I have been intermittent fasting for over two months and my goodness it's great!
I skip "break fast" and lunch each day and only eat when I'm done with my working day, from about 5pm. Then from 9pm, I stop and fast until the next day.
Surprisingly, since I've started intermittent fasting I've lost a stack of body fat, feel more alert and noticed that all those aches and pains I used to have are all in the past.
In other words, I'm stronger, leaner, and more explosive even though I go to the gym less and eat less.
You may be wondering how is this possible? Isn't skipping breakfast and lunch bad for you? Why would anyone fast for 20 hours every day? What are the benefits? Is there any science behind this or are you just crazy? Is it dangerous?
I've been known to do some crazy things, but this is totally legit. It's easy to implement into your lifestyle and there are tons of health benefits. In this post, I'm going to break down intermittent fasting and everything that goes with it.
What is Intermittent Fasting and Why Would You Do It?
Intermittent Fasting (IF) is not a diet, it's a pattern of eating. It's a way of scheduling your meals so that you get the most out of them. IF doesn’t change what you eat, it changes when you eat.
Why is it worthwhile to change when you’re eating?
Well, most notably, it’s a great way to get lean without going on a crazy diet or cutting your calories down to nothing. In fact, most of the time you'll try to keep your calories the same when you start intermittent fasting. (Most people eat bigger meals during a shorter time frame.)
Additionally, IF is a good way to keep muscle mass on while getting lean. With all that said, the main reason people try intermittent fasting is to lose fat. We'll talk about how intermittent fasting leads to fat loss in a moment.
Perhaps most importantly, IF is one of the simplest strategies we have for taking bad weight off while keeping good weight on because it requires very little behaviour change. This is a very good thing because it means intermittent fasting falls into the category of “simple enough that you'll actually do it, but meaningful enough that it will actually make a difference.”
"Fed or Fasted?."
How does it work?
There's only really two states that your body is in. It's either in the "fed" or "fasted" state.
When the body is in the fed state after a meal, you'll take from the food what you need to sustain the activity you're doing at the time with any excess being converted to your fat stores for the times when the body runs our of short term fuel.
Conversely, when you're in the fasted state, the body reverses the process and starts converting your fat stores into energy to sustain you.
Now here's the trick : most heath experts agree that this phase of fat burning (Ketosis) only occurs after about 18 hours of no food .
The reason westerners are raced towards an obesity problem is not because of sugar, it's because of "Abundance".
That right, not sugar, not fats, not lack of exercise (although all those things are contributory factors), there's just too much food, too easily and readily available and we've all been marketed out of the habit of not eating.
From an evolutionary point of view, our bodies are perfectly capable of fasting for longer periods of time than the food industry would have us believe. There's a reason caveman and cavewomen weren't obese nor had type 2 diabetes and that's because "supersize me" wasn't a concept all those years ago and an industry that pumps out enough food to provide every living human with 4000 calories per day just didn't exist. Take a moment to re-read that last sentence and then think back to the last time you were on that train and someone asked for pennies for their next meal. Food for thought?
Eat what you like not when you want.
I've tried all sort of diets over the years and they all work - for a while.
But then when that goal is reached, be it a holiday, an event you have to go to, a weight you set yourself after a health checkup scare, I reverted to type and fell back in the routine of work, work, crap food, work, 1 glass, 3 glasses, night-cap, bad sleep, commute, repeat.
Doctor : you drink too much and you could do with losing some weight.
Me : No shit Doc! I remember you told me that last year - shall I pay the receptionist on the way out?
This isn't about stocking up on "avos and rye-bread", torturing yourself on the treadmill or in the eyes of all your friends turning into some pious nob for a month refusing to meet them for the occasional glass of wine on the way home, it's all about eating what you normally would eat, but doing so within a fixed time window that suits your schedule.
