Intermittent fasting (IF) seems to have garnered some attention lately. I’ll admit that when I hear the words “fasting” and “weight loss” in the same sentence, I usually look the other way. However, I’m open minded to new ideas, so I read up on it and implemented it into my own lifestyle. Much to my skepticism, the results have been better than expected.
What is Intermittent Fasting?
Intermittent fasting is when you eat and then fast for a period of time. Some people follow a 20/4 (20 hours of fasting, and 4 hours of eating), and others follow an 18/6, a 16/8, and anything in between. Some people even do a full 24 hour fast once or twice a week. I chose to stay conservative and give the 16/8 schedule a try.
So basically, I would eat for 8 hours out of the day and then fast for 16. I would still eat all my calories during those 8 hours, I just wouldn’t eat anything the other 16. This really wasn’t a difficult transition for me. I would basically wake up and take the kids to school, post an article, and then do my work out. Then I would eat around 10 am. For the next 8 hours I would have 3 meals (sometimes 2), until 6pm. Then I wouldn’t eat again until 10am the next morning.
Benefits of IF
There are many benefits. Some of these include:
- Stop Obsessing About Food – I’m a self-proclaimed food addict. Not so much an addict of eating bad food (although I do love it), but about eating on a timed schedule, eating the right macronutrients, and beating myself up when I miss a meal. Intermittent fasting has put that obsession to rest. I now eat when I feel like eating, and I even skip meals if I’m not hungry or too busy. I just make sure that I get enough calories for the day, and I get enough protein and carbohydrates to rebuild muscle and fuel my workouts. Some essential fatty acids (EFAs) here and there, and I’m set.
- Increased Time in Fat Burning Mode – By eating every few hours, you are keep your insulin levels elevated. While fat loss can still occur with elevated insulin levels, the higher they are, the less fatty acids can be mobilized. Going 16 hours without eating gives you a nice long window to burn fat in a favorable metabolic environment.
- Increased Growth Hormone Levels – Since I stop eating at 6pm, my growth hormone (GH) can be released throughout the night in maximum amounts without interference from insulin production. Growth hormone is anabolic to muscle and catabolic to fat. In a study measuring the effects of fasting on growth hormone levels, fasting showed a marked increase in GH .
- Improved Insulin Sensitivity – Going 16 hours without a meal increases my insulin sensitivity. Because of the diminished glycogen stores after the fast, my cells are primed and ready to absorb any glucose that enters my blood stream. It does this with less insulin, which means I’m more able to release fatty acids. A study comparing the effects of intermittent fasting (IF) with continuous energy restriction showed that IF lowered insulin resistance, as well as lowered leptin, LDL cholesterol, triglycerides, blood pressure, IGF, and fasting insulin levels .
- Not as Hungry – Instead of eating 5 or 6 smaller 400-500 calorie meals spaced evenly throughout the day, I’m now combining 6 meals into 3. This has given me the added benefit of filling me up so that I’m not constantly hungry. I’ve noticed a very large reduction in hunger.
There are many other studies that have shown benefits in the fields of life extension and fighting cancer. As research progresses and time passes, I suspect that there will be a number of new benefits discovered.
How to Implement It
Alright, so perhaps you’d like to give IF a try. I could write a whole book about it, but I’m going to simplify it down for you. Take 10-12 times your body weight in calories and eat them all within the fasting schedule you decide on. I’m a fan of the 16/8, but you could also do 18/6, or even 20/4. You can eat them all in one meal, two meals, or more. Just make sure you get in all your calories and you don’t go over. Go with how you feel. If you feel really hungry, have a bigger meal. Not so hungry? Wait a little longer and have a bigger meal later. Keep your foods coming from whole foods, stay consistent, and the weight will come off.