John Berardi's Great Fasting Experiment

John Berardi's Great Fasting Experiment

Intermittent fasting, or IF, is the current rage in the health and fitness industry. But it's really nothing new, physiologically.

The ability to "fast," or go without food for extended periods of time lies within us all, a protective mechanism developed to help ensure the survival of our species when food supplies were low.

But fasting by choice, not to survive but to improve health and body composition, is a much newer phenomenon – unless you believe Paleoman would've turned up his nose to a freshly-killed mammoth so that he could fit into his skinny jeans by St. Patrick's Day.

Things have gotten really interesting lately, as bodybuilders have started to hop on the rapidly growing fasting bandwagon. For those committed to getting big and jacked, fasting seems ill advised to say the least.

Bodybuilding diets typically feature multiple meals spread throughout the day. This, the experts argue, not only manages hunger better, it keeps the metabolism "stoked" while not overloading the digestive system.

One of these multiple meal advocates has been Dr. John Berardi, but lately JB, as we like to call him, has had a change of heart. He's been checking fasting out, flirting with her, sending her texts, even rustled up the courage to ask her out on a date, just to see what all the fuss was about. And his results might surprise you.

T Nation: Fasting? JB, are you becoming one of those tree hugging vegans, too?

John Berardi's Great Fasting Experiment John Berardi's Great Fasting Experiment

T Nation: I want to dig into the details of your diet in a minute. But first, I've gotta ask. You've been a "six meal a day" musclehead for years. And you're always in shape. Why try this in the first place?

T Nation: Let's talk about your plan. What exactly have you been doing?

T Nation: Eight months of fasting? Sounds like fun...

T Nation: You keep mentioning benefits. What exactly are we talking about here? Some of the fasting zealots make it sound like if we stop eating we'll solve all our health and physique problems.

  • Reduced blood lipids (including decreased triglycerides and LDL cholesterol)
  • Reduced blood pressure (perhaps through changes in sympathetic/parasympathetic activity)
  • Reduced markers of inflammation (including CRP, IL-6, TNF, BDNF, and more)
  • Reduced oxidative stress (using markers of protein, lipid, and DNA damage)
  • Reduced risk of cancer (through a host of proposed mechanisms; we'll save them for another review)
  • Increased cellular turnover and repair (called autophagocytosis)
  • Increase fat burning (increase in fatty acid oxidation later in the fast)
  • Increased growth hormone release later in the fast (hormonally mediated)
  • Increased metabolic rate later in the fast (stimulated by epinephrine and norepinephrine release)
  • Improved appetite control (perhaps through changes in PPY and ghrelin)
  • Improved blood sugar control (by lowering blood glucose and increasing insulin sensitivity)
  • Improved cardiovascular function (by offering protection against ischemic injury to the heart)
  • Improved effectiveness of chemotherapy (by allowing for higher doses more frequently)
  • Improved neurogenesis and neuronal plasticity (by offering protection against neurotoxins)

T Nation: That's pretty impressive. But what about muscle loss? I'd still be kind of afraid of what fasting that long would do to my muscle mass.

T Nation: You mentioned BCAAs. Do you think adding protein "pulses" to the fast, specifically high quality protein hydrolysates like Mag-10® Anabolic Pulse, could help out in certain situations?

John Berardi's Great Fasting Experiment

T Nation: What about post-workout nutrition?

T Nation: So, have you completely abandoned the six meal-a-day thing?

T Nation: It sounds like you think both IF and conventional dieting can have a place in someone's fat loss plan. Do you think one is better than the other?

T Nation: What about muscle gain? You mentioned a client who gained 20 pounds while using IF. What was he doing?

John Berardi's Great Fasting Experiment

T Nation: 20 pounds of lean mass! Impressive! So is this style of eating suitable for competitive bodybuilders?

T Nation: I'm wondering if you or your subjects experienced any negative side effects during the experiments?

T Nation: In general it sounds like you use IF cautiously. Are there some people who shouldn't try it?

  • You have a history of monitoring calorie and food intake (i.e. you've "dieted" before)
  • You're already an experienced exerciser
  • You're single or you don't have children
  • Your partner (if you have one) is extremely supportive, and
  • Your job allows you to have periods of low performance while you adapt to a new plan.
  • Are new to diet and exercise
  • Are married and have children
  • Have performance oriented or client-facing jobs, and
  • Compete in sport/athletics.

T Nation: Like what?

T Nation: How can people learn more about your experiments?

T Nation: Awesome JB. Thanks for the interview.