Intermittent Fasting Guide
If you’ve been around the weight loss circuit lately, chances are you have heard of Intermittent Fasting. The idea of fasting as a form of weight loss has been around for a long time. Bodybuilders use fasting often, to help get into shape for competitions. I have been doing intermittent fasting for awhile now and have had success with it. So what exactly is it?
How Does Intermittent Fasting Work?
Fasting is a period of time when you go without food – but intermittent fasting doesn’t mean you are starving yourself. In fact, you can still digest a normal amount of recommended calories – you’re just eating during a smaller window.
You use regular fasting intervals to help burn fat in your body as energy. When you eat, your body releases insulin to help extract energy from food. Any excess calories (energy) are stored in your body as fat for your body to use later, when it might need it. Most people don’t end up using the stored fat because they eat when they are low on energy. This means the stored fat is never utilized and just sits in our bodies.
Intermittent fasting allows you to obtain all of your calories in a set time every day. Then you fast for the remaining parts of the day. During the fasting period, your body still needs energy to operate, but instead of using consumed calories, your body turns to the areas of stored fat to burn for the energy it needs.
Intermittent fasting requires a schedule, but that schedule can vary from person to person. My schedule is 16:8, where I fast for 16 hours a day and I have an 8 hour window to eat. Some people fast every other 24 hours, and others might use a combination of the two – using the 16:8 schedule and fasting every third day. Those that fast for a whole day will often still consume 500-600 calories on their fasting days.
It sounds crazy, but my appetite has actually decreased since starting Intermittent Fasting. If it sounds difficult to go 16 hours without eating – just imagine the amount of time you sleep. I usually start my fast at 7pm, sleep and don’t eat again until 9am. However, I do drink a ton of water in the evening and black coffee in the morning.
As long as you aren’t consuming any calories – you’re still fasting (hence my black coffee). Some die-hard fans don’t do any coffee and just consume water. You might see other people do “dirty fasting” where they consume less than 30 calories during the fasting period (like adding a creamer to their coffee). It’s about what works for your body!
The Effects of Intermittent Fasting
Many people use a fasting schedule to lose weight. When you use intermittent fasting effectively, you may see more positive benefits than just weight loss. Harvard Health reported lower insulin levels, lower blood-pressure, and decreased appetite from a study done by the University of Alabama. It has been reported to help Type 2 Diabetes. It has also been reported to be healthy for your brain.
Weight Loss and Intermittent Fasting
If you want to lose weight and target stubborn fat areas on your body, then I would suggest looking into intermittent fasting. First, you’ll want to find a schedule that works for you. If your family likes to eat dinner together, fix your timing so that you can eat dinner with them. If you know you have to eat breakfast everyday, then make sure you schedule your breakfast at the beginning of your eating window. During your fasting period, you can have water and non-calorie drinks, so please stay hydrated.
Next, plan out what you are going to eat during your eating window. Some website suggestions say you can just eat whatever you want without calorie restrictions, but it depends upon your goals and reason for doing intermittent fasting. For myself, I have coupled my fasting with a Keto diet. I make sure I’m staying within the Keto-friendly options and I refrain from gorging on snacks. The Keto diet may not be for everyone. Find what works for you, such as calorie counting, pre-planned meals, or another diet plan.
I combine two different apps to help me stay on track: the Life Fasting Tracker app let’s me know when to stop eating and start fasting. During my eating window, I use My Fitness Pal app to track my calories and micronutrients.
Finally, start slow. Start with a 12 hour eating window on the first day. Then decrease that window of time by an hour each day until you reach your desired scheduled. Remember to stay hydrated, even if you are in your fasting window. If you feel faint, lightheaded, or dizzy, make sure to lay down and eat something small, like a piece of toast.
There are other schedules with intermittent fasting. Some people do the 5:2 schedule of 5 days of eating and 2 days of fasting. Others like to skip a full day once a week for two weeks. Beginners should take it slow and try the daily fasting/eating schedule first. Once that begins to work for you, then you can try another schedule. Remember, though, if you have health issues, always make sure to check with your doctor first.
Intermittent Fasting & Exercise
Fasted cardio can have a lot of benefits, like extra fat loss. Three days per week, I add cardio to my mornings before I break my fast. If you’re new, you might want to try it with light cardio. Don’t do anything that’s too strenuous. Aim for a light 30 minute walk before you break your fast. Overall, I think that’s really helped me as well. I feel like I’m more focused and starting my day on the right foot.
If you’re an endurance athlete, consider breaking your fast before a long workout. Anything over thirty minutes, like my marathon training, needs more fuel. So I’ll plan my fasting window alongside my longer workouts, to ensure I can fuel my body properly and avoid burnout.