Intermittent fasting has become very popular in the fitness world and the world of weight loss over the last few years. Many experts claim that it can be the tool to rid you of that stubborn belly fat, help you get that 6 pack you have been dreaming of or just be a great tool to lose unwanted weight and get into shape.
Basically speaking it refers to reducing the number of calories you intake by reducing the amount of time you allow yourself to eat. Intermittent fasting is definitely not for everybody but can be very beneficial too many.
A Guide to Intermittent Fasting will help you to find out either way. In A Guide to Intermittent Fasting we are going to cover what it is, why you should try it, its benefits, pitfalls and the different types of fasting out there. Enjoy folks!!!
What is Intermittent Fasting?
Intermittent fasting is a cycle between feasting and fasting. There are many different cycles which we will cover later in this article. It basically means reducing the timescale in which we eat. This can be done on an hourly, daily or weekly basis. You are basically splitting the time into eating periods and fasting periods. There is not a lot mentioned about what to eat when talking about intermittent fasting merely when to eat.
We are all actively fasting every day when we sleep, so this is already a part of your life. A very popular health and fitness trend of recent intermittent fasting has proof to back it up and although necessary to many can be a powerful tool for weight loss, muscle gain and higher body function.
The most popular version and an easy way to help understand is the 16/8 method. This involves fasting for 16 hours and eating during the remaining 8 hours. For example you would have your eating period between 12-8pm and fast the remaining hours. Pretty simple really and can be quite easy to achieve for many. You can also set the hours as you please so if you would prefer not to skip breakfast you could have your eating period between 9am-5pm. There is room for you to work it around your life.
No food is allowed during fasting but water, tea, coffee and other calorie free drinks are advised to help curb any hunger. Its goal is to reduce the amount of calories you intake which will aid with weight loss and your bodies functionality.
Going forward I will be referring to Intermittent Fasting as IF.
Why Should I Try IF?
As popular as IF has become in recent years, IF has been around long before its recent rise to popularity. Humans and animals naturally fast when sick. There have been times of fasting necessity when enough food was not available and it has been widely used in various religions including Christianity, Buddhism and Islam for thousands of years. The human body is well-equipped to deal with times of fasting and you will be surprised at the things fasting allows your body to do.
IT can help you to lose weight. Calorie restriction is a key factor in weight loss. You must burn more calories than you intake and which ever version of IF you use will dramatically reduce your calorie intake over the week.
It can help to simplify your days especially if cooking for yourself is a chore. You will need to cook for yourself less and IF is easy to track and manage. Rather than eating three to six meals’ a day you will only require two. You can really focus on the food you eat and have less stress, hassle and washing up.
We will go into this more later but IF can help improve your health, fend off certain illnesses, help you lose weight and improve your bodies functionality. This alone is enough for me.
There really are some amazing benefits to IF. Even if you are aware of the trend it’s unlikely you will have heard them all. Below we go over some of the best ones:
- Insulin levels in the blood drop helping to burn fat.
- The production of HGH (Human Growth Hormone) can boost up to five times helping burn fat and build muscle.
- Genes for longevity and protection against disease can become more prominent.
- IF enhances hormone functionality to help weight loss.
- Less meals’ means fewer calories.
- IF kick-starts cellular repair helping remove waste from cells.
- Short term fasting increases your metabolism by up to 14% and helps burn more calories.
- Increases noradrenaline.
- Can reduce fat by up to 8% over 4-24 weeks.
- Protects the brain from damage and increases the growth of neurons.
- Human study has shown it may reduce the side effects of chemotherapy.
- Animals studies have proved that IF can help to prevent cancer.
- Helps to retain muscle mass whilst losing fat.
- Reduces blood sugar levels and therefore the risk of contracting type 2 diabetes.
- Defends against ageing and the development of many diseases.
- Improves blood pressure and cholesterol levels and reduces the risk of heart disease.
It would seem there are some real benefits to IF but as with anything there is always a dark to the light and we will cover that next.
IF may be the breaker of popular theory like breakfast being the most important meal of the day, or eating many meals’ a day boosts your metabolism but it does have its down sides too. Below we look at them.
- IF will definitely interfere with your social eating habits.
