome measure of the study was anabolic response in the fasted state Vs in the fed state.
Put in another way, the question being answered in the study was: does the protein synthesis signalling pathway get activated more when you eat before workout or more when you workout in fasting state?
The study was quite involving because the researchers actually took needle biopsies from the participants at rest, 1 hour and 4 hours post-exercise.
The researchers were measuring markers like PKB (protein kinase B), GSK3, p70s6k (p70 ribosomal S6 kinase), eIF2B, eEF2 (eukaryotic elongation factor 2), ERK1/2, and p38.
Don’t worry. You don’t need to know what those hard-to-pronounce biological markers are.
All you need to know is that; exercise does stimulate those markers to varying degree. Measuring them can give a good idea as to what is happening inside the muscle cell.
To cut a long story short, a higher anabolic response was seen in the intermittent fasting participants at the 1-hour mark.
What this means?
I have already mentioned that muscle breakdown does occur during exercise because of the oxidation of amino acids that make up protein.
This protein catabolism is inevitable.
Here is where I think that last study makes intermittent fasting BCAA use necessary.
It is expected that the inevitable protein catabolism that occurs in the muscle during exercise may be a little higher when you exercise in the fasted state.
Why…Because the muscle is sort of “hungry” in the fasted state and now you pushing it harder to do some more work.
If we now know that the anabolic response (which gives us the potential for muscle growth) is higher when you exercise in the fasted state, at least at the 1-hour mark, would it be a bad idea to feed the muscle with BCAA amino acids 30 minutes before exercise?
I think it is a great idea.
Feed the muscle with intermittent fasting BCAA before exercise – this reduces protein breakdown activity in the muscle during the workout session.
Eat soon after the exercise session, preferably a high protein meal as they did in the study and voilla, you’ve got yourself a recipe for serious muscle growth direct from a well-defined enhanced anabolic response.
Is that cool or what.
Now, that’s why I think BCAAs are necessary for intermittent fasting.
The case for; No, BCAAs are not needed
Spoiler alert. I have just made what I consider to be a compelling case for use of BCAA supplements in intermittent fasting. Now I have to ruin it by making the case against.
Oh yes, we like a balanced argument, don’t we?
For me, the case for not using BCAAs during intermittent fasting is simple.
If you doing intermittent fasting and your intention is fat loss only without bodybuilding, then you don’t need BCAAs. Period.
You can lose weight with intermittent fasting without using bcaa supplements. In fact, they are not necessary at all, if fat loss alone is your objective.
If you are getting a rich supply of amino acids from your high protein food, then you will do just fine without bcaas.
I will even go as far as saying that even for those into body building, you can still source your amino acids for muscle growth from having eating a high protein diet around your workout session and you will still get fairly good results.
It’s just that BCAAs are supplements and supplements are easier to take as they are less bulky.
You can look at BCAA use in intermittent fasting in those two ways.
Use intermittent fasting BCAAs if fat loss and bodybuilding is what you want. They are easy to use. They are convenient. They facilitate muscle growth if you use the BCAAs around your workout session. They reduce muscle breakdown too.
If you are not into bodybuilding and you just want to lose weight i.e lose fat, then you don’t have to use BCAAs. You can get by without them.
Let me know what your experience is when you use them or even when you don’t, by leaving me a comment below. Just scroll down and leave your comment.
Wouldn’t it be great if you could adopt a simple fasting method like the 16/8 intermittent fasting and drop the pounds in weight and get lots more benefits at the same time?
Well, you are just about to find out if you can, right here on this page.
The 16/8 intermittent fasting is by far the most popular intermittent fasting method. It’s so popular that it goes by all sorts of nicknames like 16:8 IF, intermittent fasting 16 + 8, eat 8 hours fast for 16, fast 16 eat 8.
All sorts of names have been applied to this common method of fasting. It’s a bandwagon. You better hop on it, if you are thinking about it. Otherwise you will be missing out. Big time.
What is the 16/8 intermittent fasting?
Okay, it’s almost self-explanatory. You intentionally avoid eatingfor 16 hours in the 24 hours that make up the whole day and you eat in the remaining 8 hours of the day.
The 16/8 intermittent fasting is just as simple as that.
It’s not complicated. Anyone, absolutely anyone can do the 16/8 intermittent fasting. There are 3 modes of fasting in general.
Short fasts are intermittent fasting lasting 12 – 24 hours Long fasts are fasting episodes lasting for 24 – 36 hours Prolonged fasts are fasting intervals lasting 36 hours to 1 week, 2 weeks or even 3 months.
Yes, people do fast for that long and they survive. I am not exactly recommending prolonged fasts for you here but as part of the learning process, it’s nice for you to know that prolonged fasts do exist. It’s not some theory. People do it.
As you would have gathered from the above description, the 16/8 fasting belongs to the short fast category.
