The Low Down On Intermittent Fasting
I have used intermittent fasting (IF) over the last two years on myself, family and friends, but only recently have I passed knowledge onto my clients to use IF to assist with fat loss. The reason I have not advised my clients on IF is that it has been a little tongue in cheek up to now, and people seem to fear not eating for an extended period of time.
Generally If you discuss not eating for a period of time you often receive comments such as “that’s not good for you” , “oh no, I couldn’t do that”, “I would starve” or “your muscles will break down” and “if you don’t eat you will not lose weight”.
Well this is just not true!
I now have clients utilising IF with fantastic results.
There are many new studies on IF and it can no longer be ignored as it has so many benefits with limited negatives.
So what is intermittent fasting, and how do you do it?
Well let’s start with the fact that humans have been fasting since they first walked the earth.
Stone age men did not have superstores, coffee shops and fast food restaurants, and they did not have fridges to store their food in. They had to hunt, forage and eat what was immediately available to them. Sometimes food was not available for longer periods of time due to varied reasons but could have been as simple as weather conditions.
But that was not a problem because their bodies had evolved to survive without eating for long periods of time.
The human biology of today has not really evolved since then, we are predominantly the same.
So what has changed? Well back then we had to hunt and forage for our food and today we can order food delivered to our door using an app on a smart phone without getting out of our chairs. If that is too taxing for you get the Domino’s easy order button, just open the box and push the button and your favourite pizza will be delivered to your door.
I know some of you are reading this and saying “wow that’s awesome I want one of those buttons in a box” but really! we wonder why in the next 15 years 76% of men and 67% of woman will be overweight and obese.
So fasting is by no means a new thing and has been “tested” via numerous religions as well.
Intermittent Fasting is refraining from eating food for a period of time. It is not a diet as a diet is classed as a way of eating, so is definitely not a diet.
There are many ways of using IF but the most common is not eating any food for between 16 and 24 hours.
When you eat a meal your body is in a “fed” state. Depending on the meal you have consumed your body will stay in this fed state for 4-6 hours. Once the meal has been absorbed by the body (after 4-6 hours) your body will enter a “fasted” state.
During a normal day your body will pass between a “fed and “fasted” state. Dependent on your eating patterns during the day generally you would spend 7-8 hours in a “fasted” state.
So IF is extending the time your body remains in a “fasted” state. This ensures you are using your energy stores (body fat) to fuel the body.
So what are the benefits of fasting?
Well as I stated the studies keep coming in and there are many great benefits:-
Well one of the big ones is increased life expectancy. Yes IF can help you live longer.
Some studies on animals by the National Institute on Ageing have shown that they live longer when they consume less calories. This research is showing that this can be achieved by eating fewer calories in the day or by fasting on intermittent days.
Fasting triggers “autophagy” which is a destruction of cells within the body. It is a physiological process that maintains normal functioning by protein degradation and replenishment of the destroyed cells for new cell formation.
So IF neutralises some of the degenerative aspects of ageing.
IF can also reduce blood sugar and insulin levels and increase growth hormone. This is advantageous for losing weight whilst maintaining muscle. It also reduces the risk of insulin resistance which helps prevent diabetes.
Studies have also shown that fasting can reduce systemic inflammation, increase lipolysis and norepinephrine and epinephrine levels which increase the breakdown of fats. And also increase glucagon levels which again breaks down fats.
In another review fasting was shown to reduce obesity, hypertension, asthma, and rheumatoid arthritis.
In rodents IF assisted against diabetes, cancers and heart disease.
Intermittent Fasting & Muscle Loss
Many believe that a loss of muscle mass would occur during a fast; this is just not true.
In fact meal frequency is not as important as we used to believe. We were all under the impression that we had to eat protein every few hours to build or maintain our muscle but new studies have shown that overall meal frequency has little importance.
How often you eat in the day is insignificant to how much you eat in the day when it comes to weight loss and muscle growth.
I personally still believe eating smaller meals throughout the day has its place when on a fat loss diet solely for the satiety that it brings.
Amazingly as stated above fasting increases growth hormone which can assist in muscle growth and a 24 hour fast is not long enough to deplete liver glycogen stores in a healthy person. Studies have shown that up to 40 hours of fasting does not cause catabolism and lead to skeletal muscle atrophy.
In one study subjects were placed on a 4 day fast and in the first 3 days they experienced an increase in their metabolism. When you look at the studies available on IF it is clear that it does not slow metabolism, and overall lack of food has little to do with metabolism.
It is becoming more apparent that metabolism is linked more to muscle mass than the food we eat. This is why I am a strong advocate of resistance training for both men and woman.
