Keep reading to find out what intermittent fasting is and how it works!
The Basics of Intermittent Fasting
Intermittent fasting, or IF, is a method of eating where you cycle between periods of eating and fasting. Rather than diets that focus on what food you should eat, intermittent fasting is based on setting a strict window of time where you’re allowed to consume calories.
In other words, IF is more of an eating pattern than an actual diet.
This pattern comes from human history since ancient hunter-gatherers didn't have access to supermarkets, they were forced to fast until they could find their next meal. This is looked at a more natural way of eating when compared to the standard 3 – or more - meals per day.
Fasting is also done for religious reasons across a wide variety of different religions.
Why Should you Try Intermittent Fasting?
There are many reasons why you should try intermittent fasting, including weight loss, a simplified lifestyle and other additional health benefits.
Most people try intermittent fasting as a way to lose weight or simply prevent weight gain. Whether you restrict your calories in combination with IF or not, you’ll likely experience some amount of weight loss. IF when combined with a reduced caloric intake will supercharge your weight loss. In general, you’ll likely eat less food because you're eating fewer meals per day. Once your eating window closes, you stop eating. This prevents you from snacking all day long. The main weight loss benefit of IF comes from your body burning calories during your fasting period.
So, how does this work? As you fast, your hormone levels change in a way that facilitates weight loss. You will experience an increase in growth hormone levels and a reduction in insulin - your body will also boost the release of norepinephrine, which is a fat-burning hormone.
These changes help you increase your metabolic rate. On top of that, your body constantly needs fuel, when you’re on an empty stomach for extended periods of time you force your body to use stored fat as fuel instead of food as fuel. This combination allows you to lose weight without necessarily dieting. The fat burning effect is enhanced when you restrict your caloric intake during your eating window, however, it is necessary to note that it’s important to take it one step at a time. Before restricting your calories while IF get yourself accustom to the feeling of fasting. It takes some adjusting but over time the hunger feeling subsides and it gets much easier. Once you get past the adjusting period, you can try restricting calories.
A easier way to supercharge weight loss while IF without counting calories is to simply focus on reducing foods that your body can easily store as fat such as, refined carbs (breads, white rice, wheat, pasta, etc.), junk food (cookies, chips, candy, fries, etc. ), sugars (sweetened drinks, coffee creamers, sweets in general ). It’s also helpful to avoid drinking calories. Focusing on drinking mostly water really helps for weight loss.
Simplify Eating Healthy
Intermittent fasting is also a great way to help you simplify eating healthy. Since you don't need to plan or cook as many meals as you did before, fasting can help you save time in the long run.
This is our favorite benefit. Everyone is busy, why spend time prepping 3 meals a day when you can eat a small lunch and a large dinner. Since there are fewer meals to prepare it means less cleaning and less hassle.
As mentioned before IF will help prevent you from unconsciously snacking throughout the day. It will also help prevent over eating. It’s a lot easier to consume 3000+ calories in a 16 hour time span than it is in an 8 hour time span.
Other Health Benefits
There are other health benefits related to intermittent fasting as well. Studies have shown that fasting can reduce inflammation, which can be a driver of many chronic diseases. Similarly, it may reduce LDL cholesterol - the bad kind - as well as your blood sugar levels. As a result, it can help to actively reduce the risk of Type 2 diabetes.
One of the hormones that increase during intermittent fasting is the brain hormone BDNF, which could promote the growth of brand-new nerve cells. This could potentially help you protect against diseases like Alzheimer's and age-related cognitive issues. This is a similar benefit shared by the keto diet.
Potential Side Effects
Before you dive into intermittent fasting, you should also understand the potential side effects that could occur. Hunger is the most obvious side effect, but there should subside once your body adapts to your new eating pattern. We’re so quick to relieve any slight uncomfortable feeling of hunger, our ancestors didn’t have that privilege. Keep in mind that our bodies are designed to go through periods of hunger. That’s the purpose of storing fat. We’re not meant to constantly store fat over time. The fat we store is meant to be used at some point. With IF you use some of it on a daily basis.
You might also feel some weakness, and your mental performance may not be as good as what you're used to. These issues are usually due to not eating enough during your eating windows or not eating a balanced diet.
If you have a medical condition like low blood pressure, issues with blood sugar regulation, diabetes, or take medications, it would be a good idea to consult with your doctor before moving forward. You should also take precautions if you are underweight or have a history of eating disorders since intermittent fasting could be counterproductive in these specific situations.
Common Fasting Time Windows
Since intermittent fasting relies on periods of eating and periods of fasting, you have to choose a time window for each of them. There are several different ways to split the day to start intermittent fasting, but these are the most popular methods and are listed from easiest for most difficult. There are no specific time of day for these methods, the specific times of the day should be set based on your normal schedule:
The 16/8 Method is the most popular option for intermittent fasting and is often called the Leangains protocol. Simply put, this option requires you to skip breakfast and restrict the hours in which you eat to 8 per day - you then fast for the remaining 16 hours.
The 5:2 Method
This option is a variation of intermittent fasting that also involves a level of calorie restriction. If you choose this option, you will only eat 500 calories two days of the week. The day should be non-consecutive, but you can eat normally for the remaining five days.
The Eat-Stop-Eat Method Is an advanced type of intermittent fasting that involves a 24 hour fast that is done once or twice per week. For example, you could eat dinner and then not eat again until dinner the next day. It is not recommended that you start with this method since it does not give your body time to adapt to your new eating pattern.
Want to Get Started With Intermittent Fasting?
If you think that intermittent fasting is what you need to lose weight or improve your overall health and lifestyle, here are some tips to help you get started.
Educate yourself - Learn Everything You Can About IF
Although we hope you learned a lot from reading this article, you should still conduct some additional research so that you can completely understand what you're getting yourself into. Read through all the potential side effects and take those into context with your current lifestyle and any existing health conditions that you may have.
Everyone’s goals are different so your research will vary. Are you trying to gain muscle? Lose weight? Improve health? Save time? The amount of food and types of food you should eat can vary based on your goal.
Choose A Fasting Window
Next, you have to choose your fasting window. This is the time frame in which you are allowed to eat. We recommend the most common window which, is 16/8 - this is a great place to start, and you can always adjust it later on if needed.
Most people consider this option the most sustainable way to fast since it is relatively simple and lines up nicely with a regular schedule.
Likewise, don't jump into a 24-hour fast on the first day! Give yourself some time to adjust and listen to your body as you get started.
We hope this article gave you a general understanding of Intermittent Fasting. IF is not as challenging as it sounds. It’s a lot easier than many popular short term restrictive diets in our opinion. IF can be looked at more of a lifestyle than a diet. Once you adapt it’s easy and convenient to keep it going.