An all-in-one guide for one of the fastest growing trends in fitness
There are many popular fitness trends out there. Some might be backed by science. Others are 100% fad diets that probably do more harm than good. Still, others might be trends that look promising today, but could turn out to be terribly harmful in the long run. Intermittent fasting (IF) is a very popular fitness trend currently, that has a pretty solid backing from sources over time reaching as far back at least until 1945 when scientists discovered that it actually extended the lifespan of mice.
Truth be told, fasting in general is as old as humanity and has numerous health benefits associated with it, so IF is most likely NOT ever going to be included in the ‘harmful fad’ category. Especially since IF doesn’t necessarily restrict calories or food groups any more than any actual diet does. As a matter of fact, IF is not so much a diet as it is a method of when to eat. Imagine that. A system that actually works and will get you to your fitness and health goals generally WITHOUT harming you. That is pretty good news for those who practice it.
Essentially, IF is based on cycles of eating and fasting. You only eat during a certain period of the day—the rest of the day you fast. Easy concept, right? Best of all, you are already doing it to an extent when you sleep. People who practice IF just extend out that 8 hour fast (if you are lucky enough to get 8 hours a night) a bit longer on a fairly regular schedule.
How does intermittent fasting work?
At its core, intermittent fasting is useful for fat loss because it forces you to eat all of your meals over a shorter period of time. Shorter intake windows cause your insulin levels drop while your growth hormones and Noradrenaline / Norepinephrine spike. This leads your metabolic rate to rise by 3.6-14%. The differing levels of these chemicals lead to weight loss because they help to speed up the breakdown of fatty tissues in your body, which are then used as energy.
After about 12 hours your body begins to enter a stage called ketosis. At this point your body starts to break down fat for fuel in the form of ‘ketones,’ chemicals made from fatty tissue in your liver. Aside from being a pretty cool process, these ketones cause less inflammation than glucose (energy stemming from food) when it is being broken down. Many people report far more mental clarity at this stage. That’s a pretty cool benefit!
At about the 18 hour mark, which is where people who IF generally begin to break their fast, ketone production is about optimal. The higher levels of ketones floating around the body help with pushing for tissue repair and other essential benefits your body has to put on the back burner when it is digesting foods.
IF is like an add-on module for your diet
IF is not magic. Intermittent fasting should be seen as a tool to supplement your already-established diet for best results. ‘Doing’ IF does not mean you can solely eat cake, pizza, and French fries (with a diet soda, of course!) during the eating window. You must still eat the right foods, in the right proportions, that will help you on your journey towards your fitness goals.
How do I fast, intermittently?
The basics of intermittent fasting are simple: Eat for a short period of time during a 24 hour period and fast the rest. The entire concept is the same as a traditional fast, just for a shorter duration than old school 21 day, water only type fasts.
If you decide to try out IF, consider one of these two options:
Shorter duration fasts
Shorter daily fasts. You don’t eat anything for 16 hours. The other 8 hours are your eating window. During that 8 hours, you must consume all your calories for the day. For example, you might eat from 11 a.m. to 7 p.m. During the fasting periods, you can only consume non-caloric drinks, like water or black coffee.
This method may be beneficial for most people starting out. Since the fasting period is shorter, you are hungry for the least amount of time.
Longer duration fasts
Longer daily fasting periods are followed by a very short eating window. People who follow this method typically fast for 20 hours, leaving a 4 hour window to eat. An example of this method is called the warrior diet. This more extreme version of IF allows for the individual to consume small amounts of dairy products, hard-boiled eggs, raw fruits and vegetables, and non-caloric drinks during the non-eating window. Others who stick with shorter eating windows refrain from all calories outside of those 4 hours.
Lastly, you may choose to follow even longer periods of fasting. Fasting for an entire day has enormous benefits, such as building up your willpower when those hunger pains inevitably hit.
Studies have shown that other benefits of fasting show up over longer (24hr+) fasts such as your body removing toxins, breaking down malformed proteins linked with disease, and clearer skin as well as mental clarity, increased focus, and full on fat-burn mode.
The longer you fast, the more benefits you may see. However, this may increase the risk of complications and shouldn’t be done without supervision. Additionally, you should drastically cut back on exercise and *hydrate* while you are fasting. Drinking enough water will help keep the hunger pains away while assisting in removing toxins from your body.
Fasting can be done on the same day each week, one day a month, alternating days, or whatever you choose to do.
Listen to your body
No matter the method you choose, if you choose one, each has their own benefits and flaws that need to be considered when practicing, including how your own health may be impacted. Essentially, intermittent fasting is dependent on your lifestyle. You can play around with intermittent fasting to see how it makes you feel and adjust accordingly. But remember, you should always listen to your body and consult a doctor before starting any exercise or diet regimen. Fasting isn’t for everyone, and certain medical conditions could disqualify you from them.
Other benefits of intermittent fasting
Aside from weight loss, intermittent fasting has many health benefits. Some of these benefits work to your benefit by optimizing your immune system. Other benefits of Intermittent Fasting may include:
- Lower risk of Type 2 diabetes
- Reduced risk of aging and many chronic diseases
- Improved heart health
- May help to reduce the risk of cancer
- Improved brain function
- Longer life span
Fasting, in general, has many medicinal uses that have been linked to many cultures around the world for centuries. The practice of intermittent fasting is nothing new, yet it is once again a popular eating trend that offers powerful fat loss benefits.
There are many ways of doing IF, so you can tailor it to your own lifestyle. As with many fitness programs and diets, it is all a matter of will power and determination to reach one’s fitness goals.
- Effective method of weight loss
- Intermittent fasting is periods of eating and periods of fasting.
- Less calories consumed and more calories burned.
- Many different ways to intermittent fast, but it should always be dependent on how it makes you feel.
Check it out. See if it is for you. Lots of people report tons of benefits from following IF, especially when combined with proper exercise, sleep cycles, and hydration.