Hugh Jacked-man.

That's what his name may as well be, following the impressive pictures of the 44-year-old's frame that have dominated TV commercials and newspapers for years.

So how has he done it?

Hugh Jackman has been tinkering around with intermittent fasting, nothing new to many of us who keep an eye on the world of fitness and nutrition.

Although the media is perplexed over what they think might be a NEW diet, the intermittent fasting Wolverine diet is in fact one of the OLDEST diets in the history of man kind!

The cave man had no choice but to practice this diet, given the time it would take to hunt down food.

Let's take a look at the Wolverine diet, so you can gain an understanding as to why Hugh Jackman does intermittent fasting. 

HOW IT WORKS

The Wolverine diet plan is quite simple.

By his own admission, Hugh Jackman eats for eight hours from 10am to 6pm - then fasts for 16 hours until 10am rolls around again - which has been labelled the Hugh Jackman 16-8 diet.

For those that aren't aware, this is intermittent fasting in a nut shell.

There are a few variations, but Hugh Jackman is doing the eat for 8 hours, fast for 16 hours approach.

HANG ON - WON'T FASTING MAKE ME LOSE MUSCLE MASS?

Not if you do it correctly.

Providing you DO NOT train in a completely fasted state, and have enough amino acids in your blood stream to look after your muscle mass, you won't have an issue at all.

eat hugh 

A popular myth still doing the rounds today, is that one must eat EVERY 3 hours to keep the muscles fed, to ensure optimal muscle growth.

But this just isn't necessary, with many studies showing plasma amino acid levels are still elevated above baseline following a meal of protein, carbs and fat, THREE hours after ingestion (1).

And as for the amino acid leucine, that seems to be the man behind protein synthesis (2) - it was jacked up THREE times above baseline, THREE hours after the meal.

Then there's other research that I've touched on before (2a), that concludes LARGER amounts of protein in LESS FREQUENT meals, compared to evenly spread out meals, results in greater protein synthesis.

That's basically what one does during this approach - ingest LARGER amounts of protein.

HOW THE HELL CAN I FAST FOR 16 HOURS?

It's a very difficult concept to grasp a hold of, as it flies in the face of just about EVERYTHING that gym rats have been murmuring for years.

But essentially, regardless of how fast you believe your metabolism is, food takes longer to digest then most people think. Let's take a look at whey protein, a very efficient supplement backed by decades of research. 

hugh-abs-jpg_153130

Whey protein digests at a rate of about 10g/hr before its level of amino acids drop substantially.

So if Hugh Jackman smashed many steaks, with plenty of fats and carbohydrates in his 8 hour feeding window before his 16 hour fast, his blood would be saturated with amino acids for hours to come.

EAT THE RIGHT FOODS

Mr Jackman would know to consume many casein protein rich sources, such as cottage cheese, to ensure his plasma amino levels are as high as possible for as long as possible.

It's s a popular question amongst those examining the diet for the first time, what to eat after intermittent fasting, or just what to eat in general. 

We know that 30g of casein protein powder continues to digest for around 7 hours after consumption (3).

With this in mind, a huge meal with 110 grams of protein, plenty of cottage cheese, factored in with some fats, carbohydrates and vegetables (that will slow down digestion even more) and you're no fool to think you'll still have plenty of amino acids entering your blood stream for 15-21 hours.

It's these foods that best answer the question of what to eat while intermittent fasting. 

Hugh-Jackman-workout-routine-and-diet-plan The results of Hugh Jackman's interval fasting plan.

The whole reason man developed a stomach was so he could store food for extended periods, as he never knew when he could catch and eat his next meal.

If your muscles disintegrated after a few hours of no nutrients, then we simply wouldn't be here today; mankind would have failed to prosper.

 

HANG ON - WON'T I PUT ON MORE FAT FROM FASTING?

There's the common belief that fasting will make you store MORE fat, because your body will hold onto it thinking it's the last bit of food it's going to get.

In the context of intermittent fasting, the studies show quite the opposite.

One study found an 8% drop in resting metabolic rate after 60 hours of fasting (4) but this diet isn't suggesting you fast for that long.

Remember: it's 16 hours of fasting, and 8 hours of eating.

The other research into more realistic periods of fasting show the opposite - with metabolic rates INCREASED after short term fasting.

