Intermittent fasting, or shortly IF method, is currently one of the world’s most popular health and fitness trends. People are using it to lose weight, improve their health and simplify their lifestyles. IF is not a diet but rather a time restrictive method of fasting and eating period.
The most common IF approach is 16:8 where you fast for 16 hours and eat 8 hours. But you can choose any other fasting window if it suits more to your lifestyle. For example you can start 12:12 and then slowly progress to 14:10, 16:8 and 20:4. You can simply fast for 24 hours straight one time per week. In my opinion the best method is listening to your own body and go slow and steady. Observe your body reactions and continue if it feels great.
WHAT ARE THE BENEFITS OF IF?
- Weight Loss and Fat loss
- Your body will tap into fat stores and preserve muscles
- Maintaining muscle mass (density and muscle tone)
- Insulin resistance (lowering blood sugar levels)
- Improving vascular function and Cellular rejuvenation (better and younger look)
- Production of ketones which are food for the brain
- Inflammation (reductions in markers of inflammation, a key driver of many chronic diseases)
- Prevention of cancer and heart diseases
- Mental clearness and better focus
Intermittent fasting can have many benefits for your body and brain. It can cause weight loss and may reduce your risk of type 2 diabetes, heart disease and cancer. It may also help you live longer.
WHAT MIGHT BE THE DOWNFALLS?
- Light headache
- Being cranky or ”hangry”
WHO SHOULD AVOID IF METHOD?
- Elderly people
- Pregnant and breastfeeding women
- Women who are trying to conceive
- People with eating disorders in the past
- People with chronic diseases
HOW TO START WITH IF?
There are many different time frames of IF but one of the most popular is 16/8 IF method. You simply do not eat for 16 hours and eat for 8 hours where you will get all your needed calories. Your fasting benefits will start at 16 hours of not eating. At this time your body produces ketones which are the food for your brains.
For example: You start your fast at 8pm and you will start eating at 12 pm the next day. Between those hours you will not consume anything with the calories but you can drink the following beverages:
- Lemon water
- Pure black coffee
- Black, green or herbal tea
- Cinnamon tea or cinnamon coffee
For the beginners the easiest method is 12/12 where you don’t eat for 12 hours and eat for 12 hours. From there you can increase your fasting window for 2 hours every 2 weeks. It is not recommended to fast every single day but rather fast for 4 days in a week. The most optimal is fasting every 2 days, for example Monday, Wednesday and Friday. But do listen to your own body and adjust IF to your needs.
WHAT SHOULD I CONSUME DURING THE EATING WINDOW?
While you are fasting your cortisol* levels are high and to bring it slowly down you should drink salty water or a cinnamon tea, starting one hour before you break your fast. This is your first step to do before eating anything. You can break your fast with a smaller meal, which is ideally high in proteins (protein shake), or high in protein and fat, or high in protein and carbs. Later on (1 hour later) you can eat a normal meal full of carbohydrates and fiber and fat.
Do not break a fast with foods, which are combination of carbs and fat. Carbohydrates open up the cells due to insulin response and they can enter into the cells. If you will eat fat at the same time the cells will absorb the fat as well and your fat loss will be compromised. This doesn’t happen with protein as a first meal.
The last meal of the day should be high in proteins, fiber and fat because those components will keep you full and satiated for a longer period of time. When you will wake up you will not feel as hungry as you would eat carbs as the last meal.
Last meals examples:
- Huge mixed vegetable salad with tofu, chickpeas or beans
- Hummus with roasted veggies
- Broccoli with beans and tahini dressing
- Avocado with roasted or steamed veggies
*Cortisol is a “stress hormone” and when body is triggered by stress its adrenal glands kick into action, secreting this hormone into the bloodstream. Fasting is a kind of a stress but in a positive way. Because of the release of cortisol in reaction to the onset of stress, our body actually gains energy. We become more alert, our strength may increase, and we are able to process information more quickly and react slightly faster than usual. (1)
WHEN SHOULD I TRAIN AND DO A WORKOUT?
You can train whenever you wish. Even on a fasted time, which will give you this powerful feeling. If you train just before the beak of your fast you will most likely burn more fat but you can experience a slight decline in performance.
If you will train after the fasting window make sure at least 2 hours has passed after the last meal so you can properly digest the food.
My personal experience with IF is very positive. I have tried it and i did 16/8 approach where my last meal was at 8 pm and first meal was at 12 pm the next day. I did it every 2nd day because it perfectly fitted into my schedule. For me it works wonders if i want to lose some extra fat and look super shredded. But i can’t do it every day or very often because i already do not have much fat and i am aware how fat is important, specially for female body. I also felt very light and my mind was clear and had better focus. I didn’t miss any breakfast and my workouts also didn’t suffer. On those days i teach yoga anyway, so it was perfect.
I would suggest that you experiment with this method and try to fit it into your own lifestyle and schedule. You can be very flexible with it and the best way is to find your own way. All i wanna say it really works for me.
(The article was inspired by Thomas DeLauer, form his You Tube channel)
(1): Brendon Brazier, THRIVE the vegan nutrition guide to optimal performance in sports and life (2007)