Intermittent fasting is all the rave right now among fitness and health enthusiasts. Many people are now adopting this age-old regimen into their fitness and nutrition routine as a means to lose weight, improve their health, and simplify their lives.
More and more people are beginning to hear about intermittent fasting and the slew of potential health and fitness benefits it carries. As a result, more and more are seeking to verify how effective it can be.
In this blog article, we will be looking into what intermittent fasting is all about. We will then talk about how effective it is, and round up with tips to help you get the maximum benefit possible from IF.
Before we go any further, remember that each individual's nutritional needs are unique. Experimenting with your own nutrition can help you find what works best for you, but as one of only a few Bellevue chiropractors that specialize in Nutrition Response Testing (which can help you understand how your body will respond to certain dietary changes!).
Ok, here we go..
What is Intermittent Fasting?
Unlike the majority of diets/nutritional fads today, intermittent fasting is simply a pattern of eating that alternates between periods of consumption (time blocks in which you eat) and fasting (time blocks in which you don't eat). It involves partially or totally abstaining from eating food for a given interval, followed by a shorter eating period.
Contrary to the views of many, intermittent fasting is not a diet plan. It doesn't require you to make any changes to what you eat. It only alters when you eat what you eat. It's basically a way of scheduling your meals so that you can get the best out of them.
With intermittent fasting, many choose to use sleep to their advantage. This way, you can minimize the amount of time you are fasting while you're awake, so you're not as tempted to give in to hunger during the early stages of the fast.
Because of this, a common fasting period is:
8 hours (fasted & awake) + 8 hours (consuming) + 8 hours (fasted & asleep)
Using this breakdown, you're able to load your workouts in the first segment, utilizing the benefit of fasted cardio to induce an even higher level of fat burning in your system (AND it helps you get a full night's rest each night). BUT be careful- when you exert yourself in a fasted state with low blood sugar, it's easy to become lightheaded or sick, so make sure you're listening to your body and know your limits!
How Does Intermittent Fasting For Weight Loss Work?
Body fat is basically excess food energy that is stashed within the system. And fat loss through intermittent fasting works on the concept that the body “eats” of out this stored energy when there’s no available energy to feed directly from during fasting.
When we eat, we will have more food energy than we require coming into the body. The body, with the help of insulin, will start converting and storing that food energy (from carbohydrates) into glucose in the liver and muscles.
There is a certain amount of glucose that can be stored. So, when we continue to ingest more food, the excess glucose will begin to get converted into fat and stored within the liver and other fat deposits around the body.
On the flip side, when we don’t eat (during our period of intermittent fasting), insulin levels in the body will drop. This will signal the body to start burning stored energy to sustain itself.
The body will begin to burn the glucose available in the liver, after which it will start “eating” from fat deposits - when the available glucose in the blood has been exhausted. That is how fat in the body gets burnt when we engage in intermittent fasting.
Does Intermittent Fasting Actually Work?
While opponents of intermittent fasting try to make arguments that it's not effective, verified results from several pieces of research say otherwise.
Among these results is a publication from the Journal of Traditional Medicine that states that IF may be more effective than a traditional diet for weight loss. According to the research, people who use intermittent fasting to lose weight witnessed fat loss results (while maintaining similar amounts of muscle mass to those who did not fast) within eight weeks.
Another study stated that those who implemented intermittent fasting successfully reduced their body fat and weight percentage levels over eight weeks. The study, which was published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, also reported that the participants in the research witnessed a decrease in triglycerides, blood pressure, and LDL cholesterol levels.
Five Tips for a Successful Fast
There are several methods you can use when fasting, and it’s only natural that different people will prefer different methods. Whichever method you choose to adopt, listed below are tips to make your fast a successful one.
1. Start Gradually: Just as with anything else in life, when starting intermittent fasting, it is recommended that you start at a gradual pace. Beginning at a gradual pace will allow your body to adapt to the new change in eating pattern seamlessly.
If skipping your breakfast when you start intermittent fasting seems difficult (which it should be in the beginning), then you can adjust. A gradual way to approach it is to incrementally delay your breakfast by 1 hour daily until you comfortably get to lunchtime without food.
While some people can start something new and push hard, some others can’t. If you fall in the latter group, then you will significantly increase your chances of success in the early stages by taking small, but consistent steps over time.
2. Pick a Regimen That Suits You: While there are different schedules to choose from, you should choose the one that works well with your unique physiology and lifestyle. Doing so will not only ensure that you get the maximum benefits, but it will make it easy for you to sustain the fast!
As far as IF regimens go, there are shorter fasting patterns like the 16:8 fast and 20:4 fast (hours fasting: hours consuming). There’s also the much longer regimens (over 24 hours) like 24-hour fasts, 5:2 (days consuming: days fasting) fasting, alternate-day fasting, 36-hour fasts, and almost any variation one could imagine.
The 16:8 fast involves a fasting period of 16 hours (most of which will be during your sleeping hours), followed by an eight-hour window for you to eat. The same concept applies to 20:4 fasting.
In these methods, you have the flexibility of choosing when your fast ends or begins. For example, in the 16:8 fast, you can choose to break your fast by noon and eat till 8 pm. However, if skipping breakfast doesn’t sound ideal to you, you can decide to break your fast by 9 am and have you eating period from 9 am to 5 pm.
You can as well go for an extended regimen like the 5:2 fast if that suits you better. In the 5:2 fast, you can eat regularly for five days of the week, then fast for two days - the two days can be on any day of the week.
The idea here is to look at all the available regimens and decide what will work best for you considering your schedule, habits, and physiology.
3. Drink Plenty of Water: Apart from the fact that drinking water is a necessity to stay hydrated, it will also help keep your stomach feeling full, which will help you sustain your fast. In addition to water, you can also have tea or coffee (make sure it’s black - sugar and cream will throw off your fast) to help subdue any cravings.
Check out this guide to easily calculate how much water you need on a daily basis-
A great way to make sure you're consuming enough water is to carry a reusable water bottle (Hydroflask and Yeti both have some great options and keep your water cool all day long), or you can grab a gallon jug and mark it with times, then just make sure you drank to each line by the time it says and you're good to go!
4. Keep yourself Busy: A very effective way to keep your mind off the thoughts of hunger and food (which might lead you to break your fast prematurely) is keeping your mind busy. It is very easy to “feel hungry” when bored, so you should keep your mind occupied to help yourself stay disciplined.
An excellent way to keep busy is by picking up a new hobby, such as reading, listening to music, dancing, etc. You can also engage in physical activities like cleaning the house or exercising. Regardless of your choice, keeping yourself busy is key to distracting yourself from prematurely breaking your fast due to boredom.
5. Stay Away From Negativity: When starting anything new, out of excitement, it is very typical to tell friends, family, and other people around you. While doing that has the advantage of keeping you committed, accountable, and encouraged to see things through, take care to avoid introducing negative people into your circle. This could yield the direct opposite result, and there's no need for the naysayers when you're working on self-development. It is crucial to have the right support system around you, so it is advisable to shut out negative people who will discourage you on your wellness journey.
What's all this mean?
All in all, intermittent fasting is a tool in your fitness/nutrition toolbox. When used correctly, it can help build your diet into a strong foundation upon which to build your physical fitness and nutrition routines. If you have any questions about this guide, or if it helped you take the leap into intermittent fasting, let us know what you found most helpful on our Facebook page.
As always, Dr. Lonny Skjervheim and the team here at Bellevue Sports and Family Chiropractic are here to serve your chiropractic needs in the greater Seattle area. Thanks for reading!