Although it’s been around for hundreds or even thousands of years, intermittent fasting is gaining serious popularity now. Chances are good that you’ve heard mention of intermittent fasting or IF at least once in recent years because it’s all over news shows and many new people are trying it out. Intermittent Fasting can help achieve weight loss and even offer some additional health benefits when done properly, but before focusing on all the benefits it’s important to dig into what it is, and how you can make the most of it. Learn all about IF down below in our complete guide to intermittent fasting.
What is Intermittent Fasting?
Intermittent fasting sounds complicated and confusing, but it’s really just eating during a certain time each day or each week, and not eating during the rest of the time. Many people call it a diet, but it’s more of an eating pattern than anything else because intermittent fasting doesn’t tell you what to eat, or what not to eat, just when to eat.
The most common type of intermittent fasting is known as the 16:8 method and anyone that follows it is allowed to eat during an eight-hour eating window each day. That could mean eating from 1:00 PM until 9:00 PM each day or eating from 6:00 AM until 2:00 PM each day. It makes no difference when you decide to eat, and when not to. What matters is how long you allow yourself to eat for and how long you avoid eating. Other people eat during a 6-hour eating window, some focus their eating into a narrow 4-hour window and there are even people out there eating all their food in just a single hour each day. There are others that eat normally on most days during the week and then add in a 24-hour fast once or more during the week.
Fasting’s Effects on the Body
Intermittent fasting has some pretty remarkable effects on the body when done regularly. Going an extended period without eating changes your hormone levels, it alters the body’s sensitivity to insulin, and there are thought to be some cellular and genetic enhancements from fasting over time as well. Not only that, but fasting can lead to weight loss by limiting the number of calories you can consume throughout the day.
Fasting Increases Human Growth Hormone Production
There’s scientific research that shows that fasting increases the total Human Growth Hormone (HGH) production in the body by as much as five times the standard amounts. An increase in this helpful hormone can result in some nice lean body mass gains when weightlifting and also result in increased fat loss. It’s easy to see how intermittent fasting could be beneficial to someone like a bodybuilder, or anyone trying to tone and improve their body composition.
Enhanced Cellular Repair
The body can become more functional through a series of cellular repair processes that will clean up and remove all the old proteins that aren’t working properly throughout the body.
This makes things run more efficiently and can result in improved health over time. Studies show that cellular repair increases during a fasted state. Animal studies show that fasting for 24 hours are more is most likely to increase this cellular repair cycle and offer the biggest benefits.
Increasing the occurrence of this repair cycle can also help prevent muscle loss over time, which is another worthy goal when starting intermittent fasting.
Develop an Increased Insulin Sensitivity
One of the main causes of Type 2 diabetes is a resistance to insulin in the body. This resistance develops over time for most people that end up with the illness and it develops for a number of different reasons.
Intermittent fasting helps to cultivate a sensitivity to insulin within the body, meaning that you’ll need even less of it than normal to regulate your blood sugar levels.
Because of this, many people believe that adding intermittent fasting to their regular routine can help prevent the development of type 2 diabetes. Many patients in the prediabetes stage are recommended to try IF to reduce their chances of developing the illness and avoid medications.
Calorie Restriction and Fat Loss
Intermittent fasting can also lead to substantial fat loss in the body over time when paired with conscientious eating plans. By limiting your eating window you’re more likely to consume fewer calories than normal. By taking in a lower number of calories on a regular basis
Fasting for Weight Loss
The main reason that people try out intermittent fasting is because they hear it’s an excellent weight-loss tool, and it really can be. IF normally leads to eating fewer calories, and it can also improve your body’s ability to burn up fat stores while also increasing your metabolism all at the same time.
Just from the calories saved by skipping a meal and doing the day’s eating in a small window of time, most people will lose weight over time, some significantly so.
When you add in the body’s hormone response and insulin sensitivity effects to enhance the metabolism you get even more calories lost throughout the day. All of this adds up to some pretty amazing weight-loss success stories tied to intermittent fasting.
Following a program of intermittent fasting doesn’t guarantee that you’ll lose weight though. While it’s more difficult to eat the same number of calories that you always have while fasting, it is possible to do so.
The trick to making the most of intermittent fasting is to focus on eating better foods during your eating windows. Make sure to get lots of vegetables along with other sources of fibre, good rich protein sources and minimal processed foods or items with added sugars.
By focusing on healthier foods while also fasting you’ll be more likely than ever to achieve a calorie deficit and lose weight over time.
Popular Fast Types
No one option will work best for everyone when deciding how to fast. That’s why in our complete guide to intermittent fasting we outline some of the most popular fasting options used today. These aren’t recommendations for which is best, but more of a glossary to help you understand what each term means.
16:8 – This is often regarded as a good introduction into intermittent fasting and also one of the easiest fasting types to maintain over time. You fast for 16 hours each day and eat for eight hours. It’s effectively skipping a single meal during the day.