So, if you want a pizza at 7pm when you get home because you can't be bothered to rustle up a tofu salad with a peacock-side then bang the Sloppy Giuseppe in the oven. The point is that giving your body the time, for your blood sugars to rise (straight after you eat), to drop (about 4 hours after you stop eating), to normalise (between 7 and 12 hours after you stop eating), and then to turn itself into a full-on fat burning machine (after 18 hours) has real benefits in keeping off and or maintaining the weight you're carrying around each day.
noun : consumption of the body’s own tissue as a metabolic process occurring during periods of fasting
On first reading, why you would welcome the destruction of your own body tissue is not obvious. In fact, it's essential and it's the reason that after only 10 days of IF, those aches and pains you felt in the morning when you get out of bed and though out periods in the day will subside. So let me explain a little.
After approximately 20 hours without food and with your body converting your fat stores into energy in the blood stream an interesting reaction goes on in every cell in your body. To supplement the energy provided in the fat-to-blood-glucose process, each cell will establish if there are any pieces of it that are not operating at 100%. Any damaged proteins contained in each cell are eradicated and replaced with brand new parts with the no longer needed bits of you quickly converted to something more useful, namely energy.
It's a zero-waste process, so all your unnecessary and dysfunctional components of your cells are broken down not useful metabolic resources. You literally rebuild yourself and after a few goes at that over a couple of weeks, you feel a lot better!
So, how do I start and what tips have you got for me?
The first few days are going to be tough. There's no sugar-coating this - i found it tricky, but it does get better and here's what I did to keep focused.
Drink water. 70% of your body is water, but most of us don't knowingly supply it with what it needs. If you're like a normal person (me), when the waiter asks you if you want water for the table, you'll ask yourself if there's a fire and quickly glance down the wine list before order a bottle of red. The fact is, you need about 2 litres per day. The other fact is, we get the majority of that through food, and so, if you're not eating for 16 or 20 hours a day, you're not hydrating. I'm fully aware that side effects are that you'll be thinking you should move your workstation into the lav to save time, but you just need to deal with it. Drink!
You're not Hungry, you're thirsty. Your body will play tricks on you. Most normal people (me) first mistake hunger for thirst (primarily because they ignored 1 above), so when that happens, and it will, you know what to do, Drink!
Tea and coffee are good. Caffeine is totally fine on IF. In fact, it can aid your alertness throughout the day. Like everything though, moderation; don't hit 4 double expressos before 10am unless you want to be shaking all morning like Muhammed Ali on (with) Parkinson (s).
Walk past the cookie jar. You can't snack. This for me was a killer, but it's a habit that dies after a week. If you eat anything, you'll reset your body clock and the fat burning phase, along with the autophagy that follows will get further away. Drink a glass of water, or pour yourself some hot tea and sit there in all your smugness watching your colleagues rip into the bourbons.
Reward yourself. When your window does open and it's time to eat, celebrate. You've earned it! Eat what you like, but try eating a little slower; you'll notice your stomach has shrunk and as there's a 20 minute timelag before your brain tells your stomach that its full, be careful not to over fill it!
Watch the carbs. Carbs burn quicker that fats so don't just pile into a bowl of pasta as tempting as that maybe. Introducing some healthy fats (despite what your hear, your body does need them to ruction correctly) into you last meal of the day before you start IF is a good call. It will fight off the hunger urges later on!
Exercise as normal. There's zero evidence that exercising on IF has any detrimental affect on your body. You may have heard that if you don't eat you'll "waste away". It's a load of old rubbish; there's zero evidence of that so ignore people who chirp that at you. If you were fasting for more that 72 hours on a regular basis with no resistance training in your routine there's some evidence in the US that this has a reductive effect on muscle mass over the long term, but for normal people (me and you), it's fine.
Use some tech. There's plenty on the market and I used Simple. Logging what you eat and drink as well when you start and end IF is a great way of keeping you on track.
IF really does provide huge benefits. It's a change in habit and lifestyle that you won't regret.
Mail me if you want to find out more.
Thanks for reading.