Simply the more muscle mass we have the faster our metabolic rate, the faster our metabolic rate the more calories we burn naturally, the more calories we burn naturally the more food we can eat, nice!
Intermittent Fasting & Starvation Mode
Many people have been told that if we go too long without eating food we will go into starvation mode, and as soon as we eat again the food will turn straight into fat. I have even heard people say that if we do not eat we get fatter which is just ridiculous.
So what we do know is that during intermittent fasting our metabolism increases and our basal metabolic rate does not decline until after about 60 hours of fasting. And probably the reason for this is as you have not eaten for a period to time your amazing body releases adrenaline and noradrenaline which increases your metabolic rate so you can go hunt and forage.
If we are to use the phrase “starvation mode” then this begins after about 72 hours of not eating. This is when muscle will be utilised as a source of energy.
Types Of Intermittent Fasting
16/8 Intermittent Fast
A good entry to IF is known as the 16/8 fast. This can be utilised on a daily basis by some people but others find it not so suitable, and this is predominantly depends on your job and access to food you have during the day.
This fast works by eating all your normal daily food in an 8 hour window and then fasting for the remaining 16 hours. The fast would normally start in the evening as then the fast would continue while you are tucked up in bed which makes this style of fasting very achievable.
You can arrange the fast around times that are suitable for your work schedule but the times I have personally utilised and the most common I use for my clients looks like this:-
7pm – Fast begins
Eat your evening meal before 7pm and no food is to be consumed after this time.
Fast continues throughout the night.
11am Following day – Fast ends
Eat your breakfast after 11am
Eat your normal healthy diet as usual.
As mentioned this is job dependent but some people can eat like this on a daily basis with great results making this a daily fast. So simply eat all your normal foods between the hours of 11am to 7pm and do not eat between the hours of 7pm and 11am.
The above is a common time format but this can be adjusted to suit your work and lifestyle.
24 Hour Fast
This style of fasting is not complicated, you simply do not eat for 24 hours and doing this will yield great results. It does not matter when the fast starts and finishes but the times I have utilised for myself and clients would look like this:-
Eat evening meal (example time 7pm) – Fast begins
Eat your evening meal at 7pm and no food is to be consumed after this time.
Fast continues throughout the night.
Eat evening meal at the same time as the previous evening meal (example time 7pm) the following day – Fast ends
Eat your normal healthy evening meal after 7pm.
You do not have to be to the minute with this but just try to ensure there are 24 hours between evening meals.
Do not worry if you cannot make the full 24 hours as any extended time between meals will offer your body many great healthy advantages; but there is some magic in those 24 hours so take up the challenge.
The idea of fasting for 24 hours appears to be more of a mental challenge than a physical one. To explain this I have never had any client find it more difficult than they thought it was going to be. Their normal response would be “that was much easier than I expected” and “I feel amazing”.
When your fast is complete just eat a normal healthy meal and do not offer yourself a high calorie reward, or go for an all out binge. The fast would generally end in the evening so have your normal healthy evening meal and go to bed as usual.
Exercising While In A Fasted State
If you feel up to it you can exercise while fasting, in fact this could turbo boost your fat burning to another level. I would suggest you undertake HIIT (High Intensity Interval Training) as this high intensity short duration workout whilst fasted could be just what you need to target that last bit of stubborn fat.
What Can I Eat And Drink During The Fast
The food part is easy as you cannot eat any food during the fast as we require the fast to be as close as we can too 0 calories.
This is what you can drink during the fast:-
Water – Lots of it
Tea – Normal, green or herbal
All the above should be drunk without any normal or artificial sugar or sweeteners.
Try to go without milk in your hot drinks but as long as you do not go crazy a little should not take you out of your fasted state.
No sugar free fizzy drinks
Possible Negatives To Fasting
Some people may experience headaches during a fast, but I have not experienced this personally or with my clients. If you do experience a headache it is more likely to be a type of withdrawal symptom but ensure you stay hydrated during the fast so you do not become dehydrated.
Of course you may feel hungry as this is possibly the first time you have gone without food for an extended period of time. But it is just hunger pangs and does not mean you are starving or your stomach is eating itself from the inside out. Just hunger pangs!
When you are fasting the blood flow to your body increases. It is believed that the blood is moving around the body grabbing your body fat and moving it to your muscles where it can be utilised as fuel. I find this issue to be more common while fasting.
So if intermittent fasting is so good why do we not hear much about it?
Well there is not much to sell, there are no fat loss foods, pills, tonics, meal replacement drinks and super smoothies. There are no “deliver to you door” healthy meals, diet books and exercise books, I could go on but I think you get it!
If you wish to lower body fat without spending a penny then fasting ticks that box.
Is intermittent fasting really this good?
Yes I believe it is!
Be happy…be healthy…enjoy life