One study (5) showed a 3.6% INCREASE in resting metabolic rate after a 48 hour fast (still probably a bit long in the context of intermittent fasting), whilst other research has found that an 84 hour fast actually boosts metabolic rate from day one to day three (6).

hugh jackman

Still of Mr Jackman in X Men.

So it's clear there needs to be MORE research, with a variety of conclusions here.

But one things for sure: the idea that fasting will make you store MORE body fat is seemingly incorrect. 

Remember: it is fasting in PERIODS, not DAYS.

I've spoken to people recently that are doing 24 hour fasts.

This could prove to be VERY difficult, especially if you're like me.

But if it's working - do it. But this just isn't the suggestion here.

To quote from one study (7), that looked at non-obese subjects who participated in alternate day fasting and lost body fat: Hunger on fasting days did not decrease, perhaps indicating the unlikelihood of continuing this diet for extended periods of time. Adding one small meal on a fasting day may make this approach to dietary restriction more acceptable."

This is similar to what intermittent fasting is, although it's not one small meal, but rather an 8 hour window of feeding.

HOW ON EARTH WILL I TRAIN FASTED?

For a start, this is not recommended.

Always consume 10-15grams of your branched chain amino acids (BCAA'S) before training.

These are the main amino acids oxidised by skeletal muscle during exercise, and therefore will provide a shield again any potential muscle breakdown.

It creates a much more anabolic environment as opposed to training in the fasted state.

BCAA'S also play a key role in the glucose-alanine cycle, whereby glucose is made up within your body to assist you with exercise.

Intermittent fasting suggests you BREAK your fast immediately AFTER training.

GROWING MORE MUSCLE WHILST TRAINING IN A FASTED STATE?

As difficult as it is to comprehend, one study (8) has found that training in a fasted state, MIGHT promote more growth shortly afterwards.

It's suggested that P70s6 kinase plays an important role in protein synthesis, hence it was measured in two different weight training groups.

One group trained fasted, the other trained after a pre-workout meal.

They did whole body workouts, 3 sets of 8 reps, similar to what most people here reading this would be doing.

Following the workout, they consumed a carbohydrate, protein/leucine (leucine is one of the THREE BCAA'S).

THE RESULTS

AFTER ONE HOUR: The FASTED group had DOUBLE the levels of p70s6k in comparison to the fed group.

AFTER FOUR HOURS: The differences had evened out.

WHAT THIS MEANS

This doesn't imply that training in the fasted state is going to yield GREATER muscle gains.

That is NOT definite, and we need MORE research.

But what it does tell us that training fasted MAY just trigger greater muscle gains.

Whether or not it is superior in the long term is unknown.

But what it does tell us, if anything, is that the human body is extremely adaptive.

And with more muscle, our resting metabolic rate increases throughout the day.

TheWolverine_poster_intl Promotion poster for Hugh Jackman's film, X-Men: Days of Future Past.

PERFORMANCE WHILST TRAINING FASTED

There has been handful of research into Ramadan athletes, which we can draw from.

It's important to keep in mind that Ramadan involves no water, so dehydration does come into play.

But as far as resistance training and sprints go, there doesn't seem to be any huge disadvantage.

One study (9) looked at 15 elite Judo athletes and found "little effect on aerobic performance" when examining their squat jump and 30 second sprint.

Performance was measured BEFORE Ramadan, at the BEGINNING, at the END and 3 weeks AFTER Ramadan.

To quote from the paper: "Average power during the 30-second repeated jump test was slightly lower at the end of Ramadan than before Ramadan."

It's important to point out though, that a 1.3kg reduction in body weight was also recorded.

But still they concluded: "Collectively, these results suggest that the Ramadan Intermittent Fasting has little effect on the performance of experienced Judokas."

WHAT ABOUT IF I'M AN ENDURANCE RUNNER?

Remember, intermittent fasting aims at keeping the subject looking as good as possible via body composition, whilst not impacting negatively on aerobic performance.

At this stage, it's most likely not a diet suggested for the endurance athlete, but the studies don't discredit it entirely.

One piece of research (10) in a crossover design examined a 60 minute run on a treadmill involving Ramadan athletes.

