Over the years of being in fitness, whether it’s training myself or my clients, a few “diets” or ways to lose weight have come and gone. One of them is intermittent fasting (IF). Ironically enough, fasting has been around for a while as it was initially intended for religious purposes, but others found that they lost weight when they tried it, so they implemented it.
When I worked in a gym a few of the trainers whom I respected immensely tried it and were happy with the results, so naturally, I thought I would give it a shot myself.
I fasted once for 12 hours, dry fast that is (no liquids or solids) and remember thinking “what am I doing,” this can’t be normal, how do people voluntarily starve themselves? At the end of the fast, when I got up to move, I almost fainted (good thing I was close to my bed and it saved me). Needless to say, I didn’t attempt fasting again because as much as I hate to cook, the thought of hitting the floors scared the heck out of me!
If you’re on Instagram, I’m sure you’ve seen trainers among other fitness influencers touting the lie fat loss success from intermittent fasting and you may be on the fence wondering if you should try it out for yourself. Keep reading, then make a conscious decision.
Before we proceed, let’s clarify exactly what the meaning of IF is, shall we?
Intermittent fasting (IF) involves periods of eating and fasting, which are cycled. There is no stipulation on what foods you should eat but there is a concentrated timeframe in which you can eat. As mentioned above, fasting was originally intended for religious purposes as well as in historic periods when individuals hunted and gathered their meals vs today where we have refrigerators or can get take-out delivered right to our doors. There are many ways in which IF can be incorporated into your life depending on your lifestyle and schedule. However, it’s not always easy especially if you have a demanding job, family, or travel often. Check out the 6 most common forms of IF:
1. 16:18 Method: This type of intermittent fasting involves fasting for 16-18 hours a day and then eating all calories during the 6-8 hour eating window. For women in particular, it is noted that you should be on the lower end (16 hours) or even down to a 14-hour fasting period as women tend to do better on slightly shorter fasts. If you were to finish your final meal at 7pm, then you would not eat again until at least 9am (14-hours) the next day. During your fasting period, you are still allowed to have water, coffee (black) and other non-caloric beverages. Then, when breaking your fast, you should have a nutrient dense meal that is high in protein, and contains a fat, carbohydrates and fiber.
2. 5:2 Method: While doing the 5:2 method you will eat normally for 5 days of the week (no time constraints just normal calorie intake) and then on 2 days of the week (your choice of days as long as there is one day of non-fasting in-between), you will consume only 500-600 calories. You can consume the 500 calories as one meal (Example: piece of chicken, vegetables, brown rice), or you can consume them throughout the day with an egg or yogurt for breakfast, soup for lunch and then a chicken and vegetables for dinner. You will have to work with the combinations of your foods to ensure that you are staying within that 500-600 calorie window.
3. Alternate Day Fasting: There are slightly different ways to approach alternate day fasting particularly on “fasting” days. The premise however is that on one day you eat your normal meals and calorie content and then the following day you are fasting. Some methods of the fasting day however allow you to eat approximately 500-600 calories during that day and like the 16:18 method, you are allowed to drink non-caloric beverages like water, tea, coffee etc. Your 500-600 calorie consumption would be the same as in the 5:2 method, where you plan either to eat throughout the day or just one meal.
4. Weekly 24 Hour Fast: You fast for 1-2 days per week for a full 24-hour period. This method can be difficult for many people and it is very important to eat proper healthy meals during non-fasting periods.
5. The “Warrior” Diet: This form of IF is modeled after ancient warriors who consumed little during the day, and then feasted on large meals in the evenings. For 20 hours (fasting period) a day you consume small amounts of raw fruits and veggies, eggs (hard-boiled), dairy, and non-caloric beverages. Then in the evening during your 4-hour window you consume as much food to satisfy yourself.
6. Keto Diet + Intermittent Fasting: By combining the two diets, you follow the keto diet but eat within the time frame of an IF window. Naturally with intermittent fasting alone you should reach a state of ketosis (your body relies on fat instead of glucose for its energy source) however, a combination of the two, may help you to burn fat faster while also allowing you to preserve muscle mass.
- Weight loss: If weight loss is your desired goal, intermittent fasting can assist. This is because it kickstarts ketosis once your body has depleted its glucose storage (your source of energy). Your body then begins to burn your fat reserves in the process known as ketosis, which is said to reduce inflammation, improve blood chemistry and allow you to lose weight.
- Cellular Repair: While you’re sleep, your body will not be focusing as much on digestion when you intermittent fast. Therefore, your body is able to clear out damaged cell and regenerate new healthy ones in a process called autophagy. It is required to help maintain muscle mass and reduce the effects of aging.
- Insulin Resistance: Intermittent fasting is said to help balance your blood sugar levels. Studies have shown that fasting blood sugar was reduced by 3-6%, while fasting insulin was reduced by 20-31%. (Note: if you are diabetic or have issues with your blood sugar, consult with a registered medical professional before trying intermittent fasting).
- Snacking: If you love to snack throughout the day or in the evening then, IF might help you curb your snacking ways, potentially resulting in benefits.
- Starting is Hard: If you are used to eating at any time of the day and are now restricted to a small window of consumption, your body is going to experience those hunger pangs and mentally you have to be strong to resist reaching for that regular morning snack. It is very possible to get on a schedule though especially when you are at home and in routine. You can also do a build-up of the 16:8 method where you start with a 12-hour fasting window and slowly increase the fasting window over time to allow your body time to adapt.
- Over Eating: The idea is that you eat the same number of calories as you normally would just in a smaller time frame. However, there can be the temptation to overeat as you break your fast because you are hungry. The best way to avoid this is to make sure that you have a well-balanced meal for when you break your fast, that involves a healthy protein, fat and carb. Also make sure to have lots of veggies and fruits cut and ready to go, to help you avoid the sugar.
- Hormones: For women, it is particularly important to watch how your body is responding to Intermittent Fasting and ensure that you are still consuming enough calories. This is because calorie depletion can inhibit female sex hormones and cause hormone imbalances and irregular periods. So, make sure your eating well balanced meals like you always would just in a shorter time frame!
Remember though that there is no better or worse method of intermittent fasting, it is your choice if you implement it and what method you choose. It must be conducive to your lifestyle and not add any further stress.
There you have it, all you need to know about fasting. You’re equipped with the knowledge to make your own educated decision.
The truth is, I’m personally not a fan as I prefer methods that are realistic and sustainable. I would say, if you’re curious if Intermittent Fasting is for you or not, try it for yourself. Experience it and then decide from there how you would like to proceed. Whichever IF you choose, if you choose any, ensure you are maintaining balanced meals and getting enough calories!
So, have you tried IF? If so what was your experience? Leave a comment below!