Discussing Intermittent Fasting With Phil Learney - An Expert's Opinion

Ok, this is certainly a discussion piece and one that I havn’t written about yet as I still need to study more about this pretty complex subject. This is just a few of the things that have been sat in the back of my mind and been tapping on the ‘logic’ door. I am going to ask a few questions that I am in the process of answering but throwing them in there to get you thinking for yourselves.   Fasting and Intermittent fasting as a dietary method has been something we’ve seen an awful lot about as of late and if I’m honest some great data and studies to support it. Shame that the one site I’ve seen heavily promoting it as a method uses a LOT of VERY indirect studies that have a loose association with the subject. Infact I read a few of the references and they where downright bad for what was trying to be validated tbh. But anyways…..

I know for a fact fasting is a cool aid kinda thing that people will jump straight on their high horse about the second someone starts to question it so I will make the statement that related to one of my earlier articles.

‘No one is right’

I am seeking information pertaining to this subject and trying to look at it from slightly diverse angles asking ‘What if?’ and ‘What is it negatively effecting that no one is talking about?’. I remember the low fat diet fad that still exists today in the form of low fat foods ladened in sugar. No one looked at what it negatively effected, people where too busy concentrating on what it was doing short term. Those of you that have seen the movie ‘Man on a Ledge’ may understand the diversion of attention that can occur.

This IS NOT me condemning a system simply begging questions that perhaps people should have already asked about it.

I, as some of you know am always looking at ‘what is the optimal way’ to do anything. I recall watching an interview with bodybuilder Evan Centopani and the interviewer asked him if he drank diet soda like many of his bodybuilding counterparts, he replied by saying ‘I only ever see fat people drinking diet sodas so that tells me to stay away from them’. An exceptionally great piece of simple logic, no science nothing complex just an observational study with probably more test subjects in it than any manufactured lab study.

Now these are the questions I am asking alongside the phrase :

‘If it aint broke don’t try to fix it’

So when I get a person comes to me wanting to build muscle tissue and burn fat I look across at those people that have done it successfully and I mean VERY successfully.

Who builds muscle tissue the fastest? Bodybuilders, Physique and Fitness Models Who gets leanest quickest? Bodybuilders, Physique and Fitness Models. We can learn a lot from bodybuilding as a sport as rules they have discovered through trial and error and decades of practice seem to have been honed and practiced so these men and women can do these things in record time.

I get clients come to me who still come out with the dumb comment. Don’t worry, I’m not calling you dumb, its a dumb comment that seems to have been built into peoples ‘consultation’ vocabulary alongside ‘When do I get a cheat meal’.

‘I want to get lean but not too lean’

‘I want to get big but not too big’

I treat anyone who wants to get lean as though I’m wanting them to have skin like cling film and an anatomy chart for a body…..enroute…when they’re happy we then go on maintenance.

I treat anyone who wants to get big as though I’m wanting them to step on the Olympia stage and win it…..enroute…when they’re happy we then go on maintenance.

I go all out so my clients get results QUICK!! Provided they do what THEY need to do it works.

It’s interesting that NONE of the best bodybuilders and fitness models in the world employ the IF strategy and never have (as far as I’m aware)….and I have had notable success with a HIGH percentage of my clients and have NEVER used this method. All of whom improved health markers and blood results when taken significantly. So, the questions that resonate with me are primarily:

What impact does this type of eating have on our hormonal status?

It has been focused on that IF has positive effects on both HGH (Human Growth Hormone) and IGF1 (Insulin like Growth Factor) levels. These are two powerful hormones that are key players in muscle growth, fat burning, tissue repair and strength.

The problem that lies here and that I don’t see much reference to is the fact that tissue regeneration is reliant on a whole other bunch of hormones. Insulin and Testosterone most notably.

Insulin is an interesting one. Everytime we eat insulin levels go up in order to drive nutrients into cells. Too much stimulus and we get fat, no stimulus, no nutrients. Therefore would eating less frequently put a limit on how many nutrients could be taken in and absorbed daily? Would it mean, less meals mean we need to get a higher amount of calories in per meal to try and offset this? If we’re looking at attaining notable results in a very short time would we not be better absorbing more nutrients?

IF certainly improves insulin sensitivity but is that an issue for someone who eats well?Perhaps in a situation when Insulin sensitivity is an issue and is the primary reason for someones inability to take control of their weight, after all impaired glucose tolerance is pretty much entirely a dietary response and one that reflects someones dietary history?  I mean the atkins diet in an extreme circumstance is a valid way to illicit weight loss in a case where obesity will more than likely kill someone before anything else.

When I announced I was writing this piece someone commented:

‘There would have been a time where every human on the planet lived an intermittent fasting lifestyle due to having to hunt for your dinner! If you don’t catch, you don’t eat – seems only natural to me. Every other species on the planet TODAY still lives by this method’

Not disagreeing at all but this same time we had not been exposed to modern food practices on top of this, an environment that is physiologically far more stressful than having to just wake up, survive and procreate. Adrenaline would only rise in survival circumstances (Hunger stimulates adrenaline and this benefits hunting)…….we don’t hunt anymore so do we need to starve to illicit this response? Is it also wise on top of all the other stimulus we receive. People didn’t base jump, drive fast cars, walk down dark alleyways full of thugs……..Overkill perhaps? Adrenaline is after all catabolic (degenerative) and ANOTHER stress hormone. We also give it enough stimulus is will exert negative feedback to down regulate its own synthesis.


‘Dieting’ causes a drop in testosterone 100%on.on.1,2 and I don’t want to get into that topic but assuming despite fasting the individual should still be in a good caloric balance. Thats the assumption.

