Over the past year I've been using a technique to manage and reduce my weight. If you have not heard about about intermittent fasting you should look into it. Now, let me caveat this up front. I'm not a medical practitioner nor a nutritionist (more into math) so take this post as informational and definitely not advice on what you should be doing (especially if you have preexisting health problems - ask your doctor first.) What works for me might not work for you. Keep in mind that I've spent over a year tweaking and researching what works for me. I'll post a bunch of references at the bottom to get you on your way with intermittent fasting, if you are interested.
Intermittent fasting - what is it?
Intermittent fasting is a technique that you can use to reduce your caloric intake and put your body into a fat-burn mode buy alternating eating and fasting cycles. This fasting mode is not unnatural and our bodies are well equipped to handle extended periods where we don't consume food (always continue to drink water and remain hydrated.)
What happens when we fast?
You may have actually fasted and not even realized it. Ever skip breakfast? If you have then you've inadvertently fasted, probably for 16 hours or so. If you read further down that's pretty close to one of the intermittent fasting methods. Anyhow, the human body is well setup to handle brief periods of famine based on our genes and by regulating hormones and kicking off cellular repair. Here's some of what happens when you fast regularly (individual people will have varying results - that's where the genes kick in):
- Reduced blood sugar and insulin levels
- Increase in growth hormone (after about 2 days fasting)
- Weight loss
- Cellular repair (autophagy)
- Improvements in metabolic health factors like,
- vascular function,
- blood pressure and
- lipid levels
- Helps with age-related diseases (so the research says), such as
- cardiovascular disease,
- type 2 diabetes,
- some cancers (questionable, some research in mice),
- reduces risk factors for many neurodegenerative diseases.
If you want to get really science-y about it see your doctor and have a blood panel done up to establish a baseline. Probably a good idea to also mention that you are going to try intermittent fasting at that point as see if they have any concerns. Research has shown that intermittent fasting has benefits and could even help you live longer (see my reference list below for research papers.)
How do you do Intermittent Fasting (IF)?
Good question. The answer really depends on you. There are many different types of intermittent fasting techniques. I'll out line a few and comment on the method that I follow. No matter which method you follow you really need to stick to it and make it a lifestyle in order to benefit from it. It can be tough at first but over time it will become second nature and that's why you need to figure out a method that fits you and works for you.
Types of IF
There are a few popular types of IF that I'll touch on. Keep in mind it's not a diet, it's a pattern of eating. That being said you should choose a healthy diet to follow. Cramming 2000 calories of chips, pop and unhealthy crap in to your gullet is not going to help. Eat a health balanced diet.
The 16:8 method it involves skipping breakfast and restricting your daily eating period to 8 hours, such as 4–11 p.m. Then you fast for 16 hours in between. The timing of the approach makes your life easier, but you can’t just skip breakfast and expect results. This is the method(s) that I follow and found that fasting through the earlier part of the day, as opposed to the latter part of the day, helps on the social side of sticking to the method. This method comes from the Leangains protocol that combines IF with a fitness routine. You can go super hard core following the actual Leagains protocol. I don't, I do a simple 16:8 and follow my own fitness routine. I should mention that doing IF on it's own (whatever method) should help but you should really combine it with a solid workout routine for maximum effect. Increasing your physical activity and mobility is key to overall health.
This uses fasting for 24 hours, once or twice a week, pretty simple, don't eat from dinner one day until dinner the next day. In my opinion it's a bit tougher to get into, socially and physiologically and may be compromised by over compensation on 'eating' days. However, it works for a lot of people. It's recommended that you never fast for consecutive days and on fasting days drink lots of water. If you are diabetic, pregnant or those with a history of eating disorders definitely check with your doctor before embarking on this method, as always.
https://eatstopeat.com/ (infomercial site but has some good info on the method)
With this method, you consume only 500–600 calories on two non-consecutive days of the week, but eat normally the other 5 days. Again, eating healthy is key to this method (exercise as well.) I started out using this method and modified it to a 3:4 program where I ate normally on 3 days and reduced on 4 days. You choose the days that you reduce to 500-600 calories. This one is good for weight-loss, if you do it right. I would typically have soup for lunch and then a salad and yogurt(with fruit) for supper (I drank black coffee and lots of water.) Stick to nutritious, high-fibre and high-protein foods that will fill you up. This one is easy to get into but I found that it interfered with my family dinner menu and made it tough on me to stick to it. My family was not on the same plan as me.
https://www.fast-5.com/ (another infomercial site but the primer for the method - offers a free book)
Intermittent fasting reached a peak of popularity a few years back. With the popularity came the typical charlatan diet faddiness crap. So, watch out for the 'get ripped with IF' guides and diets that exaggerate expectations of what following an IF plan can do. I mentioned a few of the site as 'infomercial' sites as they are, so be aware of the hype. Again, find a rhythm and method that works for you and your lifestyle.
I fell into the 16:8 method after trying the 5:2 (modified) method but it all depends on you. There's no reason not to try one of the methods (check with your doctor first.) Combine them with healthy food choices and a regular fitness regime and you will be successful too.
I've had success with IF - I'm down 40lbs overall and staying down. I have a daily fitness routine and the family has become used to my not eating until supper time. It's definitely helped with my mobility and physicality (that's they staying active part.)
I'd be super interested in your stories and experiences with IF. Have you tried IF or are you thinking of trying one of the methods? Let me know.