Intermittent Fasting Can Be Hard But Maybe It Doesnt Have To Be
Initial human studies that compared fasting every other day to eating less every day showed that both worked about equally for weight loss, though people struggled with the fasting days. So, its very reasonable to choose a reduced calorie plant-based, Mediterranean-style diet. But research suggests that not all IF approaches are the same, and some IF diets are indeed effective and sustainable, especially when combined with a nutritious plant-based diet.
We have evolved to be in sync with the day/night cycle, i.e., a circadian rhythm. Our metabolism has adapted to daytime food, nighttime sleep. Nighttime eating is well associated with a higher risk of obesity, as well as diabetes.
Based on this, researchers from the University of Alabama conducted a study with a small group of obese men with prediabetes. They compared a form of intermittent fasting called “early time-restricted feeding,” where all meals were fit into an early eight-hour period of the day , or spread out over 12 hours . Both groups maintained their weight but after five weeks, the eight-hours group had dramatically lower insulin levels and significantly improved insulin sensitivity, as well as significantly lower blood pressure. The best part? The eight-hours group also had significantly decreased appetite. They werent starving.
Just changing the timing of meals, by eating earlier in the day and extending the overnight fast, significantly benefited metabolism even in people who didnt lose a single pound.
Whats The Right Way To Do Intermittent Fasting
Intermittent Fasting has been one of the worlds most popular fitness and health trends in modern times. It has been claimed to result in weight loss, enhance metabolism, and even extend your lifespan.
Intermittent Fasting involves fully or partially skipping meals for a specific time, then eating normally again for a set period of time. Experiences with Intermittent Fasting varies with different individuals, and various methods suit different people.
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Dont Fast On Active Days
Its crucial to make sure youre giving your body enough food to fuel upcoming activities. So if youre going to fast Mondays and Wednesdays, dont put more demands on your body with an intense spin class, or other serious workout. Make fasting days your rest days. Or at the very most, plan to do some stretching or light yoga.
In other words, timing matters. Think of your body like a car: You need to fill the gas tank before you go for a long drive, not the next day. The difference between a car and your body, however, is a car with no fuel will stop, while you can push your under-nourished body to keep moving. But slogging through workouts will only wear your body out, and up your risk of injury.
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How To Do Intermittent Fasting The Healthy Way
Intermittent fasting has caught on in a way I honestly didnt expect. I think part of its success is that the concept is so easy to understand, and do. There is no prep required you can start today if you wanted to. Its also super popular in the keto diet communitywhich is as popular and controversial as ever.
However, we need to talk about the fact that there is a healthy and a less healthy way to do intermittent fasting. As a dietitian, you know which one Im about so lets talk about how to do intermittent fasting the healthy way.
What To Consider Before You Start Intermittent Fasting
In order to get the very best from our intermittent fasting journey, there are certain factors we need to first take into consideration. For example, are we getting a decent nightâs sleep? Do we have a handle on our day-to-day stress? Do we have good eating habits? Are our hormones in balance? If the answer to any of the above was a resounding no, then that issue needs to be addressed first.
Another thing to consider is how individual we all are. Feeding schedules are such a personal matter and should be designed taking into account the questions mentioned above and anything else going on in a personâs life.
Although weâre in need of further studies to investigate the pros and cons of intermittent fasting there are some overarching reasons why you should incorporate intermittent fasting in your daily routine as weâll discuss .
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The Benefits Of Intermittent Fasting
Fat loss is great, but it isn’t the only benefit of fasting.
1. Intermittent fasting makes your day simpler.
I’m big on behavior change, simplicity, and reducing stress. Intermittent fasting provides additional simplicity to my life that I really enjoy. When I wake up, I don’t worry about breakfast. I just grab a glass of water and start my day.
I enjoy eating and I don’t mind cooking, so eating three meals a day was never a hassle for me. However, intermittent fasting allows me to eat one less meal, which also means planning one less meal, cooking one less meal, and stressing about one less meal. It makes life a bit simpler and I like that.
2. Intermittent fasting helps you live longer.
Scientists have long known that restricting calories is a way of lengthening life. From a logical standpoint, this makes sense. When youre starving, your body finds ways to extend your life.
Theres just one problem: who wants to starve themselves in the name of living longer?
I dont know about you, but Im interested in enjoying a long life. Starving myself doesnt sound that appetizing.
The good news is that intermittent fasting activates many of the same mechanisms for extending life as calorie restriction. In other words, you get the benefits of a longer life without the hassle of starving.
