Post #16 Is Intermittent Fasting for You?
Updated: Jul 17, 2019
Podcast Episode #12 is chock full of info on this topic...so is this blog!
Intermittent Fasting is so popular right now. You've certainly heard of it and may even have tried it. But it this just another fad-diet-bubble that'll be popped when a newer one comes along? I don't think so. Here's why...
This is not a diet. I repeat: Intermittent Fasting (IF) is NOT A DIET. This is an adjustment of your lifestyle. It's been around for decades, and its way more flexible than most people think.
You can follow any type of dietary plan you prefer...from Paleo to Mediterranean to Vegetarian, and anything in between. What makes IF a lifestyle choice is that you follow consistent patterns of time-windows where you either Fast or Feed. That's it. Really.
Also, its not new. I can remember when I was child listening to the older ladies trade diet tips... "No Snacking After Dinner & Only Strong Black Coffee for Breakfast" was a tip I heard many times. Many of the old women's magazines and cookbooks offered the same advice. They just didn't call it IF, but that's exactly what they were doing! Farmers who tend to their animals in the wee hours before having breakfast are doing IF without even trying. (Some religions also follow prescribed fasting days that occur weekly or on some regular schedule...good for body and soul!)
Definitely do your research before you commit to any eating plan. Martin Berkhan's Leangains Method came out in 2007 and its often considered the Bible for Intermittent Fasting because he does and amazing job of explaining the science behind the why and the how. I also like Dr. Sara Solomon, fitness competitor and model (and a dentist, too!) for her clear explanations and options in this lifestyle. Really, even the most basic research will steer you to lots of choices on how to do IF. And don't let the rippling muscles of most of the IF experts scare you off...You don't have to go to extremes to still get the benefits.
What are the benefits of doing Intermittent Fasting?
Lose body fat weight without losing muscle
Burn through your glycogen stores
Control insulin levels, so prevent or control diabetes
Stimulate human growth hormone
Assist cellular repair
Fight against free radicals
Improve heart health like blood pressure, cholesterol, and inflammation
Boost brain function
Prevent Alzheimer's / reduce it's symptoms
Extend your lifespan
Increase your productivity and focus
So what are these time-windows of Fasting or Feeding?
There are several different Intermittent Fasting methods. And I'm talking ADULTS ONLY. THIS IS NOT FOR CHILDREN UNLESS PRESCRIBED AND SUPERVISED BY THEIR PHYSICIAN!!! Okay, some of the more popular ones are:
The 16/8 Method - You'll fast for 16 hours (most of which you'll sleep through), then you have an 8 hour window to eat. This method is great for men.
The 14/10 Method - The fasting window is 14 hours, with a 10 hour window of eating. This method is more manageable for many people as you can eat breakfast at 9am and be finishing dinner at 7pm. It's also the plan recommended for women because...hormones!
The 12/12 Method - Just like it sounds...Fast for 12 hours, Feed within the next 12 hour window. It's easy, but also yields the slowest and least amount of results. Any fasting time over 12 hours offers more benefits.
The 20/4 Method - No eating for 20 hours, then feed during the remaining 4 hours of the day. People who prefer large, long meals may like eating this way.
EAT-STOP-Eat - This method has you do one or two 24 hour fasts each week. So, no eating after dinner on day 1 until dinner on day 2, then repeat later in the week.
The 5:2 Diet - Instead of a true fast, you severely limit your caloric intake to 500-600 calories, 2 days of the week. The other 5 days you eat normally. Restricted Calorie Eating has been shown to offer long-term health benefits.
Should you just jump in and not eat for 16 hours?
We are a results-oriented culture, which means we often don't like to wait and ease into new things. If you've mostly followed traditional dietary guidelines that insist breakfast must be eaten with 15-30 minutes of waking or you'll burn calories 25% less efficiently that day (not necessarily true), then going without food is definitely going to require some adjustment time. That's how it was for me. For years eating was the only reason to get out of bed! I ate before my morning runs/workouts and would have the worst headaches if I missed that first meal. Then about 10 years ago I started feeling nauseous and sleepy after breakfast...no matter how small or perfectly balanced the meal was. I even experimented with just having fruit or veggie juice or milk or protein shakes upon waking. Each change would work for a while, then I'd end up with the symptoms again. Eventually, I stumbled onto IF and, after trying different variations for a year or so, I found the rhythm that was right for me. For the last 5 years I've followed the 14/10 Method most days, (sometimes I'll vary with the 16/8 Method) and then I eat without fasting on weekends.
To start I suggest:
Picking a realistic "stop-eating time" in the evenings. So when dinner or dessert is done, you won't be eating again until the next day. It should be at least 3 hours before your bedtime.
The next morning push your normal breakfast time ahead by 30 minutes. During this mini-fast you can have tea/coffee (natural, no-calorie sweeteners like stevia or monk fruit are ok...milk, sugar, honey, agave nectar are not ok), water, sparkling water, clear broths, dashes of apple cider vinegar/lemon juice, and sugar-free water enhancers (watch those chemicals!). Stay at this routine for 3 days.
If you don't experience any negative side effects, push breakfast another 30 minutes ahead. Stay at this new routine for 3 days.
Continue to move breakfast forward OR move dinner earlier until you have hit the fasting window that works for you.
What's the right fasting window? If you feel cranky, dizzy, tired, nauseous, shaky, can't focus, are ravenously hungry or are being generally bitchy, you waited too long to eat!!!
During your eating time, eat real whole foods. This is not your pathway to junk food. You now have a limited window to get all your necessary calories, macro-nutrients and nutrition into your body. Yes, have a treat but if your hair starts falling out and you develop diabetes because you only ate crap during your eating windows...that's a whole new problem!
It will take a while to find your rhythm so be patient and pay attention to how you feel.