I feel like Intermittent Fasting is one of those terms that everyone just goes, “Oh, yea sure, I’ve heard of it,” but they don’t really understand. Honestly, up until a few weeks ago I barely knew anything about it myself. But, if you’re looking for a lifestyle that improves your all around health, reduces stress, and helps you shed some weight, intermittent fasting is for you.
Now, I’m far from an expert on the topic. I’ve just been gathering information for the past few weeks via podcasts, youtube videos, and published writing on the topic of Intermittent Fasting, and I’ve decided to try it out myself. Obviously, what I state here cannot constitute medical advice, this is just what I understand about Intermittent Fasting!
So, for starters, what is Intermittent Fasting?
Intermittent Fasting (IF from now on), is a lifestyle that is quite a simple concept. IF consists of periods of fasting, and periods of feeding.
Ideally, you would be fasting from 16-18 hours a day, and eating your 3 meals (or appropriate amount of calories), in a 6-8 hour window.
As an example, say I finish having dinner at 7pm. The next day, I won’t have my first meal until 11am. That way, I’m in a fasting state for 16 hours, and have from 11am to 7pm to eat my meals for the day.
There are many different forms of IF, but we’ll get into that later.
What’s so great about Intermittent Fasting?
I was blown away by how many benefits I found when I first started researching IF. I found a list of 10 evidence-based reasons as to why IF is beneficial in this article on HealthLine. Here are a few that stood out to me!
*Warning: about to get real science-y. But again, I’m no doctor or nutritionist. This is all information from research.
Change in Cell Function and Hormone Levels
When you’re in a fasting state, your body switches up all of your normal routines. Your insulin levels drop, which helps you burn fat. Your Human Growth Hormone (HGH) levels increase, which promotes fat loss and muscle gain. Also, your body makes your fat stores more accessible. All of these processes increase your metabolic rate (this is a good thing!).
Let’s be real, a lot of people (myself included) turn to IF for weight loss purposes. That’s because eating in a smaller time frame, will most likely allow you to eat fewer calories. In order to lose weight, you need to be eating less calories than you burn each day. And so, a smaller feeding time-frame will result in less calories in, resulting in weight loss.
Here’s the catch.
Just like all dieting plans and lifestyles, when you’re trying to lose weight, you generally eat less. But you need to eat ENOUGH. Your body cannot survive on 600 calories a day. Your body cannot survive on 800 calories a day. Generally speaking, if you want to lose a pound a week, that’s a 500 calorie deficit each day. That doesn’t mean you can eat only 800 calories, and burn 500 in the gym.
You burn much more than 300 calories just by being alive and going throughout your daily routine. So if you’re not eating enough, AND you’re staying active, say hello to Starvation Mode.
In case you don’t know, Starvation Mode is when your body clings to all of your stored fat, rather than burning it.
A lot of people worry about starvation mode when it comes to IF. But here’s the thing. If you’re doing IF correctly, you’re still getting your daily dose of calories – just in a smaller time frame.
You’re still eating your appropriate number of meals/cals/macros that fit your goals. Starvation mode becomes a concern when you are consistently leaving your body in a major deficit. Fasting, and then not eating enough during your window, can ultimately result in starvation mode. But, fasting and then fulfilling your body’s needs keeps your metabolism on it’s toes, and gets it to use your fat stores, without completely scaring it into holding onto all of them.
Autophagy is a fancy, science-y word for cleaning out. When your body enters a state of autophagy (generally after a 12-16 hour fast), your cell membranes basically take the trash out. Any unnecessary cells that are damaged, diseased, or not functioning up-to-par, are recycled and used for energy, or to make new cells. The human body is seriously insane. But yes, autophagy is a good thing. A healthy thing.
Sounds good, now how do I do IF?
There’s a bunch of different ways to incorporate IF into your lifestyle. It really depends on what works for you, what your body can manage, and several other factors like age and gender. Here are some basic options I’ve heard about.
Fasting 16 hours, eating for 8. Can be done every day.
Eating regularly 5 days a week, and “Fasting” 2 days (1 day = a full 24 hours). During this kind of fast, you can only eat 500-600 calories on fasting days. The other 5 days, you eat your normal amount of calories.
Alternate Day Fasting:
Same deal as 5/2, but switch on and off. One day regular calories, the next day 500 calories.
Fast & Feast:
Eat only one meal a day, but make it a big one. Most of the time, people choose to fast all day, and eat a big, satisfying dinner. This doesn’t mean one heaping plate of everything you craved during the day, but more like eating all of your calories in a 3 hour window or so, whatever works for you. Gin Stephens, a host on the IF Podcast, follows the one meal a day approach. She explained how after work she’ll have a snack, graze on something while shes cooking dinner, have a decent sized meal, and then some fruit for dessert. She’s getting plenty of calories, just in a veerrry small window.
There ya have it folks! I know this was a long post, so kudos to you if you stuck with me! I’m going to be trying a 16/8 approach to IF, just with a shorter eating window to start out. I’ll keep you updated on how I’m doing in a few weeks!