I was recently asked the following series of questions - "What's the difference between starvation and fasting? What happens to the body during the fed state vs fasted state? What are the weight loss benefits of fasting?" I was fascinated by the questions but unwilling to provide immediate answers as I felt a blog post would serve more people with similar unanswered questions. So, here we are. I have from time to time taken on the no food after 6pm challenge and heard others attempt it as well in a bid to accelerate the weight loss process. The popular no food after 6pm challenge is intermittent fasting at play which I wish to explain.
What is intermittent fasting and how can you do it?
It is voluntary abstinence from eating food or drink (or both) for a set period of time. The 16:8 fasting protocol is the most popular way to intermittently fast and involves fasting for 16 hours and eating during an 8 hour eating window. You can set it up in a way that's suitable to you and your situation. Prudence would encourage the adoption of healthier food items during your eating window because intermittent fasting doesn't necessarily issue you with a permit to eat garbage when the opportunity presents itself. You don't have to follow the 16:8 program, you can do less i.e. 12:12 but those with fat loss interests should strive to stick to it and exceed it if they have the capacity to do more. 16-24 hours of fasting is the sweet spot for weight loss seekers as fat burning typically begins after 12 hours of fasting and peaks between 16 and 24 hours of fasting. During your eating window try to eat more vegetables 🥬🥒🍆🥦🥕, fruits 🍏🍊🍇🍓🍍 and nuts 🥜 as you continue to eat the things that you normally like to eat. You shouldn't only be eager to eat these things when you're in hospital looking to be discharged. Don't treat your body like toilet where you just dump anything in there. During your fasting window stick to water, black tea, black coffee and green tea without any sugar, honey🍯 or sweetener and avoid consuming any food. Personally, when I'd intermittently fast I'd do so from 6pm to 10am, and eat between 10am and 6pm. I did this for two reasons. First reason was to avoid attending the vitumbuwa parties that take place at the office early in the morning and secondly I just don't feel very hungry in the morning. For beginners, fasting is challenging for the first few days but after 3-4 days your body adjusts and your mental capacity to suffer a little improves so endure. It will get better. Note: You don't have to practice intermittent fasting every day, you can do it on alternative days where one day involves a full day of regular eating patterns and the next involves intermittent fasting. Find what works for you and know that even a few days of intermittent fasting per week will provide you with some benefits.
What happens to the body during the fed & fasted state?
Fed state is when you consume food and wa kuta. The body moves in to process the nutrients and absorb what it needs. At any given time your body has energy needs (to walk, talk etc.) and you eat food to meet those energy needs. The body will use what it needs, store what it can as glycogen (stored carbohydrate) in your muscles and liver for future use and the rest becomes body fat. During a fasted state your body starts to use glycogen to meet your energy needs and once that's depleted it moves on to use body fat for fuel to keep you going in a process called ketosis. This is where weight loss seekers want to be. Starvation on the other hand is the complete absence of basic nutrients required to support minimum level health for a prolonged period. The difference between fasting and starvation is the severity of symptoms. A mismanaged fast can starve the body and you'll know real quick when you're starving because your body will start shutting down. Fasting can be uncomfortable but it shouldn't be a punishing experience so keep that in mind.
What are the weight loss benefits?
Losing weight during intermittent fasting is no different to losing weight through other dietary interventions. Best way to lose weight is the method that's most comfortable and sustainable for you. People tend to drop weight quickly when they intermittently fast and as explained earlier this is due to glycogen depletion which is your body's stored form of carbohydrate. Additionally, each gram of glycogen holds water (3g for every 1g of carbohydrate) so that gets drained as well. Put together you'll experience a quick shift on the scale that will put a smile on your face. However, this is all temporary. When you resume the banana munching🍌 that weight is coming back. The magic of intermittent fasting with regards to weight loss is in its inherent ability to reduce overall food intake.
Other notable benefits:
Who is intermittent fasting meant for?
Assuming you don't have a preexisting health condition (i.e. diabetes) then anyone that can naturally endure not eating for an extended period of time. If you're considering it then I recommend that you download the Life Fasting App from the App Store to help you track progress and understand what's happening to your body at any given time during a fast.
Intermittent isn't about denying yourself certain foods or 'starving', it's about delaying when you consume whatever it is that you want to eat. It is an effective protocol because when you shorten the eating window you tend to eat less food overall. Less food consumed than energy used through movement and activity ultimately results in weight loss.