The first 30 minutes was at 65% of their Vo2 max - the second 30 minutes allowed them to run as fast as they could to cover as much distance as possible.

They concluded: "Ramadan fasting has a small yet significant negative impact on endurance running performance, although the impact varies across individuals."

The-Wolverine-2013-hugh-jackman-33719104-960-640 Hugh Jackman fasting on set - no time to eat now!

 

CONCLUSION

I'm not suggesting everyone dives right into intermittent fasting as a way to grow more muscle, chew more fat, beat your sprinting records, or improve your long distance jogging times.

There's still not enough research to suggest this is the BEST alternative.

But one thing is for sure, the science we have so far DOES NOT discredit intermittent fasting as a poor means of achieving ideal body composition.

Also, there's plenty of people, notably Hugh Jackman, that are testament to the workings of intermittent fasting. 

If it fits in with your lifestyle and it works - do it.

I might also point out that some people have tried this, and hated it - not being able to deal with the fast.

But the important point here is that nobody dismisses alternative measures without doing some homework, or even trying it themselves.

Besides the anecdotal and scientific evidence on intermittent fasting, Hugh Jackman could well have been put on this diet for the convenience it provides, as shooting for long days with only a few scheduled stops makes it hard to eat frequently.

According to the man himself: "It's much better than what I used to do" - which involved getting up in the middle of the night to eat.

As I always say, the best diet is one that brings you positive results, and one that you can maintain easily.

Just ask Hugh Jackman.

 

Stay Fit, Stay Flexed!  

 

REFERENCES

(1) Norton LE, Layman DK, Bunpo P, Anthony TG, Brana DV, Garlick PJ.  The leucine content  of a complete meal directs peak activation but not duration of skeletal muscle protein synthesis and Mammalian target of rapamycin signaling in rats.  J Nutr. 2009 Jun;139(6):1103-9.

(2) Norton LE, Layman DK. Leucine regulates translation initiation of protein synthesis in skeletal muscle after exercise.  J Nutr. 2006 Feb;136(2):533S-537S.

(2a) Arnal MA, Mosoni L, Boirie Y, Houlier ML, Morin L, Verdier E, Ritz P, Antoine JM, Prugnaud J, Beaufrere B, Mirand PP. pulse feeding improves protein retention in elderly women.  Am J Clin Nutr. 1999 Jun;69(6):1202-8.

(3) Boirie Y, Dangin M, Gachon P, Vasson MP, Maubois JL, Beaufrere B. Slow and fast dietary proteins differently modulate postprandial protein accretion. Proc Natl Acad Sci USA. 1997, 94(26):14930-5.

(4) Nair KS, Woolf PD, Welle SL, Matthews DE. Leucine, glucose and energy metabolism after 3 days of fasting in healthy human subjects. Am J Clin Nutr. 1987 Oct;46(4):557-62.

(5) Mansell PI, Fellows IW, Macdonald IA. Enhanced thermogenic response to epinephrine after 48-h starvation in humans. Am J Physiol. 1990 Jan;258(1 Pt 2):R87-93.

(6) Zauner C, Schneeweiss B, Kranz A, Madl C, Ratheiser K, Kramer L, Roth E, Schneider B, Lenz K. Resting energy expenditure in short-term starvation is increased as a result of an increase in serum norepinephrine. Am J Clin Nutr. 2000 Jun;71(6):1511-5.

(7) Heilbronn LK, Smith SR, Martin CK, Ravussin E. Alternate-day fasting in nonobese subjects: effects on body weight, body composition, and energy metabolism. Am J Clin Nutr. 2005 Jan;81(1):69-73.

(8) Deldicque L, De Bock K, Maris M, Ramaekers M, Nielens H, Francaux M, Hespel P. Increased p70s6k phosphorylation during intake of a protein-carbohydrate drink following resistance exercise in the fasted state. European Journal of Applied Physiology. March 2010, Volume 108, issue 4, pp 791-800.

(9) Chaouachi A, Coutts AJ, Chamari K, Wong del P, Chaoachi M, Chtara M, Roky R, Amri M. Effect of Ramdan intermittent fasting on aerobic and anaerobic performance and perception of fatigue in male elite judo athletes. J Strength Cond Res. 2009 Dec;23(9):2702-9.