Good Monday morning! How quick has that week gone?! Today I’d like to dive into the topic of Intermittent Fasting.
Intermittent Fasting … what is it? Intermittent fasting (IF) means regularly spending a period of time without eating any food. IF has become increasingly popular in the fitness world over the last couple of years. It’s been used for both fat-loss and health promoting purposes, and with good reason.
IF really helps those with fat-loss goals for a couple of reasons.
Firstly, when you’re in a fasted state your body is tapping into those body-fat stores to use as energy; it’s literally eating away at its own body-fat. No food coming in also means that blood glucose levels are low, moderating insulin production. With lower amounts of insulin circulating our bloodstream our body, our Glucagon hormone (fat-using hormone) can get to work breaking down fat stores for use as energy. Glucagon and Insulin work in an inverse relationship. Our body is then in fat-burning mode instead of fat storage mode (remember insulin is a fat-storing hormone). Secondly, it helps to bring down our overall caloric intake. With less time eating and more time fasting, we don’t have as much opportunity to take in excessive calories. Of course, this can be spoiled if we start to pound down calorically dense foods in our eating period, but generally when eating a whole foods diet for satiety and health we’ll find a lower caloric intake.
IF also has some good health benefits.
When in a fasted state the body enters a ‘clean=up’ mode called Autophagy. This process involves the destruction of damaged or dysfunctional cells and proteins within the body that have built up over a period of time. This can help to protect us against cancer, Alzheimer’s and other diseases and conditions. IF also helps to reduce inflammation; allowing the gut and digestive system to rest and repair itself without the constant bombardment of food coming in. IF has also been shown to increase growth hormone, another important messenger when it comes to repair and growth of new muscle tissue! Recent studies also correlate IF with increased longevity and overall health!
How do we IF?
There are many different approaches to IF. Some people fast for a 24-hour period each week. Other’s do a prolonged fast once a month. Personally, I fast daily until lunchtime, starting my food intake around midday, and finishing about 8pm. I find this routine the easiest to stick to, and it’s a routine called a compressed eating window. It allows us to get enough nutrition in our eating window to maximise health and recover from any bouts of exercise or fitness, and gives us enough time in a fasted state in the morning to experience all the benefits IF has to offer. (I also find it easier to fast first-thing when I have woken up using a couple of coffees and tea in the morning!)
What to look out for when IF?
Some people take to fasting instantly, after being told ‘breakfast is the most important meal of the day’ by companies looking to sell their breakfast cereals for years, it’s a welcome relief to learn that this isn’t true. Others take time to switch to a fasting protocol. If you’re looking to try IF, I’d recommend choosing a day that you don’t have a workout planned. Start off with a smaller fasting period; maybe push your breakfast back a couple of hours and see how it feels. Play around with it, but make sure you’re still taking in water, maybe some tea and coffee, and enough food in your eating window to fuel your body. WE DO NOT WANT TO GO INTO STARVATION MODE!
I hope this gives you some clarity on IF! There’s a lot of confusing information out there at the moment in the health and fitness world! Feel free to contact me for any advice/guidance, and make sure you get your questions in for Friday's reader Q & A!
In health, Joe