- You need a fair amount of discipline.
- The HANGER can be real.
- IF offers the potential to binge eat.
- With extreme fasting IF can cause nutrient deficiency.
- IF is not for everybody. The elderly, adolescents and pregnant woman should pass. Those with metabolic diseases also).
- IF can be very demanding and many will not want to overcome the demands.
Suffice to say that with the light always comes the dark. In my opinion the benefits by far out weigh the pitfalls but that is definitely from MY point of view. You must decide if IF is for you. Do your have a reason to use it? Will it benefit your?
The Different Types of Intermittent Fasting
Here we are going to cover the most popular versions of IF. We will start with the most popular version and the one we mentioned earlier the 16/8 version.
16/8 – Also known as the Lean Gains Protocol, 16/8 was popularised by Martin Bernham.
Basically put, you fast for 16 hours and you eat during the remaining 8 hours. The most popular way to achieve this is to skip breakfast. Therefore you would have your eating period from 12pm-8pm and then fast from 8pm-12pm. That being said you are free to interpret this to suit your style of living. Meaning, for example, if your were to prefer to have your eating period between 9am-5pm that would be fine.
The remaining 16 hours of the day though your must not consume any food. Water, tea, coffee and calorie free drinks are fine to curb any appetite. I would recommend water, it really is the best for hydration and generally very good for your.
Something to bare in mind if you are a woman is that it is recommended that ladies only fast for 14-15 hours.
This is my personal choice of IF.
5:2 Feast for five and Fats for two – Also known as the Fast Diet 5:2 was popularised by Doctor Michael Mosely.
Simply put you eat normally for five days and then reduce your calorie intake to 500-600 calories for the two fasting days. It is recommended that women consume 500 calories on fast days and men 600.
Traditionally the fast days will not be placed together, for example your fasting days would be a Monday and a Friday. This is not set so again it really is up to you to adjust the schedule to suit you.
Eat Stop Eat – Popularised by fitness expert Brad Pelon.
This version involves a 24-hours fast once or twice a week. For example if you finished your dinner at 8pm on a Wednesday you will not eat again until Thursdays at 8pm. Your fast will last for 24 hours. This method is probably not for beginners and can prove difficult for many. If your are interested in this technique it is best to start slow. Start with a 14 or 16 hours fast and build up to the full 24 hours.
Warrior Diet – Popularised by fitness expert Ori Hofmekler.
This is one of the earliest methods of IF. It involves eating a small amount of fruit and vegetables throughout the day and eating one large meal in the evening. You are basically giving yourself a 4-hour feasting window between the hours of 5pm-9pm for example.
There are a few other methods, alternate day fasting and simply skipping meals’ when your choose to or when convenient. These both seem a little lacking in real methodology so I haven’t really delved into them. If they sound like something your might be interested in give them a search and your will find some more information.
I must mention one thing before I really sum everything up here. Intermittent Fasting is pretty unnecessary if your eat a good diet, are in good shape and are not looking to make changes. It is most definitely necessary if your are trying to lose weight, gain muscle or improve your diet and eating habits.
You must also bare in mind that you must eat relatively cleanly to begin with for IF to help you. Although, it does allow a bit more freedom with what you eat than most diets do. You cannot just gorge yourself on junk during your feasting times and expect the pounds to fall off. Also you will need to perform regular exercise in order to help lose weight and especially if you are using IT to gain muscle.
As somebody who goes to the gym regularly, does yoga and who is trying to achieve an all round better physique both inside and out, it makes a lot of sense to me. Anything that will help me to get rid of that last bit of stubborn belly fat is ok by me. The health benefits seem to be great. I personally find it easy to use the 16/8 method, I have never been able to eat early in the morning so waiting until midday is fine by me. The hardest part for me has been stopping eating so late but with discipline and will power I am managing to get it done. Early results are great like everything consistency will be the key to success.
I will follow this up in the future with a few more specific articles. One focused on Intermittent fasting and weight loss and one on Intermittent Fasting and gaining muscle, so keep your eyes peeled. I hope you have found this enjoyable and informative. Please feel free leave some comments or questions if you have any and I will be more than happy to get back to you.