Guide to Intermittent Fasting
Intermittent fasting (IF) is as we speak the “IT” tool for weight loss. However, it has been a way of eating that has been around us for centuries, we just didn’t pay attention until now. Think about it, our ancestors didn’t have food available like we have now. There were no supermarkets, refrigerators. They ate once or twice per day and the rest of the time they were fasting, hunting for food for the next meal. They were mostly in a fasted state.
Nowadays, people use IF for weight loss (fat loss mainly), to improve their health conditions. If you are interested to learn more about IF apart from this article, I strongly suggest to check out the work of Dr Eric Berg and Dr Jason Fung. They are the kings on this topic, both have done a lot of research but also have implemented their work in the lives of their patients.
We have been told to have 5, 6 meals per day if you want to lose weight. Think how you feel when you have so many meals on a diet. You meals are usually small, you are hungry all the time and you just hate being on a diet. That’s one of the reasons why they don’t work. You rein a caloric deficit and you just can’t keep up more than couple of weeks. Each bite of these 6 meals, raises your insulin. Your body starts to process it, uses that food for energy and there is actually no time left to hit the fat cells because guess what, you are eating again:). Very often you will hear people say that they lost weight but not body fat or that they simply can’t lose weight, the stubborn 10kg, sounds familiar?
We have also been told that breakfast is the most important meal of the day, that you should never skip it. I absolutely agree but not to say that it has to be in the morning. Breakfast comes from 2 words “break” and “fast” so when you break it is up to you. If you are a person working a nightshift it is obvious you will have your breakfast somewhere in the afternoon when you wake up. If you eat all your calories during 24h, no once really cares if you had breakfast at 8h or noon. Intermittent fasting is not a diet, as you will read in the explanation below.
Buckle up peeps, here we go!
So what is exactly intermittent fasting?
First of all, let me start by saying that I have been on IF for 2 months and my results are incredible just as I will explain in this article. However, I am not a doctor and if you have doubts whether IF is good for you or you have a medical condition please consult your doctor.
So, IF is NOT A DIET! Yes, you heard me right! It is an eating pattern that cycles between periods when you don’t eat (you fast) and when you eat. If we take a typical diet plan, it tells you what and when to eat. IF does the opposite. You chose the foods you eat and the eating window that works for your lifestyle.
So how does this IF work in real life? Usually, and from my experience, people start to fast for 12h to 13h, mainly overnight. So if they had the last meal at 20h, the next one is in the morning at 8h or 9h. This is for absolute beginners. Once you feel the benefits of IF, once you feel that you are not hungry, you may increase your fasting hours.
I am pretty sure many times you have done an IF without realizing it. Late dinner, followed up by black coffee with no breakfast in the morning because you were not hungry or you were in a hurry to go to work, easily it was a 15, 16h period of fasting that you didn’t pay attention to.
Typically these are the most used fasting scenarios:
- Fast 16h, eat in a 8h window (Let’s say from 11h to 19h is when you eat, the rest is fasting period)
- Eat-stop-eat: Fasting 24h twice per week
- Fasting 20h, eating 4- this is warrior diet and the name explains it all!
- 5:2 diet: on two days in a week you eat 500-600 calories, the other five days you eat normally.
All these methods are efficient, it is just up to you to see what works for your lifestyle. For me I can fast anywhere from 15h to 18h at this point and I feel great! In my eating window, I consume all my calories, and I am full full.
What is going on in our bodies during the fasted period?
- Human Growth Hormone (HGH): The levels of growth hormone skyrocket, increasing as much as 5-fold. This has benefits for fat loss and muscle gain
- Insulin: Insulin sensitivity improves and levels of insulin drop dramatically. Lower insulin levels make stored body fat more accessible
- Cellular repair: When fasted, your cells initiate cellular repair processes. This includes autophagy, where cells digest and remove old and dysfunctional proteins that build up inside cells
Benefits of Intermittent Fasting
- Weight Loss: iIntermittent fasting can help you lose weight and belly fat, without having to consciously restrict calories because once you are in a fasted state at one point there is no more sugar to use for energy and your body starts using your body fat as a source of energy
- Insulin resistance: Intermittent fasting can reduce insulin resistance, lowering blood sugar by 3-6% and fasting insulin levels by 20-31%.
- Inflammation: Some studies show reductions in markers of inflammation
Who should avoid intermittent fasting?
- Some studies show that IF is not the safest for all women due to hormonal fluctuation, try it and see for yourself
- People with eating disorder history (anorexia, binge eating are the most common)
- Pregnant women
- Women with history of Amenorrhea
- Woman trying to conceive
- Any medical condition that might not be suited for IF should be consulted with a doctor
- If you have diabetes or blood sugar issues it is mandatory to talk to your doctor first
What can you consume during the fasted period?
Well, obviously not food:)
You can have water, water with lemon, tea, coffee (with a tiny bit of cream), no sugar! You can take BCAAs drinks if you are working out in a fasted state. You basically can’t consume anything that will rise your insulin. We want to keep him low and make our body take energy from fat cells. That’s when the magic happens.
I have done IF for 2 months now, I am super pleased with the results for the following reasons:
- Lost body fat that I was aiming at, no major weight loss in terms of kilograms but I look, feel better. My goal was to reduce body fat percentage from the begining
- I am never hungry because I eat in a 6 to 8 hour window all my calories, I am full! I hate depriving myself so this works fine for me
- I have a lot of energy, I workout in a fasted state and have my meal afterwards
- No major meal preparation, my life is so much simpler now
- I like it because I can adjust it how I want. Some days I finish eating at 20h and the next meal is at noon but some days I eat very late until 22h and then I eat at 2pm the next day. I would say that my eating window is between 11h to 19h, 12h to 20h in most days.
If you are interested try it! Start slow with 12h fast for couple of days and more upwards when you are ready for it. There is not one-size-fits all and some people might completely dislike this way of eating but if you are curious, give it a go! Leave me a comment if you have any questions or share your experience with IF