I've been going to the gym consistently since the belly must go challenge and can't help but notice the number of women that shun weights and instead opt for cardio based machines such as treadmills for the entirety of their workouts. While there's nothing wrong with cardio intensive training programming, the fact is you're not optimizing your training to get the full benefits of being a gym member. I recall overhearing a conversation between a lady and a trainer at the gym I go to and the exchange baffled and amused me in equal measure. The trainer had this lady warm up on a treadmill as he should and later decided to put her through an exercise circuit that involved the use of weights. Upon being presented with dumbbells for an exercise she flat out refused to use weights. She said and I quote - 'I don't want to look like a man. I don't want muscles and I'm not here to get a hard body!' 😂 This comical response made understand women's reluctance to lift weights but the thinking is deeply flawed. A prime example of this is the fact that in every gym you'll find men lifting weights and grunting while making all sorts of faces as they do so, my dear sisters, how many of those men have muscles? My point is, it's not easy to build muscle and get bulky. If it was all men would be out there flexing but they're not.
The main reasons I advocate for all women to lift weights🏋♀️ are:
Women should aim to lift weights x3 times per week. There's no downside to lifting weights, only upside. You won't get bulky and you won't wake up with a beard. You have lower testosterone levels than men so development of big muscles is NOT your portion.
Why pay to only use a treadmill when you can freely run outside🏃♀️? Stop shortchanging yourself on the monthly gym subscription that you pay, use all the equipment that your gym charges you for. Lift weights for a better body and improved health outcomes.
As I tackle the belly must go challenge I set for myself I’ve been getting exposed to a bunch of lies and misleading information. Sponsored ads in the form of ‘shortcut to a 6 pack’ or ‘5 minute abs’ plaster my social media feeds constantly. Listen, if you see ANYONE with amazing abs, arms, chest and virtually any other admirable/developed body part, they didn’t get it on 5 minutes of training a day😐. Other ads even feature some unscrupulous characters that go as far as recommending a whole cocktail of dubious belly fat burners in addition to bogus training advice 👉🏾Swallow the pills today after 5 minutes of push ups and wake up a Spartan warrior tomorrow! These people that peddle this nonsense are professional conmen. Don’t believe the marketing and don’t get caught up in the hype.
Unless you prefer to chase your tail all day, I strongly encourage you to stick to the basic fundamentals of optimized training, nutrition & lifestyle outlined below:
5 minute abs? 😂hmmm. There's no such thing. Be ready to work and stay patient. With consistency the results will come. You can't jump the fence with these things, palibe ma shortcut.
After wasting a lot of time and money on stuff I’d see advertised in the magazines and on TV I want to speak my truth. I, like many other people in their youth, desperately wanted to believe in super pills and magic powders. In my quest to become like the fitness models and athletes I admire, I’ve swallowed many pills and mixed many different powders in the hope of waking up with an Adonis body. When nothing changed I swallowed some more pills and really started to push the envelope with the stuff. Until I got fed up with unsatisfactory results and a gaping hole in my pocket, only then did I start to educate myself on proper nutrition and everything else that gets you to the next level physically and mentally.
I want to give you, my reader, a run down of what's worked for me and for what purpose. I've been every kind of athlete and person seeking enhancement as you will see below. I hope to limit your fruitless experiments and save you some coins.
For general health
For endurance athletes
Caffeine is a stimulant that can be used to enhance endurance and improve your tolerance to pain. Remember the challenge of a run after some time spent in motion? When kaja ka voice starts trying to discourage you? Caffeine can help you persevere and reduce your own rating of perceived exertion. This allows you to push harder for longer. Best taken 30 minutes before an activity.
Carnosyn Beta Alanine buffers lactic acid thereby enhancing muscular endurance and performance. Lactic acid build up is that burning sensation you feel when you're running hard. Beta Alanine delays this process and allows you to run harder for longer. Advice: Buy Beta-Alanine as the patented Carnosyn form. That's what's been proven to be effective. Plain old Beta Alanine simply rides the science train of it's superior counterpart. There's a difference, always remember that. Carnosyn Beta Alanine can be taken at any time of the day.
Zinc & Magnesium are two minerals of real significance to endurance athletes because you lose a lot of both through sweat. If you're an endurance athlete you better wise up and replenish these in order to sustain your running performance, otherwise cramps and discomfort will be your portion when you go out on runs. I take my zinc & magnesium right before bed.
