Intermittent Fasting (or IF) has been getting a lot of attention in the health and fitness community lately. People are using IF to lose weight, improve their health and simplify their eating. Studies have shown that it can be an effective way to lose fat, but first you will need to find the right method that works for you and if IF is for you.
What is Intermittent Fasting?
Intermittent Fasting is not a diet. It is a pattern of eating that basically tells you when you can eat (fed period) and when you can’t eat (fasting period). It doesn’t tell you what to eat, but focuses on when to eat. Depending on the method you choose, your fasting time can vary, but during a 24 hour period you spend more time in the fasting state than you do eating. The theory behind this type of fasting is to give your body a chance to tap into your stored fat for fuel my manipulating the insulin levels in the body.
How it works.
To understand how IF causes fat loss, you have to understand the difference between the fed and fasting states and why it works.
Let’s start with insulin. IF is all about controlling insulin levels in order to burn fat and while protecting lean muscle mass. When you eat carbohydrates and protein, your body releases insulin due to the increase of blood sugar in the body. Insulin activates an enzyme called lipoprotein lipase and the compound acylation stimulation protein (ASP) that encourage fat storage. So the theory behind IF is that when insulin levels are kept at a lower level, you are able to burn the fat stores.
IF is broke down into 2 periods – fed and fasting.
The fed state is the time span starts the moment you start eating and continues for 3 to 5 hours after your meal while the food is digesting. As your body is in the fed state, your body creates higher levels of insulin making it difficult for your body to burn fat.
After your body has digested your meals, your body goes into a post absorptive state which lasts 8-12 hours. During this period you re-enter a fasted state.Your insulin levels are lower and it is easier for your body to burn the fat that was inaccessible during the fed period. In a typical meal plan of eating between 3-6 times a day, over the course of entire day, it is rare for your body to enter the fasted state because insulin levels are continuously elevated. This is one of the reasons why when people start IF they will see changes to their bodies without making changes to what they eat or how much they exercise.
Fasting is only limited to foods and during your fast coffee, water, tea and non-calorie drinks are required. It is extremely important that you stay hydrated when practicing IF.
Disclaimer: This is where things get a little tricky. IF isn’t a free hall pass to eat cake, ice cream and pizza to your heart’s content during your fed state without any consequences. Sorry – that isn’t how it works. You must stay WITHIN your daily caloric levels during your fed period in order to not GAIN weight. You will still be eating the same amount of calories as you would in a typical day, but just in a smaller time frame. So yes, you still have to eat your fruits and veggies.
Types of IF
- The 16/8 Method (Leangains): This popular method involves skipping your first meal of the day and limiting your eating period to 8 hours and fasting to 16 hours a day. A example of the 16/8 method would be eating 2 or more meals from 11am to 7pm and then fasting for 16 hours.
- The 5:2 Method: During this IF method, you eat normally for 5 days and fast for 2 non-consecutive days. On fasting days, it is recommended that women eat 500 calories a day and 600 for men. For example, eat normally on all days except Wednesday and Sunday when you fast. On fasting days, you will eat 2 small meals (250 calories each for women and 300 each for men).
- The Eat-Stop-Eat Method: This method restricts eating for a 24 hour period 1 to 2 days a week. For example, if you eat breakfast one day, you won’t eat again until breakfast the following day. You can also fast from lunch to lunch or dinner to dinner as long as it is a 24 hour time frame without eating.
- Alternate Day Fasting: This is the most extreme method and it consists of fasting for 24 hours every other day. You will be hungry and it is very difficult to maintain. Some people chose to eat a very limited number of calories on these days or none at all.
- The Warrior Method: This method, popularized by Ori Hofmekler, is a hybrid of the Paleo Diet and IF. During the day, you are able to eat fruits and veggies but then feast during a 4 hour window in the evening on Paleo friendly, unprocessed foods.
- The Take Home: When you hear “fasting”, you may go right to the thought that you will be starving yourself when trying IF. Depending on the method you chose to try, you would be right. Experimenting with the more extreme types like The Eat-Stop-Eat or Alternate Day protocol, you will be hungry. No doubt about it. You aren’t eating for 24 hours. Is that safe? Absolutely. If you look at just a few generations before us, fasting was a part of life. They lived the saying “feast or famine”.
The 16/8 Method is the most popular due to the fact that is it simple. Fast 16 hours, eat for 8. Most people already do some form of that. If you eat your last meal at 7pm and don’t eat breakfast, well, you are pretty much doing intermittent fasting already.
Where people run into issues, is WHAT they eat. Yes, IF gives you a lot of freedom with food choices, but you still need to eat healthy and consume adequate micro and macro nutrients to get the results that you want. Calories are still calories and food quality still counts with IF. People who are also used to eating every few hours will also likely find it difficult initially to make it through those long fasting hours. Especially at the outset of your fasting regimen you are likely to feel sluggish, weak, and a little foggy mentally. That is your body saying ‘Hey, where’s the fuel you usually give me!?’. But if you are committed to trying fasting, this should subside after the first week or so.
But What About Workouts?
Good question. This has been the topic of literally hundreds of pages of documentation. The ability of fitness and fasting to co-exist is really pretty complicated. But in a nutshell, if your body is in a fasted state, it REALLY doesn’t want to expend energy doing exercises that it doesn’t NEED to. So what several programs will advise is putting your workout somewhere in your feeding window, so that you have some nutrients circulating in your bloodstream to fuel the workout.
If you DO workout within the fasted time period- you’d best make sure to get some calorie-free (virtually) nutrients in the form of supplementation. Our ATHENA pre workout, coupled with our YUMINO Pro-Grade Endurance Formula are absolute necessities for (any) fasted workout.
Intermittent Fasting In Summary
Intermittent Fasting is the most intriguing nutrition strategies to break into mainstream in the last decade. It can bring about dramatic, and healthful change. But IF also isn’t for everyone. If you have a history of eating disorders, you may want to look for another option for healthy eating. As with almost EVERYTHING regarding diet and nutrition- there is no ‘one-size-fits-all’- and that certainly applies to intermittent fasting. Experiment with some of these different strategies and see how you look and feel!