16/8 fast is not a stretch of your innate human resources by any stretch of imagination.
Yes, for a beginner to fasting and for someone who has been used to eating 4, 5, 6 or 7 times a day, voluntarily abstaining from food over a 16-hour period might prove challenging at first. But it is not that hard, if you really want to do it.
In effect, for a 16/8 intermittent fasting, you stay off food for 16 hours of the day and you compress your eating window to the remaining 8 hours of the day.
And because the 16/8 intermittent fasting is a short fast, you can do it a lot frequently but within reason.
You should be looking to do the 16/8 intermittent fasting for about 3 – 5 times a week. You can do 16/8 intermittent fasting for 7 days a week but you don’t want to do that for too long.
Why is this?
One major difference between intermittent fasting and other forms of diets is that you can preserve your body’s basal metabolic rate. Your basal metabolic rate should not drop off when you do intermittent fasting correctly.
So, the ‘eat 8 hours fast 16 hours per day’ for weight loss can lose some of its value, if you do 16/8 intermittent fasting every day for say 6 months continuously.
You will still lose weight. But the weight loss of 16/8 intermittent fasting may start to get marginal over time when abused.
What I am trying to say here is: we want to avoid going into the so-called ‘starvation mode’ where your body adapts to current eating pattern and reduces your basal metabolic rate correspondingly. Energy saving mode, that is.
You want to keep your body guessing. It won’t, if you get into a regular predictable pattern.
Don’t forget the keyword: Intermittent. Makes sense?
Why is the 16/8 intermittent fasting necessary?
Fasting can be done for health reasons or for religious reasons. Fasting for religious reasons is outside the remit of this blog, so I won’t be going there.
Intermittent fasting for health reasons concern us here.
There are obvious advantages of doing intermittent fasting not least weight management. One of the easiest ways to lose weight and keep it off is through intermittent fasting.
But you have to avoid allowing your body to go into the energy saving mode (starvation mode).
The whole idea behind intermittent fasting regardless of the method of fasting you adopt is to get hormonal advantage which helps your body’s metabolic health.
Everything begins and ends with the hormonal head-start that intermittent fasting gives to you.
There are 3 principal hormones you want to take advantage of when you fast. They are:
Human Growth hormone
With intermittent fasting, your insulin levels drop, adrenaline levels go up and human growth hormone goes up too.
The interplay of all of those 3 hormones work synergistically to help you burn fat.
Intermittent fasting enables you to burn your immediate energy stores. I am referring to the glycogen stored in your liver and muscles. That has to be used up first before you access the stored energy – your body fat.
Insulin level getting low enables you to access the fat stores once you have used up your immediately available glycogen. Your body’s metabolic rate is fired up by the elevated adrenaline/noradrenaline and human growth hormone.
It takes 10 – 12 hours for the stored glycogen to be used up.
So, when you fast for 16 hours, you are essentially going to access and burn stored fat for only 4 – 6 hours out of the 16 hours fast period.
Remember, the first 10 – 12 hours of the fast period is a redundant period, where you are simply burning the immediate energy store – glycogen. Until all of the glycogen is burnt, you will not burn the fat.
That is why I believe that the 16/8 intermittent fasting is about the bare minimum you need to do, if you want to shed fat and lose weight through fasting methodology.
How to do 16/8 intermittent fasting
I should mention that this method of eating was made popular by Nutritional Consultant, Martin Berkhan.
He christened it; Leangains protocol.
Martin is a maverick by all accounts who has a habit of breaking popular diet rules. He still gets results using the 16/8 method. He is quite muscular and has as little body fat percentage as you will find anywhere else.
See his picture below:
He exemplifies what is achievable when you adopt this method of eating. I should mention that Martin Berkhan did not achieve that 16/8 intermittent fasting result overnight.
As you can tell, he does incorporate workouts in his 16/8 regime. You are not going build muscle without some serious commitments to workout.
You will shed fat with 16/8 IF even if you don’t exercise at all (which is not always a good thing) but you won’t add to your muscle bulk without pumping some iron.
How do you start 16/8 intermittent fasting as a beginner?
In truth, you can manipulate the 24-hour clock to suit your lifestyle.
Fast for any stretch of the 24 hours in a day in any 16-hour window.
What do I mean by that?
Your 16-hour fasting period could be between 7pm to 1pm the next day, 3pm to 9am the following day, 12 midday to 6am the next day. A night worker who sleeps during the day can fast from 8am to 2am the next night.
You get the point. It doesn’t matter what stretch of the night or day you use as your 16-hour fast period.
What’s important is: you fast for 16 hours at a stretch and you eat all your meals in the remaining 8 hours.
How you go about dividing the hours is up to you.
