25 Jan What’s The Deal With Intermittent Fasting?
One of the most commonly, especially of late, talked about diet plans out there is intermittent fasting (IF).
IF has gained a lot of popularity due to the fact of it being easy to implement, while a lot of people have seen great results. People have dropped weight, gotten leaner, while getting healthier by skipping a few meals.
There are also several different IF protocols that you can follow. My goal is to break them down and see which one might fit for you, or maybe, IF is something that might not work for you at all.
What is intermittent fasting?
IF is defined as going an extended period of time without eating. IF doesn’t have to be just for fat loss purposes. People fast due to food availability, religious reasons, or every night when you go to sleep. Even though everyone is fasting overnight, why is it that there is still a overweight problem in America?
Fasting may be a great option for you. But it does not matter if you are going to be making bad food choices. Even with IF, you need to be making better food choices in order to achieve sustainable results.
What intermittent fasting will teach you.
Far too often, people get bogged down if they don’t get to eat every few hours. But you will not die of starvation because you haven’t eaten for 5 hours.
The issue people struggle with the most is understanding what true hunger is and feels like. And your stomach growling into hour 5 is most likely not true hunger.
Grazing throughout the day by having anywhere from 3-6 meals a day makes it difficult to know when you are actually hungry. And there is surely a difference between actual hunger and mind hunger. You will know the difference when you stop to think about it.
Having done some IF myself, I have found out that after a few hours of not eating I get a strong sense of being hungry. But as I go on doing what I was doing I am no longer experiencing that hunger sensation. This would be mind hunger.
True hunger will stick around much longer, and feels a little different. I can’t describe it because it feels a little bit different for everyone. You will know the difference between the two when you experience it.
What the research is saying.
IF has been around for a long time. There just hasn’t been a ton of research about it to this point. But with the research that has come out so far shows a lot of promise. Some benefits include:
- decreased blood lipids
- decreased blood pressure
- decrease risk of cancer
- increased cellular turnover
- increased fat burning
- improved appetite control
- improved blood sugar control
- improved cardiovascular function
- improved effectiveness of chemotherapy
With all the benefits that IF has proven to have, why are not more people jumping on the bandwagon?
As I said, everyone is IF when they are going to bed every night. Unless you are getting out of bed in the middle of the night to grab a midnight snack, you’re doing some IF.
The benefits listed above being found in the research occur after fasts lasting between 20-24 hours, depending on your activity levels. If you have a very sedentary lifestyle, you may require those 20-24 hours of fasting to reap all the benefits. If you are very active, you may be able to get away with 16-20 hours of fasting.
Although the research is very promising on the benefits of IF, there are some limitations that require further investigation before I give it a 100% approval rating.
I think the biggest limitation is that IF is compared to “normal” eating. Majority of Americans are eating far more calories than what our body uses throughout the day. And many of those calories are coming from processed foods. That is why there is such an overweight epidemic.
Choosing an IF diet is going to cause us to eat much fewer calories. But if we get people eating more wholesome food choices, then they could be eating less calories anyway even if they are eating 3-6 meals per day.
So it could potentially be a lot less about the actual diet protocol and more about the food choices that you are making.
With that all being said, IF can be a great choice for people with crazy schedules. The demands of work, family, and trying to keep up with a normal social life can cause major headaches for those people trying to get in several meals per day. IF gives you the ability to go without eating, giving you extra time for your lifestyle.
Intermittent fasting protocols
There are several different variations that one can do when it comes to IF. What might work for one person might not work for the other. Here are some of the more common options out there.
Alternate day fasting
Much like it sounds, this IF protocol allows you to fast every other day. You would fast for 36 hours and then have a 12 hour feed. Let’s say that on Monday you are going to eat between 8 am to 8 pm, then fast the rest of Monday night, all day Tuesday, up until 8 am Wednesday where you will begin eating again and the cycle starts over. In the 12 hour refeed window you are allowed to eat what you want.
This method of IF is more like what our cavemen ancestors had to endure. They never knew when they would be getting their next meal in. This plan allows you to pick and choose when to skip meals. It is the most flexible option out there.
Eat Stop Eat
This plan calls for a 24 hour fast for 2 times a week. You have the flexibility to pick which ever 2 days that you want to fast. On the days that you are fasting, you can eat 500 calories on that day. With the majority of those 500 calories coming from protein. You don’t have to do that, but it is a great way to increase your protein intake.
This type of IF is the one that most people are doing without even knowing it. You fast for 16 hours while you get all your calories in an 8 hour window. You can pick what 8 hours of the day that you eat. With this plan, you will be doing your training in a fast, right before your eating period. The first meal directly after training will be the biggest and you have another meal or two later in the day.
The warrior diet is similar to the leangains option, with a longer fasting period and shorter eating window. The fasting period would last for 20 hours and the eating period would be for 4 hours. Again, you can pick what hours you are fasting for based on your schedule.
Whatever IF protocol you choose, even though you can eat whatever you would like in those refeeding periods, I would recommend getting whole food choices with ample amounts of protein while carb cycling. You won’t be able to achieve the best results if you are eating processed foods with loads of calories during your refeed periods.
All of these protocols can be tweaked based on what works best for you. If IF sounds like an option that will work for you, give it a shot. If you need help, let me know and I would be more than willing to lend a helping hand.