INTRODUCTION TO INTERMITTENT FASTING
The benefits and particularities of fasting have been recorded and studied for decades. Still, it has gained so much popularity in recent years that many websites, authors, and bloggers have jumped on the wave of what appears to be a fad to many.
And the problem with the fact that it is considered a fad is why medical professionals and nutritionists hesitate to prescribe it to their patients.
However, studies published over the past few decades have continued to show that intermittent fasting, when done correctly, can have interesting effects on your body, weight, and metabolic health.
So if it’s already got your attention, let’s break down what all this intermittent fasting is and why it’s considered so good.
WHAT IS INTERMITTENT FASTING?
Let’s find out together. But, first, let’s take two “rules” of healthy eating that we know are widely accepted and turn them on their heads:
- RULE #1: You have to-eat first thing in the morning – make sure you start with a healthy breakfast so that you can fire up your metabolism first thing in the morning!
- The classic phrase: “Eat breakfast like a king, lunch like a prince, and dinner like a pauper.”
- And this is not false, eh? We have already analyzed it in the following article: BREAKFAST, TRAINING AND WEIGHT LOSS.
- RULE #2: Eat many small meals throughout the day to lose weight. Make sure you eat six small-meals throughout the day to keep your metabolism running at total capacity throughout the day.
- There is nothing new here either; no, we have also analyzed this in this article: DOES EATING MANY TIMES A DAY HELPS LOSE WEIGHT?
THE INTERMITTENT BREAKFAST
But what if science and research show that skipping breakfast can help us improve our weight loss, improve mental and physical health, and maximize muscle retention and body fat loss? Sounds fake, right? Better keep reading…
There is scientific evidence that fasting may be better than eating breakfast, and that’s where an intermittent fasting plan comes into play.
Intermittent fasting is not a diet but a diet pattern.
In simple terms: you are making a conscious decision to skip certain particular foods.
In short, intermittent fasting consists of fasting for a few hours and then eating generally in a shorter period, meaning that you consume your calories during a specific period of the day and choose not to eat food for a more extended time.
TYPES OF INTERMITTENT FASTING
There are several different-ways to do intermittent fasting, all of which involve dividing the day or week into periods of eating and fasting. In fasting periods, we will eat very little or even nothing.
These are the most popular methods:
- THE 16/8 METHOD: It involves skipping breakfast and restricting the period of food consumption to 8 hours, for example, between 1 and 9 pm, and then fasting for 16 hours.
- EAT-STOP-EAT: This involves-fasting for 24 hours, once or twice a week, for example, not eating from dinner one day to feed the next day.
- THE 5/2 DIET: With this method, you-consume only 500–600 calories on two non-consecutive days of the week but usually eat the other five days.
As we can see, by reducing calorie intake, all of these methods should cause weight loss as long as you don’t compensate by eating more during feeding periods.
Of the 3, many people consider the 16/8 method to be the simplest, most sustainable, and easiest to follow, and for this reason, it is often the most popular.
HOW DOES INTERMITTENT FASTING WORK?
After understanding what intermittent fasting is all about, you might be thinking, “Okay, so by skipping a meal, I’ll eat less than I normally eat on average (2 meals instead of 3), and I’ll lose weight, right?” truth?”
And yes, that’s precisely how it works.
For example, taking the 16/8 method, by cutting out one full meal each day, you consume fewer calories per week, even if your two meals per day are slightly larger than before. In general, you continue to consume fewer calories per day.
Intermittent fasting can be helpful because your body works differently when you “binge” compared to when you “fast”:
When you eat a meal, your body-spends a few hours processing that meal, burning what it can of whatever you just ate.
Because it has all this energy readily available and is easy to burn, your body will choose to use it for energy rather than as fat to store.
During the “fasting state” (the hours when your body does not consume or digest any food), your body does not have a recently eaten meal to use for energy.
Therefore, it is more likely to draw stored fat from your body, as it is the only readily available energy source. And this is useful when trying to lose weight.
INTERMITTENT FASTING AND PHYSICAL EXERCISE
The same goes for exercising under a “fasted” state.
Without a fresh supply of glucose and glycogen to consume (as this has been depleted throughout your fasted state and has not yet been replenished with a pre-workout meal), your body is forced to adapt and draw energy from the source you have available: the fat stored in your adipocytes.
However, you must be-careful if you are going to do a strenuous or high-intensity exercise because you may not have a correct flow of energy and lower your performance or even be unable to finish the activity.
AND IF WE ARE NOT GOING TO PERFORM AN INTENSE EXERCISE… WHY DOES THIS WORK?