This flexibility is important because it means you can adapt the 16/8 fasting method into your lifestyle. Even if you are a shift worker like a nurse, para-medic, doctor; a trucker, a sales rep who covers a wide geographical area therefore travelling often, a pilot or air stewardess (or cabin crew as they preferred to be called these days) etc, you can still do the 16:8 IF.
Those categories of workers I mentioned above are the exceptions to the rule. Most of the population work 9am – 5pm and they have regular sleeping hours at night which nature designed for us to rest.
Now, for us regular folks making up the bulk of the population, it becomes a choice for you whether you want to fast at night until about 1pm the following day…
…or rather eat all your meals in the morning into the early afternoon and end 8-hour eating window earlier in the day.
I am referring to eating all your meals between 8am and 4pm, then fasting between 4pm and 8am the next morning, for instance. This would mean early start and early finish. This regime will work for someone who cannot skip their breakfast especially if their job is quite physical.
This 8am to 4pm eating window means you will be done with food commitments by 4pm and you don’t have to think about food anymore.
However, it may mean that, if you are someone who doesn’t go to bed early, there’s a chance you might be hungry by midnight when you want to go to bed.
Temptation to eat becomes high.
By far the most popular 16/8 intermittent fasting protocol is having your last meal of the day at 9pm and skipping breakfast the next morning to resume eating at 1pm.
Why is this popular?
It’s because it falls within the realms of having your 1st meal of the eating window at 1pm which is the regular lunch break for most office workers.
What that means is; your meals must be eaten between 1pm and 9pm. This gives you ample opportunity to do what you like and it falls in line with most people’s regular working hours.
Do remember, you can always shift these hours to suit you and your lifestyle. Don’t get hung up on fixed times.
One of the biggest advantages of intermittent fasting is high degree of flexibility built in. You can bend your hours any way you like. No one is holding a whip over you restricting you to do this and that.
Below are some suggested 16/8 fasting hours and eating windows.
People working regular hours, use any of the Schedule below:
9pm – 1pm
1pm – 9pm
8pm – 12 noon
12 noon – 8pm
7pm – 11am
11am – 7pm
6pm – 10am
10am – 6pm
5pm – 9am
9am – 5pm
4pm – 8am
8am – 4pm
3pm – 7am
7am – 3pm
For Night Shift workers, try the Schedule below:
7am – 11pm
11pm – 7am
8am – 12 midnight
12 midnight – 8am
6am – 10pm
10pm – 6am
5am – 9pm
9pm – 5am
Now do you have to jump straight into a 16-hour fasting period straightaway, if you are new to fasting? Absolutely, not. Remember I said, flexibility.
If you are new to intermittent fasting, start with a 12-hour fast, then the next day make it a 13-hour fast for 2 days, then next a 14-hour fast for 3 days. Give it a break for 3 days.
I call it the 1-2-3 formula. First run for 1 day, then a 2-day run, next a 3-day run, pushing “the boulder” up the hill by 1-hour for each run until you hit the target.
Resume your next fast with a 14-hour fast for 2 days, then a 15-hour fast for 3 days. Give it a break for 3 days.
This is all about building up your confidence, especially if you are someone who has been having 6 – 8 meals a day. This is important. You want to know you can do it.
And there is no rush to hit the target.
You also want to ease your appetite hormones like ghrelin into your new way of eating. Requesting your appetite hormones to behave themselves and stop bothering you!
After your second 3-day break, it’s time for the biggie. Now do your first 16-hour fast. If your confidence waivers on your first 16-hour fast, then retreat to a 14-hour fast, then push it up by 1 hour each day. So, 14, 15 then hit the 16-hour fast.
Now give yourself a treat when you have done your first 16-hour fast. Hurray, you have arrived. It just gets easier from then on.
Once you get used to this 16-hour fast, you can extend to 18-hour, 20-hour and even 24-hour fast easily. It’s all about confidence.
Which brings me nicely to:
What should I eat after my 16/8 intermittent fasting?
How do you break your 16/8 intermittent fasting? Hmmm, there’s nothing magical about this, to be honest.
Remember, that word again? Flexibility. That’s the one.
Following standard good eating habits is the way to go.
Avoid highly processed foods, junk foods, refined sugar and foods with added sugar. If you follow that simple rule, you can eat just about anything.
If you are someone into carbs, eat your unprocessed complex carbs. If you are paleo or ketogenic guy, go for your standard paleo or keto meal that tickles your fancy.
It’s a good idea not to binge eat. Just be sensible with your portions.
However, if you are doing serious resistance training (which I advise you do) or any High Intensity Interval Training, then you may want up your proteins.
Here’s what you should do.
==> Exercise about 2 or 3 times a week.
==> If you exercise on your fasting days, do your workout towards the end of the fast period. The last hour of the fast period is best for fat burning.