For bodybuilders and strength athletes
Whey Protein is taken purely for convenience and to help ensure that I'm consuming a good amount of protein per day. Good means at least 6 separate servings of protein a day. I can't always eat chicken or fish so I substitute with Whey. Benefits include: increase fat burning potential due to higher thermic effect and increased recovery from resistance training due to protein's ability to repair muscle tissue.
Pre-workout is one of the most commonly used supplements for gym goers and for good reason. A good pre-workout will help you get super focused on your session, provide you with a small boost in strength and endurance while also improving your nitric oxide levels for a better 'pump' in the gym. Good pre-workouts typically contain caffeine (alertness), L-tyrosine (focus), L-Citrulline (pump) and Beta Alanine (endurance) among a few other things. Always read the ingredients label of any pre-workout and see if it has what you require as not all pre-workouts are created equal. Don't just swallow pills and powders that contain ingredients you don't properly understand because the packaging is fancy.
For mortals just trying to lose weight
Green tea extract is a plant extract commonly consumed for fat burning properties, heart health boosting capacity and ability to slow down the absorption of carbohydrates. It's most effective when taken with or just after meals.
Konjac fiber is fiber you take roughly 30 minutes before meal with at at least 500ml of water to help fill your stomach and prevent you from overeating at meal time. Once consumed it goes on to expand in your stomach. Nkani ya njala reduce.
For those looking for an energy boost
Multivitamins are of particular importance to individuals that tend to suffer with low energy because it might be that you're low on a particular vitamin or mineral and your body isn't able to operate optimally. For many that have experienced it, what does your pharmacist often suggest? Usually a B-complex vitamin. For women, probably an iron supplement. In my opinion it's best to cover all your bases and simply invest in a good multivitamin to prevent deficiencies across the board.
For think tanks
Alpha GPC is a compound proven to increase brain metabolism and directly improve focus and memory in individuals that supplement with it.
Panax Ginseng is a plant extract with exciting cognitive boosting properties on offer. You can expect more mental agility and better memory when supplemented.
Rhodiola Rosea is a herb and 'neurological anti-fatigue' supplement that combats stress and anxiety and boosts mood. All this directly impacts and improves cognitive function across the board from memory to mental sharpness.
My interest in nooptropics was sparked after watching the movie Limitless and I've dabbled in them ever since. While the ingredients above didn't provide me with the extreme mental advancement witnessed in the movie, I did however experience a lift in mental clarity and reduced brain fog. I was definitely sharper and could process information faster.
For men that want to feel like more of an Alpha Male
My final piece of advice on supplements - Don’t let the marketing get to you. Supplements are a small part of everything. By my estimation you should only expect a 5-10% in performance when you take them. For some, that may be all they need to get to the next level and realize their absolute potential. For most, optimized nutrition, proper training and adequate sleep will do more for you than any legal over-the-counter pill or powder ever will.
Disclaimer: This post is not intended for the treatment or prevention of disease, nor as a substitute for medical treatment, nor as an alternative to medical advice. Use of the guidelines herein is at the sole choice and risk of the reader
The Belly Must Go!
We're a few months from Summer and you know what? I want a beach body by the summer even though I don't have a beach to go to! It starts now. First order of business is The Belly Must Go! Getting in shape takes time; it's a process. What makes people fail in their body transformation pursuits is unrealistic expectations, overzealous body goals paired with extreme diet and training practices. While a radical diet and training protocol may give you quick results in the short term, it's not a healthy approach nor is it sustainable long term. You're not meant to drop weight rapidly and if you mismanage the situation you'll end up with dramatic consequences that include, but are not limited to issues of stretch marks, loose skin, compromised energy levels, foul moods, and low libido. The belly must go, but it must do so gradually.
The concept of weight loss is simple, but it’s not easy. Let me increase volume here - THE CONCEPT OF WEIGHT LOSS IS SIMPLE, BUT IT'S NOT EASY. I have adopted a simple fat loss strategy that’s relatively easy to understand and implement without any complicated training and nutrition protocol. I'm going to share exactly what I plan to do to get lean in the quickest (and healthy) way I know and it's based on 3 basic principles which I will discuss in detail:
Smaller, frequent meals: I'll look to eat every 3 hours or so to keep the hunger at bay because waiting too long between meals is a setup for overeating later. The biggest enemy of progress when it comes to weight loss and sticking to a ‘diet’ is adherence. People fail because the hunger becomes overwhelming. Control your hunger and you can control your nutrition. Additionally, the frequent meals consumed should have a specific element of portion control and include a serving of protein at every sitting. Portion control playbook will for a start be as follows: all protein should equal your palm in size, all carbohydrates must equal a cupped handful, and vegetables your fist. Your hand should always guide you. Important - every meal eaten should have some protein.
