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‘Exercise is good, but it isn’t a weight-loss tool’: Instagram fitness guru Max Lowery on why you should ditch the protein shakes and skip breakfast

Published: 00:02 GMT, 5 November 2017 | Updated: 14:19 GMT, 5 November 2017

Fitness guru MAX LOWERY is the hottest thing on Instagram But his methods – start by ditching the protein shakes and don’t even think about eating breakfast – are a little controversial, as Victoria Woodhall finds out

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'We seem to have a fear of empty stomachs in the western world,' says Max

‘I don’t mind; I’m pretty comfortable with it,’ he says ‘I have a girlfriend; we’ve been together for four years, but it’s something I’m quite private about on Instagram’

Instagram is Max’s shop window to 33,000 followers, where you can find ‘before and after’ real-life weight-loss transformations from his 60-day online plan, as well as workouts, recipes and videos It’s the same model that propelled Joe Wicks from jobbing suburban personal trainer to multimillionaire fitness phenomenon in the space of just a few years ‘I take huge inspiration from Joe,’ says Max ‘The fact that he has done well has opened the door for others like me’

Not that he’s actively out to pick a fight with anyone, but as one of the few trainers to combine fitness with fasting, he frequently finds himself under attack from within his own community In the fitness world, where energy drinks and protein bars are part of the culture, going without food for around 16 hours a day – as The 2 Meal Day suggests – is seen as fringe, to put it politely

Max at sports day with his grandfather aged 12, left, and, right, in a national rugby competition aged 11

‘I get messaged on Instagram by other fitness professionals who are very negative about the concept and say it’s not good for you, because they don’t understand it The generic advice is to eat little and often and count calories All I can say is read what I’m saying – I’m careful to reference scientific sources – rather than hearing the word “fasting” and jumping to conclusions’

Weight loss is, of course, the most obvious benefit, but fasting may also lead to a stronger immune system, heightened mental alertness, reduced hunger, a slowing of the ageing process and a reduced risk of Alzheimer’s disease, heart disease and type 2 diabetes Silicon Valley CEOs have taken to IF in a big way, claiming it makes them sharper and more focused (it’s not dieting, by the way, it’s ‘biohacking’)

As a former athlete, Max, too, is all about performance, with the emphasis on how eating and exercise make you feel, rather than how they make you look ‘I fast to optimise my health, understand my body better and because it makes me feel amazing all the time’

'Fasting is empowering because you become self-sufficient,' says Max

His parents – Philip, who founded the Real Food Festivals, and Romaine, a professional home organiser – were at a loss Not that Max could really explain his downward spiral either to them or to himself ‘Because I was always drinking or smoking it never really hit home how bad the situation had become I didn’t know who I was any more Before I had been something of a role model; now I was seen as a bad influence’

Despite having few formal qualifications, in 2009, aged 19, Max landed a job as a stockbroker, where the life of partying continued Entertaining clients until the small hours was part of the job, only this time he had 5am starts as well ‘I was so hungover and tired and was chained to my desk all day doing really stressful deals – once I lost €50,000 It had to come out of each person’s bonus, shared among a team of five I’m not someone who gets really stressed but after that I couldn’t eat for two days’

Max before a channel swim for Harrow in 2003

Skipping breakfast seemed to give him more energy in the morning rather than less That fasting buzz, he learned as his research deepened, was produced by the hormone norepinephrine, an evolutionary adaptation to make us sharper in our hunt for food ‘Digestion also takes up a lot of energy, hence the post-meal slump It made sense to me to save that for later in the day when your most important tasks are completed’ To his surprise he was less hungry and stopped constantly thinking about his next meal His energy levels stabilised throughout the day and the 11am and 4pm energy crashes vanished He shared his method online and the 2 Meal Day was born

To show willing, on the day I’m due to meet him, I skip breakfast But by noon, I am struggling to focus, knocking things over and nursing a dull headache He, on the other hand, hasn’t eaten for 18 hours and is full of beans How can that be? ‘You’re too reliant on food for energy,’ he tells me But, short of plugging myself into the electricity mains, I’m not sure what else I’m supposed to do

He explains that my rumbling stomach is not true hunger, it’s my body – a creature of habit – expecting food at a certain time The light-headedness could be dehydration ‘or because your body has become so used to being fuelled by sugars from food, it’s struggling to find energy from other sources It’s a common side-effect when people try fasting for the first time, but it only lasts a few days at most,’ he reassures me

If I can survive a few uncomfortable days of adaptation, I’ll switch to becoming a ‘fat burner’ rather than a ‘sugar burner’ and be able to use my fat reserves to power me through my day It’s a bit like going off-grid ‘It’s empowering because you become self-sufficient Not only will you have energy all day long, you’ll no longer be reaching for caffeine, nicotine or sugar to get you through Most surprisingly, you’ll feel less hungry’

'Supermodels are genetically gifted the true challenge is real people,' says Max

How liberating to think that I could be free from constantly looking ahead to my next bite and that my body will be burning fat – particularly the harmful visceral fat around the middle which is linked to type 2 diabetes, cancer and heart disease – without even having to exercise

While Max has never felt better, he knows that fasting is not for everyone His Instagram is full of disclaimers: don’t do it if you’re pregnant, breastfeeding, have adrenal fatigue, thyroid issues or a history of eating disorders, and those with medical conditions need to seek their doctor’s advice He is fully aware that the 2 Meal Day could act as a cover for eating disorders and indeed some people accuse him of encouraging them Recently on a Facebook Live chat with his followers, Max received a question from a woman diagnosed with anorexia, concerned about how much she should eat Max put her straight ‘Sorry, but if you have an eating disorder, the 2 Meal Day may not be for you’

Max’s baked kale and eggs, left, and, right, at work in the kitchen

Cooking from scratch is at the heart of his fad-free recipes, which don’t exclude any food groups apart from added sugars Max has his parents, who brought up him and his two younger siblings on fresh farm produce, to thank for his ‘real food’ philosophy His father taught him to cook, and his parents are now hugely proud of him ‘Proud and relieved,’ smiles MaxIf you dont see the resetemail in your inbox, please checkall folders including junk and spam.

Max is supremely personable and confident, a natural presenter and educator whose videos on everything from sleep optimisation to full-body cardio workouts could easily be a showreel – a TV company is sure to sign him soon Having freed up so much energy simply by shifting his first meal of the day by a few hours, who knows where it will take him next

For more information, visit 2mealdaycom Max’s book The 2 Meal Day is published by Kyle Books, price £1499 To order a copy for £1199 (a 20 per cent discount) until 3 December, visit you-bookshopcouk or call 0844 571 0640; p&p is free on orders over £15

Clothes: New Balance MaxLowery/Instagram/Tom Joy, Kate Whittaker

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