Intermittent fasting has gained much popularity in recent years. Fasting has been known to help decrease inflammation, increase lean muscle mass, and among many other things, make it easier to shed those extra, unwanted pounds.
For those unfamiliar with intermittent fasting (IF), it is the process of not eating for an extended period of time, typically at least 16 hrs. By reducing the times in which you eat into a condensed window, it gives your body more time to burn stored fat and calories.
The common eating window for intermittent fasting is 8 hours. Therefore, a typical intermittent fasting schedule would be eating from around noon to 8pm at night, and at no other times.
Not eating for 16 hrs can seem like an impossible task, however, the benefits can be incredible. Research has shown that the physiological effects of Intermittent fasting can increase life expectancy, reduce your risk of cancer and other diseases, boost the metabolism, and help maintain a better body weight.
Coupled with a proper diet, intermittent fasting can quicken the weight loss process and ease the efforts associated with dieting.
I myself have had tremendous success with Intermittent Fasting, however, when I explain it to others I am often met with a knee-jerk reaction followed by a barrage of questions like these.
- You cant eat or drink? You can drink water and other low / no calorie drinks like coffee and tea throughout the day, just no food during the fasting period
- So you just don't eat for 16 hr of the day? Yep! its pretty simple. You just condense the same meals into a smaller eating window.
- I thought breakfast is the most important meal of the day?! Yes, it is! Breakfast doesn't have to be eaten in the morning however, it literally means when you BREAK YOUR FAST - breakfast.
- Aren't you hungry? Only for a short period of time. When you diet and eat the traditionally smaller meals you never really feel satiated, and it leaves you hungry and wanting more all of the time. When you eat 2-3 meals a day in a smaller window it allows you to eat much more food and feel fuller for longer.
- Doesn't that make you tired? No, combined with proper nutrition and exercise, fasting actually gives me energy and helps me burn more fat. I feel great!
- It sounds difficult. It really isn't. It takes more commitment in the beginning but it makes dieting and eating healthy very very easy. You will spend a much shorter amount of time dedicated to the hardest part of the diet, PREPARATION. I only prepare two big meals a day, cutting down on cook time and eating times.
Although not eating for an extended period of time can be difficult at first, the payoff for me was HUGE. Here's why:
- Its "foolproof". Lets face it, dieting is tough because of the distractions and temptations of everyday life. We think we can have that extra cookie in the break room and not blow our calorie limit sky high for the day. We tell ourselves all sorts of things to justify eating more than we should. IF lets you put simple limits on your eating patterns. For instance, if your eating window is from noon to 7pm, you set yourself up for not thinking about eating until the designated time. With IF, I was able to "turn-off" hunger ques and ideas about eating. Once I was done eating I simply said "I'm done until noon tomorrow" and I focused my efforts on things besides eating.
- It makes "dieting" so much easier. I always found it quite difficult to eat the small meals, multiple times a day. The preparation for dieting alone can be enough to discourage most people from ever reaching their goals. With intermittent fasting, I ate 2 meals per day, drastically cutting down my prep time and the inconvenience of eating every 3 hours. Also, with IF, I felt much fuller and satisfied because I had eaten a 1000 calorie meal as compared to a smaller 300 calorie meal.
- Exercise that Will-Power! The first week on Intermittent Fasting can be the hardest. Training your brain to ignore hunger pangs and adhere to the schedule can build an incredible amount of toughness and mental fortitude. For me, fasting is more of a mind game than it is a physical feat, but once you get through the hard part, adhering to the diet is a walk in the park. Once you gain the willpower needed, you learn that hunger no longer controls you, but rather you control it.
I started out with the standard 8-16 fasting protocol, where I would allow myself to eat from noon to 8pm and fast for the remaining 16 hours. This regimen was best for me because it was the easiest to get used to.
In the morning I would wake up and immediately drink an ample amount of water. Water helps get your metabolism going and allows the body to filter out unwanted toxins. Water also keeps you feeling fuller and more satiated throughout the day.
I would then make some coffee to drink throughout the morning. Coffee and caffeine help to suppress the appetite and really helped me get through the first week of fasting as my body adjusted. Note: Don't overdue it on the coffee because it can cause jitters and stomach issues because of the lack of food, keep it to one cup.
I would typically only get one real hunger pang throughout the day, and that was around 10am.
When I broke my fast around noon I would start with a protein shake followed by a big meal that had a limited number of carbohydrates. Typically fish, broccoli, and a little brown rice.
Whats great about IF is that its easy to get extremely full after not eating for 16 hours, therefore, your initial meal shouldn't be too big.
Getting through the first week is tough because your body is adjusting to the new eating schedule. After I completed the first week and my body adjusted I was able to decrease my eating window to 6 hours a day. This allowed me to increase my weight loss even more.
I would typically work out around 5pm, and then eat for the final time, around 7 or 8pm. This would be a high protein and high carbohydrate meal. By this time I was hungry, although, not as bad as the initial meal after the 16hr break. After this meal I was usually very full as it was around 1200 calories of high quality foods.
This meal was late enough in the day to where I didn't feel hungry before bed. I would continue this fasting routine a few days a week, and then return to a normal diet on the weekends.
Following this schedule, over a 6 week period I was able to lose 15 pounds with minimal effort. Fasting helped me get through many of the plateaus that come along with losing weight and the frustrations that come along with it.
Here are some of the things I learned along the way.
Tips for Beginners
Start Simple - ease into your fasting regimen. Start with a few days of going 12-13 hrs of no food and gradually work your way up from there.
Hang in there - like mentioned before, the first week is the hardest as your body and mind tell you that you need to eat. Stay strong and once you get through the first week you should no longer be controlled by hunger pangs
Pace yourself - its good to try IF every other day or a few times a week or even once a week at first. I practiced fasting everyday but you do not have to go to the extremes.
Adjust as you go - I was able to increase my fasting time to 18 hours and increase my weightloss. figure out something that works for you. If you aren't getting the progress you hoped for you can limit your calories or increase you fasting window. This will help give your body a longer time frame to burn through stored fat.
Eat a proper diet - eating foods that provide the best nutrition is key while on IF. Foods that are high in protein and high in fat and fiber will help you feel fuller for much longer. Stay away from processes carbs like enriched pastas and bread as these can trigger insulin spikes and make you feel less full.
Fasting can be incredibly rewarding. It can allow you more leniency on your diet as you are more able to decrease your caloric intake throughout the day. It can help break the bad eating habits we all have like excessive snacking or a high sugar intake.
If you follow these few steps, it will help you ease into the fasting routine and help you break free from many of the dieting struggles we all have.