Intermittent fasting – There, I said it!
It’s pretty much the only way I can ‘eat what I want’ and stay fit. If you’ve seen my video in May on the subject then you’ll know … It’s not a secret – I’ve been telling you guys about it on Instagram since March but before then, you could whack me across the face with the words and I wouldn’t have a clue what you we’re talking about so let’s explain, shall we?
Intermittent fasting is as simple as; ‘Not eating for a certain amount of time’. A fast is a voluntary practice in which people go for extended or structured periods without eating and drinking for spiritual, medical or weight loss reasons. A fast may be intermittent, or it may extend for multiple days. But it’s also as complex as;
- Balancing your insulin levels; sugar levels
- Knowing when to start and stop a fast
- Contradictive evidence on what you can and can’t do during a fast
- How to end a fast
- How to start a fast
- Which fast to do to suit your needs
So it’s really not as simple as ‘not eating for a certain amount of time’ right?
I know, I’m even contradicting myself here but it boils down my last bullet point. Choosing the fast that suits your needs, because there are several types.
What type of fasts are there?
Fasting methods vary widely depending on the specific fast. Meaning each fast can be made unique by your own methods, even within the fasts described below. When deciding which to choose, consider your goals and which will help you get there.
Or a ‘medical’ fast. This fast may be a bit more difficult because it’s not something most people choose to do. Your doctor may prescribe a fast before a medical procedure such as surgery or a blood test. It’s important to stick to the recommended advice for safety and accurate test results.
Arguably the most straightforward kind of fast, dry fasting involves not eating or drinking anything during the fasting period. Some religions who fast for certain periods of the time, during religious festivals, do a dry fast along with a traditional diagnostic fast which may also be a dry fast. I do not advocate dry fasting for extended periods of time. Beyond making you feel lousy, dehydration can have serious side effects on your blood volume and tissues, making it difficult for your body to detoxify itself.
Liquid Fast or Water Fast
When liquid fasting, you only drink fluids and avoid having solid foods. Liquid fasts can include broth, water, or sugary concoctions made with water, like the Master Cleanse or Beyonce’s famous paprika drink. Water fasts only permit water during the fasting period. These fasts can last anywhere from a day to several days.
Juice fasting, or juice cleansing, is a type of liquid fast lasting 3-5 days. It’s usually conducted with detoxification or weight loss in mind. Juice fasts include organic, cleansing fruit and vegetable juices. *I personally don’t recommend liquid or dry fasts for longer than 24 hours at a time, perhaps paired with the 5:2 or the 24 hour fasts.
There are two kinds of partial fasting. The first type is similar to liquid fasting except you may eat small amounts of solid food for the duration of the fast. The second type excludes certain foods for an extended period. Many people give up carbohydrates, alcohol, or red meat during this fast. * The benefits of fasting are reduced when you start to intake any calories so partial fasts are not as effective than an intermittent or full fast but it’s a good way of testing your bodies metabolic rate.
Intermittent fasting is alternating periods of fasting and eating during the same day. This pattern may persist every other day, a few days at a time, or you may choose to adopt this style of fasting into your everyday life for an extended period;
- 16:8 – Fasting for 16 hours of the day and having an 8 hour eating window. You can eat small meals or two large meals to consume your calories.I like to call this the ‘natural’ fast as it’s probably the easiest of all of the fasting methods to achieve and very easy for beginners to pick up. Nothing is set in stone and you don’t have to do a fast every single day (unlike some of the diets).
- 14:10 – A reduced fasting time and expanded e ating window, though I find 8 hours enough time to get my caloric goal in without feeling hungry.
- 5:2 – Eating for five days and fasting completely (or partially) for 2 days. You can combine this style with 16:8 and follow five day’s on a 16:8 fast and eat normally for 2 days to kick start your metabolism again before starting your fast again the next week.
- Religious fast – Dry fasting. Religious intermittent fasts typically prohibit eating between dawn and dusk, and meals are only taken in the evening.