Our bodies react to energy-consumption (eating food) with-insulin production.
The more sensitive your body-is to insulin, the more likely you will use the food you eat efficiently, making your body more sensitive to insulin after a fasting period.
These insulin production and sensitivity changes can help with weight loss and even muscle growth.
Now, glycogen (a starch stored in the muscles and liver that the body can burn for fuel when needed) is depleted during sleep (where we’re in a fasted state) and further depleted during training, which can increase insulin sensitivity.
This means that the-food you eat after your workout will be used more efficiently: converted to glycogen and stored in your muscles or burned as energy to help with the recovery process, all with minimal amounts stored as fat.
Compare this to a typical day (without intermittent fasting). With insulin sensitivity at normal levels, carbohydrates and food consumed will have full glycogen stores and enough glucose in the bloodstream, so they will be more likely to be stored. As a fat, if the exercise was not intense or strenuous enough to use up all the excess.
SHOULD I TRY INTERMITTENT FASTING?
Now that we understand how intermittent fasting works, let’s dig even deeper into the following question: Why should we consider intermittent fasting?
- BECAUSE IT CAN WORK FOR YOUR OBJECTIVES, although we know that not all calories are created equal, calorie restriction plays a vital role in weight loss.
- And when you fast, you’re making it easier to restrict your total caloric intake over the week, which can lead to weight loss and continued weight maintenance.
- BECAUSE IT SIMPLIFIES YOUR DAY, instead of having to schedule, prepare and eat your meals every 2-3 hours, you skip a meal or two and only have to worry about eating in your eating window.
- It’s one more minor decision you have to make every day.
- It might allow you to enjoy slightly larger portioned meals (which keeps your taste buds and stomach satiated) and still consume fewer calories on average.
- IT TAKES LESS TIME (AND LESS MONEY). For example, instead of preparing or buying three to six meals a day, you only need to prepare two or three meals.
- Instead of stopping six times a day to eat, he only has to stop eating two or three times.
- Instead of doing the dishes six times, you only have to do it two or three times.
- Instead of buying six meals a day, you only need to buy two or three.
FREQUENTLY ASKED QUESTIONS ABOUT INTERMITTENT FASTING
“Will I not be starving if I start skipping meals?” The truth is that this can be the result of the habits that you have previously developed for your body. If you are constantly eating or eating at the same time of day, your body has learned to prepare for that meal.
If so, it may be a bit hard for you the first few days, but I assure you that after a short period of adjustment, your body will adjust to the fact that you are only eating a few times a day.
Keep in mind that the-more overweight you are, and the more often you eat, the more complex the initial struggle. However, it is unnecessary to start fasting every day with the 16:8 method (for example); you can start by doing it every other day and then increasing the weekly frequency.
- “Where will I get the energy for my workouts? Won’t I be exhausted and unable to complete my activities if I fast?
If you focus on losing weight, light or not very intense exercise can be very useful, and you will not notice a more significant loss of energy.
Now, if you’re going to do an entire weight session or a very high volume or intense running workout in the morning, maybe the best option is to move it to the afternoon.
- “I like the idea of fasted-training, but I work a regular schedule of 9 am to 5 pm or a night shift and I can’t train at 11 am for example. What am I supposed to do?”
Depending on your training-schedule, lifestyle and goals, go back to the last part where I discussed the 16/8 protocol and adjust your fasting and eating times accordingly.
And if you can’t, don’t be discouraged, there are other strategies to lose weight, this is not the only one, the important thing is to maintain a caloric deficit, eating small portions more often may be the best option for you in this case.
Do what you can, and don’t go crazy!
- “Will fasting cause muscle loss?”
Not necessarily! Our bodies are experts at preserving muscle even when fasted, and it turns out that our body’s absorption of protein can take place over many, many hours.
Protein adequately spread out and consumed over a shorter period doesn’t make much of a difference to the body than protein spread out throughout the day.
The important thing is to consume the amount of protein necessary per day for your requirements ( HOW MUCH PROTEIN SHOULD WE EAT PER DAY? ), and not fall into much more extended periods of fasting, much beyond those recommended, because then you would enter a state catabolic ( CATABOLIC STATE ).
- How much should I eat while-intermittent fasting?
Simple: Eat according to your goals! You already know-HOW MANY CALORIES YOU SHOULD EAT EVERY DAY, right?
If your goal is to lose weight, you need to consume fewer calories than you burn each day.
If your goal is to gain weight in muscle mass, you will need to consume more calories (and protein) than you burn every day. Remember that intermittent fasting is not a panacea. It is one part of the puzzle.