A guide to Intermittent Fasting - part 1

Intermittent fasting has hugely increased in popularity in recent years especially with regards to weight loss and if you've read my own blog you'll know i'm a big fan of not eating, which considering i'm surrounded by great tasting healthy food every day, may seem quite odd. You may also know that in the past i have done 4, 5 and even 6 days straight fasting and thoroughly enjoyed the process too. 

Fasting works for me, it is a strategy which i find i can stick to and one that overall helps me lower my total calorie intake, which is the most important aspect of losing fat. it simplifies a diet, i also find it requires less thinking (about food and meal timings) and helps improve my overall health as well as giving me better focus and concentration levels too. It's not for everyone though and does require discipline, but that's like any new dietary protocol you could be implementing to improve body composition.

 

What is Intermittent Fasting?

It is not some mythical witchcraft that leads to an eternal 6 pack (unfortauntely) and in truth fasting is the time period between meals, when we are choosing no to eat, the main one for most people being between dinner and breakfast. Fasting is also not to be confused with starvation, as we choose to fast and not eat, which can be difficult for many people with food so readily available.

The basis of an Intermittent Fasting (IF) is to cycle between periods of fasting and eating. There are a number of different methods and finding the one which works for the individual is often just as important as the food choices, if not more so, depending on the goal. Whilst we all 'fast' each day when we're asleep, IF for many is as simple as extending the window of fasting by a few hours each side of the normal sleep pattern to increase the window of fasting. Popular cycles include 16:8 which is fasting for 16 hours per day and eating during an 8 hour window or the 5:2 protocol which structures the plan to eat normally for 5 days whilst having 2 low calorie (usually under 500kcals) days per week. Another popular method is known as 'Eat-Stop-Eat' which involves a 24 hour fasting period once or twice per week, most people prefer to eat their lunch, fast for 24 hours and eat at the next lunch 

 

Why Fast?

Fasting is nothing new, it's actually something we've been doing for many many years whether it because we had to sometimes hunt food for days or for religious reasons. There are many instances of fasting throughout our time on this planet and it's certainly nothing to be worried about, as humans we're actually very well equipped to deal with it. It is only in the current culture where for most of the worlds population there is an abundance of food available. 

What IF does is remove you from thinking about food in general within your fasting period, which in turn allows you to adhere to an overall calorie deficit based diet. In relation to this another reason for people to use IF is helping with understanding what hunger really is. Many people eat out of boredom, thinking they're hungry, which is not surprising considering how our senses are constantly marketed to by food companies, IF helps you differentiate between physical hunger and an often over communicated psychological hunger. Most people can identify which foods they crave or often binge on and at which times of the day or even what triggers set them off, IF allows you to time those fasts either at a time when you want to take control of your binges and allow them so you can enjoy the full feeling or to abstain and practice some self control, both instances can become very powerful in regards to helping you to take back control of your appetite and improving your attitude towards food. Ultimately fasting simplifies dieting as you're either eating, or you're not.

Some of the key benefits associated with fasting include:

  • Increased energy 
  • improved weight loss
  • increased growth hormone 
  • reduction of inflammation
  • lowered blood cholesterol 
  • reduce insulin resistance 
  • improved mental clarity and focus
  • cellular repair 
  • triggers autophagy which clears waste material from cells (this is not like a juice cleanse LOL)
  • may help you live longer

In part 2 we'll look at the different IF can be used specifically for fat loss and how you can progress through the different strategies, part 3 we'll look at smart supplementation and incorporating exercise too.

A few links, you know because the science is pretty important and we don't like to make claims we can't back up.

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/15640462

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3106288/

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/25540982

http://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S193152441400200X