Q & A with Promix Founder & CEO, Albert Matheny
“Will intermittent fasting or meal timing help me lose weight?”
There is so much conflicting information about intermittent fasting and meal timing out there, it’s important to get the facts straight.
CALORIES IN, CALORIES OUT
The first thing I always say whenever anyone asks me about fuel timing & intermittent fasting is that if losing or gaining weight and shifting your body composition is your primary goal, before you even think about timing, you need to think about calories.
If you are in a calorie deficit, you will lose weight.
If you are in a calorie surplus you will gain weight.
Losing weight v. Changing your body composition
Another thing to remember, when I say “weight” is that I simply mean a unit of measure (pounds, kilograms, etc).
In the human body, weight is a sum of fat, muscle, and fluids. We often say we want to “lose weight” when we really mean we want to “lose fat”. Gaining or losing weight is not the same thing as losing fat or gaining fat. So first, identify your goals correctly and specifically. You have to ask the right questions to get the right answers, and if you’re looking to successfully change your body composition, it’s important to know the difference (1).
Intermittent fasting is a way of eating that restricts when you eat more than what you eat and in what quantities, so by nature, it doesn’t really address the surplus/deficit issue (2). Some people experience fantastic results while practicing meal timing and eating the appropriate amount of calories. Others find it challenging, if not down right detrimental to their goals.
My friend and colleague, Dr. Jaime Schehr, breaks it down effectively. Take a listen around 5:03.
In the end, you’ll have to try it out and give it some time while adhering to your calories to know if intermittent fasting is right for you.
That’s not to say that timing never comes into play in other situations. What about eating at night? Many of my clients ask me whether or not eating late at night will cause weight gain.
Not as simple as “yes” or “no”
Your body does not isolate inputs (like calories). It takes inputs in context with the rest of your life (sleep, exercise, stress, age…).
Assuming the calories you consume are matching the calories you expend, eating at night and its effects on fat gain or loss depend on:
- Your activity in the later portion of your day, and
- What you are eating at night
Are you working out after work and then eating? Or do you workout early in the morning, sit at work all day, then come home and eat and go to bed? What are you eating or drinking? A few beers? Desserts? Steak and veggies? Yogurt?
The common thread between all of these things is blood sugar.
Variable 1: Exercise
Exercise lowers your blood sugar as your muscles go into uptake-mode, using sugar for energy.
Variable 2: Food/Drink
The macronutrient composition – protein, fat, and carbs (including sugar) – and quantity affects your blood sugar. If you eat a lot of carbs, your blood sugar will go up, and the more you eat, the more your blood sugar rises.
However, if you choose to eat fat or protein, the impact on your blood sugar will be minimal.
You can see where the two intersect. Eating a lot of carbs when your muscles are looking for sugar (i.e. before or after exercise) will not result in the same blood sugar spike.
Sleeping, on the other hand, is the most sedentary activity you do where the least calories are burned. If you spike your blood sugar before bed and your muscles are not using that sugar to replenish their glycogen stores, then your body still needs to do something with those carbs to control your blood sugar. It will sequester that energy and store it as fat.
Fat and/or protein save the day (…night)
If you have primarily fat or protein before bed, you will not spike your blood sugar as intensely.
Added protein or fat can also help your recovery and performance (3)
The most common theme I see in people that have trouble losing weight, or clients who complain about feeling hungry all the time, is a lack of protein intake.
Getting enough protein
Having protein at night is a great way to get in extra protein you might’ve missed during the day. The best type of protein to have at night is a slow digesting protein that will be broken down by your body while you sleep, allowing for a steady release of amino acids to help promote muscle protein synthesis, repairing lean muscle.
Don’t be afraid of bulking up. Protein at night is not for adding muscle, it is for repairing muscles that are broken down during exercise. If you don’t recover, you are much more likely to suffer injury, especially if your training program is particularly intense. This applies to strength training as well as endurance training. A distance runner often needs even more protein than someone in a strength-based sport simply due to the incredible amount of fuel they burn.
Living that High Protein Life
Protein plays a huge role in overall body composition and hunger control. Having a high-protein meal before bed when you are in a calorie deficit (or trying to lose fat), is a very good strategy to help you feel full but still make sure you get the protein you need in order to not lose muscle.
Remember, the lower your calories are, the higher the % of your calories need to be from protein to keep you full and functional. For the average person cutting calories, they should first drop carbohydrates, then fat, and then protein only if needed.
But what about my friend who eats ice cream at night and never gains weight?
Most likely, your friend is using the sugar and calories from ice cream just to meet their caloric needs. They may still even be in a calorie deficit.
Does this mean you can eat ice cream every night and not gain weight?
Yes, it does.
Does this mean you should eat ice cream every night if you want to feel your best and avoid health problems in the future?
No. No, it does not.
A treat here and there is not a problem, but when you indulge every single day, you will eventually have to face the repercussions of excess refined sugar, regardless of how it affects your physique. This leads me to my most important point.
Don’t judge a book by its cover
Remember that just because someone can keep a low body fat or maintain control over their weight, it absolutely does not mean they are healthy.
When working toward your goals, pay attention to not only how your body looks, but how it feels, performs, and functions, and stop comparing yourself to others.
Thanks to instagram, we often see people who physically look great or perform at a high level making poor food choices or highlighting themselves eating something junkie. You have to remember, through your jealous rage, that it is highly unlikely those people eat like that habitually.
You have no idea what those people actually eat and drink 24/7, or what they really do for exercise. There is no use comparing yourself to others.
Through it all, you have to do what’s best for YOU.
You’ve got this,
(1) Kubala, Jillian. Body Recomposition: Lose Fat and Gain Muscle at the Same Time. Healthline Website. https://www.healthline.com/nutrition/body-recomposition. Published Aug 2018. Accessed July 2019.
(2) Fletcher, Jenna. How to Begin Intermittent Fasting. Medical News Today Website. https://www.medicalnewstoday.com/articles/324882.php. Published April 2019. Accessed July 2019.
(3) Medical Science Sports Exercise. Protein ingestion before sleep improves postexercise overnight recovery. US National Library of MedicineNational Institutes of Health Website. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/22330017.