Intermittent Fasting..what the whaa???

If you haven’t heard by now, Intermittent Fasting is the latest and greatest in new diet trends. Summed up, Intermittent Fasting (or IF) is breaking up your day (or week) between periods of eating, and fasting (NOT EATING?!?! Yes.) It doesn’t say much about which foods to eat, rather than when you eat them.

The jury is still out on this one, but there are zillions of studies in favor of IF, and also against it, so it’s up to you to make the decision if IF is right for you! (Also, check with your doctor if you have any health issues).

You can choose between sleeping/fasting for 12 hours each, or fasting for 16 hours and eating within an 8 hour period. Depending on your day and your schedule, different hours may work better for you than others. It may be better for you to fast for 24 hours, then have the “eating window” be the following 24 hours.

A little bit of history..

Humans have actually been fasting throughout evolution. Sometimes it was done because food was not available, and it has also been a part of major religions, including Islam, Christianity and Buddhism.

When you think about it, our hunter-gatherer ancestors didn’t have supermarkets, refrigerators or food available year-round.

Sometimes we couldn’t find anything to eat, and our bodies evolved to be able to function without food for extended periods of time.

If anything, fasting from time to time is more “natural” than constantly eating 3-4 (or more) meals per day.

Some of the most popular methods include these:

  • The 16/8 Method: Also called the Leangains protocol, it involves skipping breakfast and restricting your daily eating period to 8 hours, for example from 1 pm to 9 pm. Then you “fast” for 16 hours in between.

  • Eat-Stop-Eat: This involves fasting for 24 hours, once or twice a week, for example by not eating from dinner one day until dinner the next day.

  • The 5:2 Diet: On two non-consecutive days of the week, only eat 500-600 calories. Eat normally the other 5 days.

For a lot of people, myself included, the 16/8 method works best for my day. I am extremely active 4 days a week, then moderately active 2 days and I do absolutely nothing active on Sundays.

How does it work?

Here are some changes that occur in your body when you fast:

  • Human Growth Hormone (HGH): The levels of growth hormone skyrocket, increasing as much as 5-fold. This has benefits for fat loss and muscle gain, to name a few (4, 5, 6, 7).
  • Insulin: Insulin sensitivity improves and levels of insulin drop dramatically. Lower insulin levels make stored body fat more accessible (8).
  • Cellular repair: When fasted, your cells initiate cellular repair processes. This includes autophagy, where cells digest and remove old and dysfunctional proteins that build up inside cells (9, 10)
  • Gene expression: There are changes in the function of genes related to longevity and protection against disease (11, 12).

These changes in hormone levels, cell function and gene expression are responsible for the health benefits of intermittent fasting.

Most people will try IF for weight loss purposes, so in order to lose weight there must be a general decrease in calorie intake which is definitely something IF will do! Be aware though, during the eating period, it’s not a free for all!! We still have to be conscious and make good decisions, so it’s not a “lets go to Cici’s pizza and go HAM, then hit Ben and Jerry’s”!!!!

A huge side effect of course is going to be HUNGER (or if you’re like me, you get HANGRY!) Your body will adapt to your new schedule, provided you make a choice to stick to it, otherwise you will be confusing your body (and not in the good way like muscle confusion!) As mentioned before, do not proceed with IF if you have a medical condition and haven’t consulted with a medical professional.

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