Way back in 1945 it was discovered that intermittent fasting extended life in mice. More recently, this study found that alternate day intermittent fasting led to longer lifespans.
Tips And Tricks About Fasting
#1) Dont freak out! Stop wondering: can I fast 15 hours instead of 16? or what if I eat an apple during my fasted period, will that ruin everything? Relax. Your body is a complex piece of machinery and learns to adapt. Everything is not as cut and dry as you think.
If you want to eat breakfast one day but not another, thats okay. If you are going for optimal aesthetic or athletic performance, I can see the need to be more rigid in your discipline, but otherwisefreaking chill out and dont stress over minutiae!
Dont let perfect be the enemy of good when it comes to your intermittent fasting plan.
#2) Consider fasted walks in the morning. I found these to be very helpful in reducing body fat, and also gave my day a great start to clear my mind and prepare for the day.
Simply wake up and go for a mile walk. Maybe you could even start walking to Mordor?
#3) Listen to your body during your strength training workouts. If you get light headed, make sure you are consuming enough water.
If you notice a significant drop in performance, make sure you are eating enough calories during your feasting window.
And if you feel severely off, pause your workout. Give yourself permission to EASE into intermittent fasting and fasted workouts. This is especially true if you are an endurance athlete.
#4) Expect funny looks if you spend a lot of mornings with breakfast eaters.
#7) Track your results, listen to your body:
This is just one tool that can contribute to your success.
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Youre Not Getting Enough Caloriesor Youre Getting Too Many
Time-restricted eating is exactly that: Youre restricting the timeframe for eating. While it can be used along with calorie reduction, its not meant to be a diet in itself, says Fung.
If youre cutting way back on calories with fasting, then its likely going to backfire, he adds. Thats because restriction has a tendency to make you swing hard in the other direction, toward a binge. When that happens often enough, you may get stuck in a yo-yo pattern that has been shown to have significantly negative effects on your health, especially on cardiovascular function.
Another potential hazard is overeating, since youre trying to smush all your calories into a shorter timeframe. This doesnt mean youre in a binge every day, but you may be eating more than youd planned because youre concerned about being hungry during your fasting window.
Fung suggests setting your calorie intake needs firstbased on factors like your age, weight, and level of activityand then making sure you meet those calorie needs within the timeframe youve chosen. Chat with a registered dietitian or other medical professional if youre not sure how many calories you should fuel with each day.
What Is The : 4 Intermittent Fasting Plan
It may not be ideal for beginners, though. However, some people have managed to fast for 20 hours even though they just started their fasting journey.
This can be difficult for some beginners, though, because it requires eating for four hours and fasting for 20 hours. Here, you might need to eat one meal or two smaller meals.
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Should You Do Intermittent Fasting And The Keto Diet
We have a crazy extensive guide on the Keto Diet in case youre not familiar with it, so here it is in a nutshell:
This process is called ketosis, and there are two ways for a body to enter ketosis:
- Eating in a way that induces ketosis .
- FastingHey, thats what youre reading about right now!
We actually have an amazing success story here on Nerd Fitness, Larry, who followed our strategies, went Keto and start intermittent fasting. He ended up losing weight, getting stronger, AND overcame the challenges of rheumatoid arthritis !
Heres how the fasting portion of it works:
As your body enters a fast period when there are no sources of glucose energy readily available, the liver begins the process of breaking down fat into ketones.
Fasting itself can trigger ketosis.
Fasting for a period of time before kicking off a Keto-friendly eating plan COULD speed your transition into the metabolic state of ketosis, and fasting intermittently while in ketosis could help you maintain that state.
I personally love fasting for the simplicity: I skip breakfast every day and train in a fasted state. Its one less decision I have to make, its one less opportunity to make a bad food choice, and it helps me reach my goals.
WHY KETO + IF WORKS = eating Keto can be really challenging. And every time you eat, its an opportunity to do it wrong and accidentally eat foods that knock you out of ketosis.
Youre also tempted to overeat.
Your value may vary!
You need to decide what works for you.
What Is The Ideal Intermittent Fasting Time
You should base your intermittent fasting time on your schedule, what feels good and what you can do consistently.
As I mentioned before, Im following the leangains intermittent fasting plan, which means Im fasting 16 hours a day and eating within an 8-hour eating window.
Here is what my intermittent fasting time breakdown looks like:
Eating window: 11 am 7 pm
Fasting window: 7 pm 11 am
An easy way to figure out your fasting schedule is to think about the time you usually stop chowing down for the day.
