I first heard of intermittent fasting when Tyler told me he was going to give it a try. Tyler has such self-control and is a freak when it comes to health, which might explain his Greek-God like physique. After having my second child I was and still am eager to not only get back on track physically in regards to how I look, but as I grow older (and I’d like to this wiser), I also want to focus on how I feel from the inside out. This is when Ty suggest I give IF a try.
There are few different types of IF, but essentially they all fall under one umbrella for various diets that cycle between a period of fasting and non-fasting during a defined period. Between Whole 30, Paleo, South Beach, and what feels like hundreds different diets that require you to track what you are putting in your body, intermittent fasting is all about when you put food in your body. Here are the primary types of IF:
- The 5:2 program: Eat normally five days of the week; then, follow a modified fast for two days by eating very little, just 500-600 calories
- Leangains: Eat only within an 8- to 10-hour period each day and fast entirely for the remaining 14 to 16 hours
- Eat Stop Eat: Fast for a full day one to two days a week, and eat normally the other five or six days a week
- The Warrior Diet: Fast for 20 hours a day and eat one large meal every night
For what I’m looking to achieve and also seems reasonable for my day to day life, I’m going ahead and doing the “Leangains” fasting. I mean that is exactly what I hope to be: lean, but keep my gains & curves.
So before I change my lifestyle and make this commitment, I want to know..
What are the Benefits of Intermittent Fasting?
1. Fat Loss
The primary reason you hear people doing IF is for weight/fat loss. Intermittent fasting enhances hormone function to facilitate weight loss. Lower insulin levels, higher growth hormone levels and increased amounts of norepinephrine (noradrenaline) all increase the breakdown of body fat and facilitate its use for energy. This helps increase your metabolic rate thus increasing your fat burning.
According to a 2014 review of the scientific literature, intermittent fasting can cause weight loss of 3-8% over 3-24 weeks. This is a huge amount. The people also lost 4-7% of their waist circumference, which indicates that they lost lots of belly fat, the harmful fat in the abdominal cavity that causes disease.
One review study also showed that intermittent fasting caused less muscle loss than continuous calorie restriction.
2. Slows Aging
When you fast, it gives your cells the ability to detox and recycle, so your body can slow down aging and even prevent age-related diseases. In some of the many studies done, the effects were quite dramatic. In one of them, rats that fasted every other day lived 83% longer than rats who weren’t fasted. Yes, this study is done on rats, but I am here for anything and everything that slows the aging process & increases my natural Human Growth Hormones.
Fasting increases insulin sensitivity. In other words, it improves the way your body uses insulin to take up glucose into your cells to be utilized for energy.
This means you will have a lower blood sugar and therefore less “insulin resistance” which is also known as “glycation.” Glycation has been shown to cause “stiffening” and therefore aging of the cells in the body. It also is a contributory factor to many diseases of aging, especially Alzheimer’s.
3. Protects Your Brain
Speaking of your brain, intermittent fasting most definitely does enhance brain health through the increased production of BDNF. BDNF stands for “Brain Derived Neurotrophic Factor,” which is a protein that enhances brain health in many exciting ways. Several studies in rats have shown that intermittent fasting may increase the growth of new nerve cells, which should have benefits for brain function. Bottom line, It may increase growth of new neurons and protect the brain from damage.
4. Helps Prevent Cancer
Studies show that intermittent fasting can reduce oxidative damage and inflammation in the body. When you have oxidative stress, you have an increased risk of all “diseases of aging” such as heart disease, cancer and Alzheimer’s. Studies in animals suggest that intermittent fasting may be protective against neurodegenerative diseases like Alzheimer’s disease and may protect against other neurodegenerative diseases, including Parkinson’s and Huntington’s disease. Of course, many of these studies are done amongst rats and monkeys, but if there is anything in my control to prevent any of these unfortunate diseases, then I will hop on that train.
5. Increases Your Energy
You must think- hey, if I’m eating less, won’t I be more sluggish and have less energy? The answer is no, you will have MORE energy. And I’m going to refer to Freeletics.com on this one because this is just too much science that I couldn’t reword if I tried. But here is how it’s broken down:
“Apart from weight loss, the less-known benefit of intermittent fasting is said to be an increase in energy. Eating several times throughout the day means our metabolism goes through cycles of breaking down carbohydrates and turning them into blood sugar. Eventually it is used for energy or stored in cells for later. After blood sugar is consumed or stored by the body, it drops, taking your energy and mental performance down with it. This triggers a “hunger signal”, likely to make us eat and the whole process starts all over again. The constant up and down cycle of blood sugar throughout the day stresses our metabolism and results in overall lower energy levels and mental performance.
What’s the difference with intermittent fasting? When using fat for energy, fat is digested slowly and must be sent to the liver for processing (to ketones) before it can be used for energy. This process happens steadily and consistently with no up and downs, meaning we have more energy, feel better and our concentration levels and cognitive function is also higher.”
So now that you know what intermittent fasting is and all of the AMAZING benefits included, let’s get to the catch and answer the question:
How do you do Intermittent Fasting?
As you now know Intermittent fasting is where calorie intake (eating) is limited to a certain number of hours each day. Many people choose to adopt the 12- to 16-hour overnight fast, in which you would finish eating at about 8 p.m. and hold off breakfast until about 12 p.m.—an easier and more sustainable approach than skipping meals during the day. You can choose any 8 hour window that works best for you.
Something to note though- your body is a habitual machine!! When I first started fasting, my window was 11am-7pm for calorie intake. I thought I was “dying” at first because pre-fasting I would eat first thing in the morning. Well, after a few days of struggle my body adjusted and I wasn’t hungry until that 11am time frame (in which I pounded Kodiak pancakes, amazing if you haven’t tried them). So even though you think your body can’t not eat in the morning or not eat at night, I promise you it can, it just takes your body some retraining. And that is exactly what you are doing with fasting.
To become a sugar burner, stop snacking between meals. This is because every time you eat, you spike your insulin levels, which prevents fat burning and encourages fat storage. Not good! The secret to curbing hunger is to have protein, fat, and fiber at each meal.
Essentially you will be skipping one meal a day. During the “fasted state” (the hours in which your body is not consuming or digesting any food) your body doesn’t have a recently consumed meal to use as energy, so it is more likely to pull from the fat stored in your body as it’s the only energy source readily available.
Burning fat = win.
But how will I work out without food? Here lies another benefit of IF. Fasted training helps to ensure that carbs, protein, and fats go to the right places in the body and are stored only minimally as body fat. It actually INCREASES your energy and it’s even been shown that people who train while fasted become progressively better at burning fat at higher levels of intensity (possibly because of an increase in fat-oxidizing enzymes). I found with IF that my workouts were longer, more focused, and I didn’t crash half way through.
If you’re interested in adding supplements to your training you can find my supplements guide here.
Some things to note for you morning people. YES, you can have tea and coffee!!! I pound like a pot of coffee to myself every morning, no shame. Just remember you can’t have any calories, so that means no milk, no sweetener, no creamer. Just black coffee. If black coffee isn’t your thing, try cold brew. You can try this Cold Brew Maker that is only $18 and SUPER easy to use. I always have this in the fridge, as well as a pitcher of green tea. Sometimes coffee and tea are more tolerable when they’re super cold!