Intermittent fasting has become quite trendy in many fitness communities and that’s because of how simple and easy it is to adopt into your daily routine once you get into it. It’s not quite a diet, but it’s a way of eating anyone can implement into their lifestyle.
Intermittent Fasting To Lose Body Fat
Extra calories you ingest are stored in your body as fat. This isn’t a bad thing and some fat is necessary, but if you feel like you have body fat to lose and want to lose some whether that’s to look leaner or perform better (due to carrying less mass). It’s regarded as common knowledge that you have to expend fewer calories than you consume to lose body fat. This will force your body to burn some of the calories in body fat, which will cause you to get leaner.
What Is Intermittent Fasting?
Fasting is simply abstaining from eating food for a certain period of time. We do this when we sleep since we’re not eating (unless you happen to sleep eat).
Intermittent fasting involves a pattern of eating and not eating. So you eat for a time period during the day and fast until that time period comes again the following day. Unlike most diets, it does not restrict what you can eat, but when you can eat. There are many variations of intermittent fasting, some examples being alternate day fasting, the 5:2 method (invented by Michael Moseley) and the most popular 16:8 method.
How Does Intermittent Fasting Work?
The general idea is that by constraining your eating window to 8 hours or less, then you’re less likely to overeat. This will help to reduce the overall number of calories you consume which will encourage your body to burn fat to create the energy it needs.
What Breaks A Fast?
In Ramadan, simply the act of drinking water breaks a fast. When it comes to intermittent fasting, any food breaks a fast. But perhaps it would be more accurate to say ingestion of any food which elicits an insulin response. Carbohydrates and protein cause the greatest insulin response. Fat causes a minimal insulin response which is why some people who fast make ‘bulletproof coffee’ where they add butter to their black coffee because it helps them to continue their fast.
But generally, try and avoid any food or caloric beverages during the fasting window. However, if you truly are feeling hungry, it is best to listen to your body and break the fast.
It is actually natural for humans and animals to fast. Back tens of thousands of years ago food was not readily available to us as hunters. This meant that sometimes we had to go days without food and hunt on empty stomachs to get meat or we had to forest in the wild for berries, fruits and vegetables. It’s actually normal for humans and animals to fast when we are ill.
When fasting insulin and blood glucose levels will drop and levels of human growth hormone increase within the body. Whilst many people fast for weight loss (or more specifically fat loss), many people also fast for the many health benefits mentioned above. The majority of these health benefits are due to a process known as autophagy meaning ‘self-devouring’. During this process where your cells are receiving less energy because you’re not eating, weaker cells will self-catabolise and the body will recycle damaged molecules and cell organelles.
The end result? Your body now contains less weak cells and more strong cells.
What Can I Drink Other Than Water?
During the fasting window, you’re allowed to drink water, herbal teas and coffee. Some will say you can have calorie-free beverages as well such as diet sodas and squash although I’d try and stay away from these if possible due to all the chemicals and artificial sweeteners used within them. Sweeteners such as stevia are thought to be acceptable although despite being calorie-free, stevia can actually elicit an insulin response which will break you out of a fast. You may also need to avoid fruit teas if you’re fasting since the sugar from the fruit in these teas can also break a fast.
Types Of Intermittent Fasting
There are several variations of intermittent fasting:
- Eat-Stop-Eat: Once or twice a week don’t eat for 24 hours
- 16:8 Method: Fast for 16 hours and eat during an 8 hour window
- 5:2 Diet: 5 days during the week eat normally, during 2 days eat a maximum of 800 calories
- Eat WHEN (when hunger ensues naturally): Only eat when you are hungry, some fasts may be shorter or longer than others. The trick is to listen to your body (not your mind).
- Warrior Diet: Fast for 20 hours and eat during a 4 hour window.
- OMAD (One Meal A Day): Only consume one meal a day. Simple!
Implementing Intermittent Fasting
For those who are used to eating or snacking all day and find it difficult to go without food without getting hungry or irritable here are my steps on how to implement intermittent fasting:
- Eat fewer snacks between meals.
- Don’t snack between three square meals a day.
- Remove caloric beverages from between meals.
- Eat and drink all caloric foods and beverages within a 12-hour window e.g. 7 am to 7 pm.
- Slowly condense your eating window down to 8 hours over a month.
Eventually, you will probably find you don’t need to eat anywhere near as much food as you thought and it’s likely that if you persist you will find that you’re not even that hungry in the mornings and can easily wait until noon before eating! Implementing intermittent fasting also means you spend less time preparing food and eating and have more time to work and partake in the other activities you’ve planned for the day.
It will be difficult at first, so try and implement the changes slowly. There’s not much point in rushing to the end goal and getting disappointed because you’re always hangry while your fasting. By the end, you should be able to fast comfortably without worrying about hunger!
You don’t need to intermittent fast every day, but I think many great health benefits can come from simply doing it several times weekly. Personally, I feel great on intermittent fasting and sometimes I like to do a hard training session in the morning before breaking my fast and eating.
Tips For Intermittent Fasting
Since intermittent fasting will teach your body to use fat stores for energy, you will probably find that eating a low carbohydrate diet will help you to adapt to intermittent fasting and make it easier.
Don’t stress too much about how long you’re fasting for. If you usually aim for 16 hours and are hunger by hour 14 then eat if you really feel you need to – this is part of listening to your body.
If you workout or train regularly, try and time your workout so that it comes near the end of your fasting window allowing you to eat soon after the workout. This will allow you to fuel your body with the minerals and nutrients it needs to properly recover from exercise and training.
Try to eat less refined sugary foods and consume whole foods which will nourish your body.
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