A study in 1997 took a look at the impact of short term fasting and testosterone production. Have a read of my previous article to see what testosterone is responsible for. Bear in mind that someone exogenously administering testosterone would not see this drop which is why those doing IF with this kind of support are not a true reflection on what IF actually does. I have seen a few ‘transformations’ that would beg this question.

The study aforementioned showed that Men fasting for 3½ days saw a 30-50 percent decrease in testosterone, which was due to changes in the pituitary signal, rather than the testes function.3


What happens to someone who has an efficient or high carbohydrate metabolism?

If blood sugar drops enough epinephrine (adrenaline) ramps up. This is great to keep energy levels high and alertness (One of the notable things people see improve with IF). Epinephrine is released by the adrenal Medulla through the sympathetic nervous system (something you don’t want to over stimulate is you are SNS dominant, hard gainers and  people with ectomorph tendencies), this illicits the fight or flight response. The bodies endocrine system kicks in and tells the nervous system to fire. Is it a good position to be in to constantly be increasing adrenaline levels through these mechanisms and fasted states? Remember, just a question to mill over and ponder on.

So if I take a hypothetical example of the skinny fat person. High end ectomorph, over dominant SNS and typical stress head. Will a fasted state bring about weight loss through increased metabolic function and increased metabolism of both lean and fat mass??

Given the society which is notably different from the days when the hunter gatherer existed and ‘THAT’ was the way we lived.  We are now continuously exposed to a plethora of stimuli that will fatigue our neural system heavily. Adrenaline is also addictive so therefore we would constantly need more to get the same effect. Does this resonate that long enough using IF would then require external stimuli to get the desired feeling of energy that short term it appears to give?

Further studies need to look at the impact of IF on heart rate, cardiac contractility, oxygen uptake to the lungs and any impact that it has on blood flow to both skeletal muscle and the digestive system. It would also be appropriate to look at digestive impacts of IF.

There have also been some interesting studies on food deprivation and the peripheral impact Leptin (an anorexigenic hormone that tells your body if it is starving or not) has on the bodies ingestive behaviour to overeat and ‘store’ food. I need to study these further.

Any system will work to a degree….

Are those that are achieving notable success doing so simply because they have found something that they actually follow easily and consistently? Perhaps even their first diet they’ve followed through with? I’ve said it once and will say it again, any diet plan will work to some degree provided you follow it!!! Remember that every diet ‘system’ has it’s success stories.

Are those that are achieving good gains eating this way using any type of hormonal support (I have certainly seen a few examples that ask me to beg this question?). You CANNOT turn over nutrients you don’t have. The basic science on PTOR (protein turnover rate) doesn’t  add up in some of these ‘case studies’. The human being can be an interesting anomally at times but not always…..

Those that are seeing strength gains and wellbeing improvements…..was your diet just WRONG in general before? Not the structure, just in general?

All questions that need to be asked of those endorsing it as a method beyond the typical  ’It worked for me’ statement.

I feel that Intermittent Fasting needs some heavier research done on it to conclude long and short term effects, negative consequences alongside positive benefits. Certianly an interesting topic and one I will be studying further.

1. Karila TA, Sarkkinen P, et al. Rapid weight loss decreases serum testosterone. Int J Sports Med, 2008 Nov;29(11):872-7.

2. Kraemer WJ, Fry AC, et al. Physiological and performance responses to tournament wrestling. Med Sci Sports Exerc, 2001 Aug;33(8):1367-78.

3. Aloi JA, Bergendahl M, et al. Pulsatile intravenous gonadotropin-releasing hormone administration averts fasting-induced hypogonadotropism and hypoandrogenemia in healthy, normal weight men. J Clin Endocrinol Metab, 1997 May;82(5):1543-8.

4. Garrel DR, Todd KS, Pugeat MM, Calloway DH. Hormonal changes in normal men under marginally negative energy balance. Am J Clin Nutr 1984;39:930-936.

5. Friedl KE, Moore RJ, Hoyt RW, Marchitelli LJ, Martinez-Lopez LE, Askew EW. Endocrine markers of semistarvation in healthy lean men in a multistressor environment. J Appl Physiol. 2000 May;88(5):1820-30

6. Bergendahl M, Aloi JA, Iranmanesh A, Mulligan TM, Veldhuis JD. Fasting suppresses pulsatile luteinizing hormone (LH) secretion and enhances orderliness of LH release in young but not older men. J Clin Endocrinol Metab. 1998 Jun;83(6):1967-75.

7. Röjdmark S. Influence of short-term fasting on the pituitary-testicular axis in normal men. Hormone Research. 1987; 25(3):140-6.

8. [Merck Manual 1992].

9. Rexford S. Ahima. Daniel Prabakaran, Christos Mantzoros, Daqing Qu, Bradford Lowell, Eleftheria Maratos-Flier & Jeffrey S Role of leptin in the neuroendocrine response to fasting Nature 382, 250 – 252 (18 July 1996); doi:10.1038/382250a0

10. Röjdmark S, Asplund A, Rössner S. Pituitary-testicular axis in obese men during short-term fasting. Acta Endocrinol (Copenh). 1989 Nov;121(5):727-32.viii. Klibanski A, Beitins IZ, Badger T, Little R, McArthur JW. Reproductive function during fasting in men. Journal of Clinical Endocrinology and Metabolism. 1981; 53(2):258-63.   11. Klibanski A, Beitins IZ, Badger T, Little R, McArthur JW. Reproductive function during fasting in men. J Clin Endocrinol Metab. 1981 Aug;53(2):258-63.

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