When it comes to diets, what is your first thought? Words like “misery” and “failure” likely come to the forefront.
Diets are notorious for being challenging to stick with, cutting out enjoyable food, and rigid. Imagine my surprise when I discovered a method that is practically the opposite! The method is called “Intermittent Fasting.”
What Is Intermittent Fasting?
Intermittent Fasting (IF) uses your eating schedule to change the way your body burns calories. By fasting in manageable chunks, you trigger the burning of fat cells for energy. Paired with a diet that matches your goals, IF offers several benefits without feeling like punishment. Let’s explore how IF works:
Fed State vs. Fasting State
For you to understand IF, it helps to understand the 2 states our bodies go through: fed and fasting.
For a few hours post-meal, you enter the fed state. During this time, you produce insulin, which prompts your body to store glucose in your liver for energy. Excess glucose that you don’t burn stores itself in fat cells, often going untouched in favor of glucose from the liver.
The best way to explain the fasting state is through breakfast. A few hours after you’ve eaten your last meal, you enter the fasting state. Between going to sleep and waking up, you’re already in the fasting state. When you wake up, you break the fasting state by eating “break-fast.”
How Does It Work?
When you maintain a fasting state for longer, your body runs out of glucose to burn from your last meal. To compensate, it begins burning the extra glucose from fat cells. This way, you can target and eliminate stubborn fat cells. IF involves allowing yourself a shortened window in which to consume your daily calories. The remaining time is spent fasting.
Benefits of Intermittent Fasting
Easier to Stick With
Nutrition isn’t a one-size-fits-all field. We can’t hand someone a strict diet plan that worked for someone else and automatically expect it to work. Luckily, the flexibility of the customizable IF methods makes it an easier option to adhere to.
With IF, your diet isn’t limited. It doesn’t rely on extreme calorie restrictions or excluding food choices. Making the food that we enjoy off-limits can sabotage our diet attempts.
If you’re already following a nutrition plan such as Keto or Paleo, they pair perfectly with IF!
Several methods exist for you to choose how long you fast and when you eat. It’s easy to select a method that matches your schedule and goals.
Weight Loss & Body Composition
While IF burns away fat, it leaves muscle tissue alone. You can boost lean muscle gain by consuming plenty of protein and strength training exercises. Some weight loss plans involve methods that burn away your muscles, foiling any attempts at a lean and toned body.
Fasting may also boost the production of Human Growth Hormone (HGH). HGH plays a role in supporting the growth of lean muscle.
Health & Longevity
IF potentially provides several valuable health benefits, even for your cells! For instance, it may balance your cell regeneration cycle. When cell waste is removed and cells regenerate efficiently, they are healthier and provide anti-aging and longevity benefits!
IF may also reduce inflammation. Research shows that Monocytes, cells that cause inflammation, decrease during fasting! For this reason, many people with inflammation turn to IF.
Fasting might improve insulin resistance and type 2 diabetes. Studies show that fasting lowers your blood sugar, which can correct insulin resistance and lower A1C levels.
Insulin resistance and diabetes are also risk factors for heart disease, so you’ll be promoting heart health, too! Another way IF supports a healthy heart is by potentially lowering levels of LDL, A.K.A “bad cholesterol.”
First Steps & Choosing a Method
Before You Start
- Determine your goals. Are you looking to lose weight? Gain muscle? Maintain your current weight?
- Make sure these goals are realistic. Weight loss should occur at a steady, healthy rate.
- Consult your doctor, especially if you have any health conditions. Listen to your body if you begin fasting and encounter unusual symptoms. Safety is a top priority!
- Calculate your daily calorie needs based on your goal.
- Choose your method. If you’re new to fasting, start yourself on a moderate plan. If you try an extreme method too quickly, you’re more likely to give up.
- 16:8 Leangains Method. This method gives you an 8-hour window to eat, leaving the other 16 hours for fasting.
- 20:4 Warrior Diet. This extends your fasting time to 20 hours with 4 hours to eat.
- One Meal A Day (OMAD). This method slightly restricts calories, and you consume your daily calories during one meal.
- 5:2 Method. For this one, you choose 2 non-consecutive days to consume 500-600 calories. For the other 5 days, your calorie allotment is only the number of calories you burn that day.
- 24+ hour fasts are extended stretches of fasting for a whole day or more. These fasts are intense and can cause discomfort, so they’re not ideal for anyone new to fasting.
Final Tips & Tricks
- Keeping your brain busy while fasting helps take the focus off cravings and hunger while you adjust.
- Be patient. Give yourself at least a month to adjust to IF before quitting or changing your method.
- Tracking your progress using body composition measurements, weight, or B.M.I. assures you that you’re making progress. You’ll often see changes in these measurements before you see it in the mirror.
- Your overall health matters just as much. Get good sleep, hydrate, and take care of your whole body. When your body is healthy, you significantly boost your benefits.
- Check out our in-depth guide on Intermittent Fasting!
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