High protein intake: High protein intake means 5-6 separate servings of protein per day. I will use and depend on protein to help increase satiety (nkani ya njala reduces), increase caloric expenditure through a higher thermic effect (meaning more calories burnt from digestion), minimize muscle loss from the reduced food intake and increased training while also improving muscle recovery (which means I can train more and more intensely).
Low to moderate carbohydrates: I will carefully manage my carbohydrate intake and carefully select my carbohydrate options. Carbohydrates are your body’s primary source of energy but if you eat carbohydrates (matebeto nshima) in excess and don’t use it (exercise/movement) then it gets stored as glycogen and body fat. My advice? Eat carbohydrates in accordance with what you will be doing and seek out brown carbohydrates such as brown rice, brown pasta, brown bread etc. Siting all day and later feeling entitled to matebeto nshima is a belly expansion activity. I will include fiber based carbohydrates such as muesli, Weetabix and plain old oats to help move things along and keep my gut healthy.
Low fat intake and careful consideration of fat options: Fat has the highest energy value of all the macro nutrients so I'll try to minimize its consumption and also carefully select my fat options. Fat options to be considered will be avocados, peanut butter, olive oil, fish, various nuts and seeds. I will also be avoiding fried food where I can, and where it's not practical I'll use olive oil to prepare my meals.
Smart hydration: I will be increasing water intake to optimize hydration and suppress appetite. I'll be consuming 40 mls of fluid per kilogram of body-weight. This will include drinking 5-6 cups of green tea daily to increase fat burning capacity. You should forget about other weight loss teas, stick to green tea and keep it simple.
I will strength train 4 times per week and base each workout on compound movements. I will squat, bench press, dead lift and shoulder press on each of the days and support the training with supplementary isolation movements. Here's my training template and note that it takes me no more than 60 minutes (usually 30-45 mins) per session to get it done:
NB: Two sets per exercise with 90 seconds rest between sets for all movements.
Always remember that when you're training, you're doing it to look good not to look strong. Getting lean is all about the cosmetics so train sensibly and stop flexing for strangers in the gym before you hurt yourself.
Low intensity cardio🚶
Easy run/walk 5-10 kilometers (or 10, 000 steps) 4 times per week. It's a very comfortable, stress-free activity that focuses on keeping the body in motion for anywhere between 20 - 40 minutes. The mornings are always best for this.
Other useful tips:
The Belly Must Go Sample Meal Plan:
Meal 1 – 3 boiled egg whites🥚, 1 slice of wholegrain bread🍞 with peanut butter
Meal 2 – Whey Protein shake with 200ml of skim milk🥛, 2 servings of fruit (i.e. apple + banana 🍎🍌)
Meal 3 – Rice, Beans, 2 servings of green leafy vegetables🥬 (i.e. broccoli, spinach), chicken breast
Meal 4 – Whey Protein shake with 200ml of skim milk🥛, 2 handfuls of nuts🥜
Meal 5 – Muesli with Greek yoghurt
Meal 6 – Grilled Hake with 2 servings of vegetables🥬
I hope to encourage others to embark on this journey with me. Start with your next meal. Make the right decision. Stay consistent with the basics and over time those small conscious decisions made on what you put in your mouth and how often you move your body will amount to big results.
Acknowledgement: Headline was inspired by 'KB'!
ISSA Certified Fitness Trainer & Nutritionist
Photos used under Creative Commons from Wilka, OLCR, SqueakyMarmot, ella.o, shixart1985, frank.shepherd, orlandofringe, Free Public Domain Illustrations by rawpixel, wuestenigel, wuestenigel, MattysFlicks, Tobyotter, wuestenigel, Andrew Gustar, Artotem, wuestenigel, aqua.mech, homegets.com, wuestenigel, shixart1985, DVIDSHUB, wuestenigel, focusonmore.com, wuestenigel, quinn.anya, airdrie.m, htomari, denisbin, One Way Stock, shixart1985, The Nutrition Insider, planetlight, volkspider, wuestenigel, Ray in Manila, M McBey, Jodiepedia, Ivan Radic, middlekidd, The National Guard, twm1340, stoneysteiner, wuestenigel, focusonmore.com, wuestenigel, wuestenigel, mobilyazilar, wuestenigel