Intermittent fasting (IF) is now one of the most popular health trends in the world.
It’s a great way to burn fat and build muscle. And who doesn’t love that?
Plus, the health benefits are pretty impressive.
What Is Intermittent Fasting (IF)?
Intermittent fasting is an eating pattern. It is not a diet.
It’s not about what you choose to eat. But it’s all about when you eat (or don’t eat).
It’s eating, or not eating, in a strategic way.
Though it has recently gained a huge following it has been around for ages. We were once hunters and gatherers who might go for days without food. Our bodies are well-oiled machines, designed to withstand feast or famine.
Modern day eating often centers around a fast-paced life. Eating frequent meals and snacks of highly processed and fast foods is the norm for many of us.
But this doesn’t give our bodies time to rejuvenate and repair the damage these chemicals can do over time.
So in many ways IF is a more natural way of eating.
Anyone can do it. It’s especially popular with weightlifters and elite athletes, likely because it allows you to retain and even gain muscle while losing fat.
The Most Popular Methods Of Intermittent Fasting
- Eating during a specified time period–This is also known as the Leangains protocol (originally developed for weightlifters), or the 16:8, because you fast for 16 hours and eat all of your calories within an 8-hour time period. For example, you could eat from 12 pm until 8 pm daily, and fast from 8 pm until 12 pm the following day. Most say it’s fine to have coffee, tea, or protein supplements during the 16-hour fast. It’s also okay to have a splash of cream in your coffee. The idea is to take in minimal calories during the fasting window of time.
- Calorie restriction two days per week, with no calorie restrictions on the other five days a week–otherwise known as the 5:2. Here’s an example: You eat normally on Sunday, Tuesday, Thursday and Saturday while restricting your calories to around 500 per day on Monday and Wednesday. Another variation of this is doing the restricted calorie days consecutively, such as Monday and Tuesday or Friday and Saturday. In this case, you would eat normally on the five other consecutive days.
How Does Intermittent Fasting Work? (The Sciencey Stuff)
When you eat a meal your body spends several hours processing and digesting the food. During this time, the body takes energy from the food you’ve eaten.
When you’re eating, or in a feeding state, insulin production tends to be high; This prevents your body from burning stored fat.
But, when our body is in a fasting state the blood sugar and insulin levels are reduced dramatically. There is a sharp increase in human growth hormone.
All these physiological changes turn the body into a fat burning machine…and benefit we love!
Will I Be Hungry While Intermittent Fasting?
Some people experience hunger pangs the first few days while the body is adjusting to the new eating pattern.
Like anything else, when your body becomes accustomed to doing something for so long, it takes a little time to re-calibrate and adjust to the new schedule.
Initial hunger may be stronger in some people and not obvious to others.
If you decide to try IF I urge you to stick with it for a week or more before you make up your mind. Once the initial adjustment to the calorie restriction is over you may find yourself wishing you’d found it sooner. (This has been my experience!)
Health Benefits Of Intermittent Fasting
There are several impressive benefits of IF:
- weight loss (1)
- fat loss, especially in the belly (2)
- stronger insulin sensitivity (3)
- increased human growth hormone (HGH) production (4)
- increased metabolic rate (5)
- changes in gene function related to longevity (6)
- cellular repair (7)
- may reduce inflammation (8)
- better brain health (9)
- may protect against cancer (10)
Other Benefits of IM
- less time-consuming because you spend less time preparing food and eating meals
- less expensive because you eat less
- simplifies your life and gives you more time to do the things you love (or need to do)
Certain people should consult their physician or avoid intermittent fasting altogether. This includes:
- people with eating disorders or anyone who is underweight
- people with blood sugar issues, such as hypoglycemia (personal note about this below)
- women who are having problems with fertility – Some women who do IF experience amenorrhea. Their menstrual period stops temporarily, but typically resumes after they return to an ordinary eating schedule.
Please keep in mind that every one is different and there are exceptions.
For example, although I was diagnosed with reactive hypoglycemia two years ago I’m loving IF (the 16/8 schedule). I’ve found it is beneficial for my blood sugar issues. During the fasting periods, I’m cognitively sharper, have more energy and find it easier to concentrate.
If you’re not sure if it’s right for you it’s always best to check with a medical professional.
A note to weightlifters and gym rats: Keep in mind that you’re probably eating fewer calories overall. Make sure you’re consuming plenty of protein so you don’t run the risk of losing muscle mass (which I’m sure is the last thing you’d want to happen).
Supplements such as caffeine (pre-workout), BCAAs, Glutamine and Creatine are good ones to look into.
You might like to try this Healthy Coffee Drink Recipe before your training sessions.
If you’re not sure whether IM is a good choice for you, it’s always best to consult with a medical professional who can help you figure out what’s best for your unique self.
Please keep in mind it does not take the place of eating a healthy diet of fresh, whole foods and plenty of protein to fuel your body.
Intermittent fasting has some pretty impressive health benefits including increased longevity, fat loss and weight loss, blood sugar regulation and brain health.
You may want to try it yourself and see if you like it.
IM is an eating pattern which can help people health-wise.