==> Now if you are exercising intensely, you may want to protect your muscle mass. So, I’d say take branched-chain amino acids (BCAA supplement) about 30 minutes before your workout. See my article on BCAAs and intermittent fasting here.
It’s not mandatory to take BCAAs. So don’t sweat it!
==> Take bcaa supplements if you have them. If you don’t, you can easily compensate by having a high protein meal after your workout.
==> A good balanced meal of Protein (meat or beans, peas if you are a vegetarian or vegan) with lots of veggies and starchy carb will suffice.
==> Have your main meal soon after your workout. Prepare your meal in advance, so you are not tempted to go for takeouts or some junk food.
==> Eat as normal on fasting days that you are not exercising. You don’t need to exercise every fasting day, by the way.
Mix it up. You can do Paleo-style in your non-exercise days by having a meal of Veggies, Healthy fats and Protein (meat or beans, peas if you are a vegetarian or vegan).
When you mix it up, you will be carb cycling and that would be in keeping with what I refer to as the Depletion-Repletion way of eating.
Low carb days interspersed with high carb days but you should dose up on your proteins especially if you are exercising intensely.
A typical high carb meal will be:
==> 100 gm of protein (that’s about 4 palm size) ==> 100 gm of starchy carbs (that’s about 2 fist size) ==> 4 fistfuls of veggies ==> A handful of nuts or seeds
A typical low carb meal will be:
==> 120 gm of protein (that’s about 4 palm size and three-quarter) ==> 4 fistfuls of veggies ==> 2 handfuls of raw nuts and seeds
How many meals should you eat in your 16/8 intermittent eating window?
People are always concerned about how many meals to eat in the eating window once they break their 16/8 intermittent fasting.
Again, that word. Flexibility.
You can have:
One big meal
Or you can have two normal size meals
Or one small meal and a bigger second meal
Or if you really want to normalise things, you can eat 3 meals in your 16/8 eating window.
But always remember that the more meals you squeeze in, the higher your chances of over-shooting your calorie requirements for the day.
I personally eat one small meal of fruits and raw nuts for lunch and a bigger meal later in the evening. That’s me wrapped up for the day.
Those with digestive problems can have foods like bone broth, mashed potatoes, smoothies, soups, raw fruits, brown rice etc.
Try stuff out. There are no set rules.
Should I exercise during 16/8 intermittent fasting to lose weight?
The short answer is; yes, you should.
But you don’t have to. Exercise is not mandatory for you to lose weight on 16/8 intermittent fasting But it helps a great deal. You will still lose weight if you eat in 8 hours, fast for 16 hours IF protocol without exercise.
When you do add exercise to your 16/8 fasting protocol, it’s better to do it in the last hour of your fast and eat soon after.
Why is this?
Exercise sensitizes the muscles and makes them receptive to the macro and micronutrients made available from your meals. That’s why eating soon after your exercise sets the stage maximum nutrient utilisation.
In particular, protein synthesis, hence the high protein diet recommended when you exercise. This is highly protective of your muscles, preventing any muscle loss. Not only that, protein synthesis facilitates muscle building, if bulking up is your thing.
If you are going to exercise, then the right exercise that gets the best results for 16/8 intermittent fasting weight loss is high intensity interval training (HIIT).
Naturally, if you want to really build muscle, then of course you need to lift those weights.
And just in case, you are wondering if you will lose weight on 16/8 intermittent fasting, well take a look at this study.
The participants in that study are trained young men in their 20s and 30s who were already middle-level fitness guys. They were split into 16/8 IF group and Normal Diet group. The study ran over 8 weeks.
In essence, they didn’t really have much weight to lose.
But the study participants in the intermittent fasting arm still lost 1.6kg (3.5 lbs) of fat compared to the normal diet group who didn’t lose any significant weight at all.
Better still, these guys in the 16/8 intermittent fasting protocol still managed to gain 1.4 lbs of muscle. Not bad!
Something that happens in intermittent fasting is that IF increases the hormone, Adiponectin level in the body.
Adiponectin stabilises the basal metabolic rate. Higher adiponectin means your basal metabolic rate fires up.
This is a huge physiological advantage because it means you don’t go into energy saving mode (starvation mode) when you do intermittent fasting on this account. Cool!
Do I need supplements on the 16/8 intermittent fasting?
No, you don’t need to take supplements when doing 16/8 intermittent fasting. So long as you eat right, you don’t need supplements.
But if you are keen on the idea of supplements, then the only supplement you need for the 16/8 intermittent fasting is branched-chain amino acids (BCAA) supplement.
BCAAs are protective of muscle loss and are best taken on your workout days. You don’t need to take them when you are not working out. Take BCAAs on your workout days about 30 minutes before you commence exercise.
There’s a lot to be said about the 16/8 fasting method but this guide should be enough to get you going. Don’t hesitate. Give it a go.
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