“Fasting” has been part of human evolution, with human ancestry that went lengthy periods without meals. For this reason, some argue that fasting is more natural than eating 6 meals a days. Intermittent Fasting(IF) has taken the fitness industry by storm as an effective weight loss for many people. Now we are going break down the how and why it works, to give you a run down of information you should know about.
Firstly, IF is not a “rigid diet” as much as it is a means of structuring your eating patterns and times, so more emphasis is placed on WHEN you eat opposed to only WHAT you eat.
In order to lose weight one needs to be in a sustainable and consistent calorie DEFICIT. This basically means burning more calories than you consume, so eating less calories than your TDEE(Total Daily Energy Expenditure) or BMR(Basal Metabolic Rate). The main reason IF works is because it is an easy way to ensure you achieve a caloric deficit because of the eating windows it caters for.
The HOW(The 3 most commonly practiced kinds of intermittent fasting):
This is one of the most commonly practiced forms of IF. It entails a fasting period of 16 hours and an eating window of 8 hours. The easiest way to do this would be to skip breakfast and have your first meal at noon, thus making your eating window between 12-8pm.
This method is also relatively simple as it entails eating normally for 5 days of the week and dropping your calorie intake to 500 calories for 2 days. The lower calorie days shouldn’t fall on 2 consecutive days. Ideally you would like to have about 2 days between the low calorie days.
This method may not be for the faint of heart. This method entails fasting for 1 - 2 days(preferably 2) of the week for a full 24 hours. Again, the 2 fasting days should not be consecutive. Your 24 hour fast would ideally fall between your night time meals. So you would have your last meal at 8pm, fast for the following 24 hours, then have your next meal at 8pm following day.
The WHY (Benefits of IF):
- As already mentioned, one of the greatest reason to try IF is because it is a great ways to decrease calorie intake and achieve a caloric deficit without rigid dieting.
- Decreasing food intake also helps decrease insulin resistance and increase insulin sensitivity which is also a crucial aspect for weight loss. Lower levels of insulin in the body make the energy stores(primarily fat) more accessible for expenditure.
- Although further studies are necessary to validate the claim that it increases HGH(Human Growth hormone) levels, it is believed to do so. GH plays a fundamental role in building muscle mass and losing body fat!
- Consuming lower calories as well as completely fasting have also been linked to increasing ones quality of life and contributing to wholistic longevity.
- IF is relatively low maintenance making it very doable and sustainable, although should not be done for lengthy amounts of time!
- Did we mention... WEIGHT LOSS???
- There are a lot more benefits claimed online, but they are yet to be validated and substantiated by the necessary research.
Tips for effectively making use of IF:
- Do not use the eating windows to overcompensate for the time spent fasting by consuming calories.
- Stay HYDRATED. Water acts as a natural appetite suppressant and also regulates bodily functions.
- Opt for low calorie beverages like tea, as high calorie beverages are the easiest way to consume excessive calorie without realizing it.
- Don’t think about it too much! Avoid obsessing over food and stressing over the small eating details, especially when fasting - rather do something to get your mind off food.
- When you think you’re hungry, don’t rush into eating. Take a few minutes to access whether you are actually physically hungry and in need of nutrients or if you’re just mentally craving a snack.
- Prepare your meals in advance.
- Try not do too much strenuous exercise on fasting days, try something calming and good for recovery like yoga.
- Go for higher volume; nutrient dense foods to keep you fuller for longer. Such as fruits, vegetables and high in fiber foods.
- Enjoy you food, use herbs and spices to make your food taste great, healthy nutritious foods don’t have to be boring!
- Avoid practicing IF for lengthy periods of time, as it is not physiologically sustainable. Try regularly cycling between IF and normal healthy balanced eating habits.