Fast Five – This plan has you fast for 19 hours a day and eat for five hours during the day. It has online groups of people and is very popular.
Warrior Diet – Minimize all eating throughout the day and try to only eat a big meal during four hours at night. This diet also focuses on following a Paleo meal plan during the four-hour eating window.
Eat-Stop-Eat – Eat normal throughout the week. Don’t eat for 24 hours sometime during the week. This could mean stopping eating at 3PM one day and not eating until after 3PM the next day.
5:2 – An eating plan where you eat normal five days of the week and do a 24 hour fast two days of the week. You can pick any days you like, but the fasted days aren’t consecutive normally.
There’s no right or wrong option for fasting, which is why you should try out several of these options and pick the one that works best for you. Consider starting with the 16:8 before moving to something more difficult to see how you do with the more moderate way of fasting.
How to Decide When to Fast
One key to successfully adopting an Intermittent Fasting program is to choose a time period that will work for you.
This time period is different for everyone and should be selected based on your lifestyle and your body’s natural cravings as well. Many people find success by cutting out early morning eating and starting to eat later in the afternoon.
Self-control is easier to maintain early in the morning and becomes more difficult as the day rolls on and you meet challenges throughout the day. This might be why fasting in the morning seems easier.
Stop and think about when you feel most compelled to eat now. Also, consider when you are busiest during your day.
Those busy periods will make skipping a meal easier because you will be distracted with what you are doing. This might mean skipping meals during the workday and eating when you get home. It could mean avoiding meals while going to school and then feasting later on.
Consider Social Obligations
If you are very social and consume meals with other people regularly, it might make sense to work your fasting routine around those social engagements as well.
That could mean scheduling your fasting times so that you can still eat and drink when around friends and family members. It’s very easy to cheat and start eating a meal during a time when you’re supposed to be fasting while around friends and family that are eating, which is why this is such an important consideration.
Make sure to take into account everything that you have going on in life when deciding when to fast, because that’s how you’ll be most successful with sticking with your routine.
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Making the Most of Intermittent Fasting
Hopefully, by now this complete guide to intermittent fasting shows how helpful it can be for improving your health and pushing you to achieve your weight loss goals. With that said, IF only works well when done with care. To get the most out of intermittent fasting add in some exercise, choose your meals with care, limit calories during your fasted state and choose a time period that works for you.
Add in Exercise
Along with fasting it’s a good idea to add exercise into your weekly routine to help supercharge the health benefits of your new lifestyle change. Try and get a mixture of cardio exercise such as running, biking or rowing into your routine, along with some strength training.
Cardio burns calories directly and enhances the strength of your cardiovascular system at the same time. Weight training helps to build up a greater lean muscle mass in your body, which increases your metabolism and helps improve your weight loss success while also helping you look great in the process.
Eat Healthy Meals
While it is more difficult to overeat while fasting regularly, it is still possible. Try and eat healthy foods like vegetables, lean proteins, whole grains and healthy fats in good portions to achieve your weight loss goals. Most healthy foods aren’t as calorically dense as something like a cake or a cheeseburger. That means it will be much more difficult to consume too many calories while eating them, which will make losing weight pretty easy to do.
Stick to Water, Tea and Coffee
While fasting it’s best to avoid taking in any sort of calories if you can. This helps keep your body in a fasted state and helps limit your calories as well. To do this consume coffee, tea and water with minimal sweetener or creamer. Avoid any snacking and just stick to these low-calorie drinks to maintain your fast and effectively cut calories from your diet.
Is Fasting for Everyone?
Now that you’ve heard about some of the benefits of intermittent fasting you’re probably thinking about trying it out for yourself. Just keep in mind that there are some potential side-effects and health complications that can occur. That’s why intermittent fasting isn’t for everyone.
Talk with a doctor about intermittent fasting or avoid it altogether if:
- You are underweight
- You suffered from eating disorders in the past
- You are pregnant
There is also some anecdotal evidence that IF might not be as effective for women as it is for men. It’s possible that fasting could affect a woman’s menstrual cycles and actually lead to worse blood sugar control rather than better control for some women.
Women who want to try out IF are encouraged to ease into it and to talk with their primary care physician about any side-effects that they experience after getting started.
Complete Guide To Intermittent Fasting Take Away
Intermittent fasting is a powerful weight-loss tool that can also improve your health when done right, but it isn’t for everyone. If you’re planning on testing it out for yourself ease into a new program and pay close attention to how your body responds to it.
For some people IF is the key to long-term weight loss, while others experience too much discomfort. Give it a try for yourself and see just what intermittent fasting can do for you.
Also check out our guide on avoiding the biggest mistakes people usually make when following an IF diet.
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Hi, I’m David and I believe absolutely anyone can achieve the body of their dreams. I’m a qualified health and fitness coach and have been helping clients achieve their dream bodies for 15 years. Whether you are looking to get beach body ready, compete in a bodybuilding show or simply to improve your confidence and wellbeing, I can help.