Lets say you typically stop eating by 8 pm, and you would like to do a 12-hour crescendo intermittent fasting plan.
Your time breakdown may look something like this:
Eating window: 8am 8pm
Fasting window: 8pm 8am
Youre not always going to be spot-on with your timing, so dont be too hard on yourself if you eat a little later or earlier than you intended to. It happens to everyone, including me.
Intermittent fasting is an amazing tool to help you improve your overall health, but you cant maximize your results if youre making rookie mistakes. Check out Intermittent Fasting Mistakes: 14 Things You Must Avoid For Success to learn how to avoid making the most common intermittent fasting mistakes.
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How To Do Intermittent Fasting For Weight Loss
Similar to what I described above, the easiest way to do intermittent fasting for weight loss is to simply do it just once per week.
Although a lot of the research on fasting has used alternate day fasting where you basically dont eat every other day , you can still see noticeable fat loss results with just a single day of fasting each week.
So finish dinner and start your fast thereafter. Then, if you can make it through to the next days dinner youre golden. Remember, when your body is in a fasted state is starts to rely more on its fat stores for fuel.
Thus, it helps you become a fat burner instead of sugar burner who is constantly craving food. Its a very freeing process.
The : 2 Intermittent Fasting Method For Weight Loss
If you are a beginner, the 5:2 method is one of my favorites. It will create enough of a calorie deficit each week to see the scale moving down each week. As a reminder, you need a deficit of 3,500 calories to lose one pound a week, so you may not lose one pound each week, but at least half a pound.
What I like most about the 5:2 method is that it allows you to eat while fasting. Moreover, it is done only twice a week, so its perfect for beginners.
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Frequently Asked Questions Concerns And Complaints
Im a woman. Should I do anything differently?
I havent worked with women on implementing an intermittent fasting schedule, so I cant speak from experience on this one.
That said, I have heard that women may find a wider window of eating to be more favorable when doing daily intermittent fasting. While men will typically fast for 16 hours and then eat for 8 hours, women may find better results by eating for 10 hours and fasting for 14 hours. The best advice I can give anyone, not just women, is to experiment and see what works best for you. Your body will give you signals. Follow what your body responds favorably to.
Also, if youre a female, there is an allfemale page on Facebook that discusses intermittent fasting. Im sure you could find a ton of great answers and support there.
I could never skip breakfast. How do you do it?
I dont. Breakfast foods are my favorite, so I just eat them at 1pm each day.
Also, if you eat a big dinner the night before, I think youll be surprised by how much energy you have in the morning. Most of the worries or concerns that people have about intermittent fasting are due to the fact that they have had it pounded into them by companies that they need to eat breakfast or they need to eat every three hours and so on. The science doesnt support it and neither do my personal experiences.
I thought you were supposed to eat every 3 hours?
Here’s why this was a popular idea for a brief period of time:
Here’s the problem:
Safety And Side Effects
Hunger is the main side effect of intermittent fasting.
You may also feel weak and your brain may not perform as well as youre used to.
This may only be temporary, as it can take some time for your body to adapt to the new meal schedule.
If you have a medical condition, you should consult with your doctor before trying intermittent fasting.
This is particularly important if you:
- Have diabetes.
- Have a history of eating disorders.
- Are a woman who is trying to conceive.
- Are a woman with a history of amenorrhea.
- Are pregnant or breastfeeding.
All that being said, intermittent fasting has an outstanding safety profile. There is nothing dangerous about not eating for a while if youre healthy and well-nourished overall.
The most common side effect of intermittent fasting is hunger. People with certain medical conditions should not fast without consulting with a doctor first.
Here are answers to the most common questions about intermittent fasting.
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But 8 Hours Is Not Enough Time For The Body To Enter Into The Fasting Mode Which Takes Approximately 12 Hours To Begin To Set In
So, in terms of fasting, a window of 12 hours between the last meal of one day and the first meal of the next is the minimum required to give your detox processes the time and energy to catch up with the necessary work of maintaining inner cleanliness, Junger says.
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Do Review Your Diet When Doing Intermittent Fasting
Intermittent fasting is technically not about restricting what you eat but about when you eat. However, if youre looking to lose weight, you should also take a look at your diet.
A general rule of thumb for a healthy diet is eating more whole foods, cutting down on sugar and saturated fat and making sure to include vegetables and fruits to the meals.
To ensure a balanced and nutritious diet, you can also try one of these 21-day intermittent fasting meal plans. There are various caloric options to choose from and 6 diet types regular, keto, vegan keto, vegetarian, vegan and paleo.
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