Max Lowery On Intermittent Fasting, Staying Lean And Eating Clean
We caught up with personal trainer Max Lowery to discuss the intermittent fasting principles behind his new online fitness plans
For personal trainer Max Lowery, a fitness routine he stumbled upon by accident while travelling around South America has become a way of life for him and many of his clients.
We caught up with Max to hear his story and get the low-down on the basic principles behind intermittent fasting to coincide with the release of his online fitness plans – The Fit Fast.
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Did you always want to be a personal trainer?
No. I was always interested in sport. I was a sport scholar at school, and county level at rugby, swimming and athletics. I swam the channel with my school aged 14, which was the worst experience of my life!
But I basically stopped doing all sport aged 16 because I left the school I was at and I just went on a very bad downwards cycle, getting into all sorts of trouble, drinking too much and not doing any sport at all.
I fell into a stock broking job aged 19. I still wasn’t doing any exercise and was drinking too much. I enjoyed that whole environment at first but then I started to feel like death. I was tired and hungover all the time and putting on weight. That extreme lifestyle pushed me back into doing exercise again and I slowly but surely realised that that’s what makes me happy. I’ve always had to have that exercise release to be happy and functioning. I realised I wasn’t interested in what I was doing so I resigned in February 2013 and went travelling for six months, doing my personal training exams before I left.
I wanted to help people because I got myself into quite a lot of trouble between the ages of 15 to about 21. I felt like I learnt a lot from that and I felt I could help others in similar situations. At first I thought I wanted to go to university but then I realised that’s not really what I wanted, so I did the exams and became a personal trainer.
Only in the last year have I really felt confident in what my message is. I’m still evolving all the time but it’s taken a while to really focus the energy. I have a passion for what I do. I’m helping people and I’m my own boss. I’m never going back – this is who and what I am now. For those six years I was not myself but it was good to get it out of my system.
How did you first find out about intermittent fasting?
When I quit my job, I went travelling around South America and I was exercising the whole time, eating well and really getting into the workouts. I was staying in a hostel in Brazil by myself and just because of the routine, I ended up just eating one huge meal a day. It’s very common that you go to these all-you-can-eat places where you weigh your food before paying. I was trying to save money, and it was ideal. I was going out and training all day and then I’d have one huge meal. I didn’t really know or think about what I was doing but I just got shredded. I was really, really lean and I’d never been like that before. I was training a lot and I put on muscle mass even though I was eating less than usual. I got back home and weighed myself and I was around 80 kilos, which is really light for me, and 5 per cent body fat.
But I still didn’t really know what I was doing. I went back into eating three meals a day, cooking my own food – low carb most of the time because I just like eating like that and I’d had good results from it – and I went back up to 86 kilos, from five per cent body fat to around 13 per cent. I wasn’t nearly as lean or shredded. They were fine differences.
I don’t count down the hours until I eat. I just eat when I’m hungry
I started doing research and I came across a few people who were doing intermittent fasting. At first I thought: ‘I can’t not have breakfast’. We’re brainwashed. The first thing I normally hear from people is: ‘but it’s the most important meal of the day… it gets your metabolism firing!’ That’s how successful these big food companies have been in brainwashing people into buying their cereal products or cereal bars in the morning.
I tried it and because I was eating a high-fat, low-carb diet anyway, it was an easy transition for me. If I was eating lots of carbs it would have been very difficult because I’d end up craving that sugar from the energy. Pretty much straight away I felt better. My energy levels were stable, I was saving time and I got lean again.
I’m now about 83 kilos. I eat very clean but without counting calories, I’m now anywhere between seven and nine per cent body fat without really even trying at all. If I really tried I could get back down to five or six per cent, but it’s not necessary.
That’s how I discovered it three years ago. I haven’t looked back since and won’t ever go back. Since then, I’ve probably had breakfast five times. No joke.
What would you say to someone who is resistant to the idea of intermittent fasting?
There are two types of reactions. Normally people are really interested in it and intrigued, especially women, because I think a lot of them are probably skipping breakfast already and so they’re feeling good about themselves that it’s not a bad thing, that they don’t need to feel guilt towards that. Most people are very interested in it because of the scientific research behind it.
And then there are the people who are just flat-out defensive about it. It’s like you’re challenging them when you mention it, they immediately become defensive and don’t listen to a word you have to say, no matter how you put it to them. They don’t want to hear it – and that’s fine. I’m not trying to brainwash anyone, I’m just trying to show people that there is a different way and it’s worth trying.
Do you think everyone should do it?
I think everyone should try some form of intermittent fasting – it doesn’t have to be my way. There’s no doubt it’s beneficial in some way or another. I put together a blog post featuring all of the scientific references and articles that I’ve read about it. There’s no doubt that fasting is a good thing, that’s pretty much agreed. I don’t think everyone should do it the same way I do every single day, but everyone should definitely try it as part of their lifestyle.
How long would you fast for on a rest day?
Now that I’ve been doing it for so long, I don’t count down the hours until I eat. I just eat when I’m hungry, which often isn’t until 3pm or 4pm. Often I purposely book myself back-to-back clients so I just go all out and eat when I’m finished. It’s not a ‘counting’ thing and I don’t think it’s necessary to get hung up on periods of eating and not eating; you should just eat when you’re hungry. Skip that one meal and eat lunch whenever you feel like it. There’s no difference for me personally on a training day from a rest day.
Can you burn fat and build muscle at the same time with intermittent fasting?
Lots of people think you can’t lose fat and build muscle at the same time but with intermittent fasting and the kind of training in my plan, you can do both. Yes, building muscle mass will be a slower process than if you just focused on just getting bigger and not getting lean. For me, you want to have a good body composition. That means that you want to be in proportion, with low body fat and dense muscle mass, be strong and mobile and have a good power-to-weight ratio.
In terms of fat loss, it depends on the person but if you’re strict with it and you embrace the whole thing, I think anyone would see a difference in a month. They say after one month you notice the difference, after two months your friends notice and after three months everyone notices. If you stick to anything for at least three months, you’re going to see results, no doubt.
Intermittent fasting will accelerate fat loss, because you’re eating slightly less than if you were eating three meals a day. That’s not the aim, to cut or count calories, but the beauty of it is that if you were trying to cut calories over three meals, you’d end up feeling deprived. If you can turn yourself to being fat-adapted, you start burning your own body fat during the fasting period, so you don’t need all the extra energy from food. Then you eat two big meals and you’re full at the end of it. But yes, you are eating slightly less.