- 24-hour fasting/Alternate day fasting – As a much more intense fasting regimen than other fasting methods. This fast seems to be especially helpful for losing weight and maintaining weight loss progress. To qualify as an alternate-day fast, you must fast for at least 24 hours. Some people choose to extend alternate-day fasts up to 36 hours. Make sure to drink plenty of water or tea during an alternate-day fast.
- Extended Fasting – Contrary to popular belief extended fasts are perfectly fine to do and can have great results. Usually around 48 hours without eating, but they can last up to a week or longer.These fasts are usually only conducted by people who have a high body mass index or have medical advice on fasting.
There are many ways to conduct an intermittent fast.Typically you would have a water based fast for 16 hours; Athletes, dieters, and bodybuilders tend to customise their intermittent fasting schedule to their daily schedule to get the most out of their fast. Some evidence indicates that longer periods of fasting increase weight loss and produce better results in blood glucose and insulin balance but we’ll talk about that more later…
For those who fast for health reasons, fasting is just a more structured way of eating. Fasting is sometimes followed by feasting (especially in my house). Some people may find certain types of fasting challenging, but there are many types of fasting practices so choose what suits you best.
Fasting is not starvation.
Health Benefits of Fasting
Keeping the body guessing with exercise or diet is always good for checking your metabolism and digestion are working properly. The food you eat while intermittently fasting may not change at all, though I recommend having a varied diet always. Some people simply eat all their meals within a small window of time in the afternoon or evening (eating 800 calories per meal over two meals).
Studies in fasting are in abundance, from Athletes to yo-yo dieters, first-hand accounts from people who see any sort of success is exciting and encouraging!
Many people find that fasting (specifically intermittent) sharpens their mind and provides them with a healthier and more positive state of mind. The majority of the benefits of fasting don’t directly come from fasting itself, but from the effects of reducing the calorie intake, decreased fat composition, better sleep, less diet-related inflammation (though some see increased bloating) and lower intake of salt.
Tempers Blood Pressure and Fluid Balance
Blood pressure tends to fall during the fasting state, primarily during the first week of fasting. This effect seems to result from a lower salt intake and a detoxification of accumulated salt through the urine. Since excess sodium causes your body to retain water, lower sodium levels lead to better fluid balance in your tissues.
Encourages Normal Blood Sugar Levels
Since you don’t need as much insulin while you’re not ingesting sugar, your body’s production of insulin drops during fasting. This is particularly true of only water fasting if the body receives any form of sugar the insulin will be increased and the benefits will decrease. As we all know sugar is key for body function but excess sugar leads to dysfunctioning organs obesity and food cravings.
Protects the Brain
Fasting (calorie restriction) inhibits the production certain proteins like inflammatory cytokines. Interestingly, evidence suggests that free radical and inflammatory cytokine production actually slows down during fasting and protective cytokine production increases and protects the brain from oxidative damage! Pretty nifty, eh?
May Increase Resistance to Mental Stress
In animal models, researchers found that the effects of fasting on blood sugar and insulin levels also improves the brain’s response to mental stress and protects it from stress-related damage.
Anything that restricts your window of eating will cause a suppressed appetite in the open eating window. This happens as Fasting causes the leptin levels to drop. However, as you lose weight, your response to leptin signalling increases, making it easier to eat healthier foods and smaller portions since you’ll feel more satisfied after a meal.
Leptins are the ultimate weight loss tool. Some weight loss authorities think leptin resistance might be a factor that prevents people who are significantly overweight from dropping pounds because they don’t get that hormonal signal telling them that they’re full. – As they aren’t producing enough leptins to signal the halt in hunger.
May Help You Live Longer and Healthier
In animal studies, there are several theories leading to the idea of longer life in lower calorie eating plans (along with a few human studies such as the south asian theory). The leading idea being, ‘when an organism endures challenges like famine, it responds by dedicating more resources to survival’. Essentially it tells the body to be as efficient as possible.
Helps Burn Fat
The majority of fasting plans are started for health reasons and weight loss is a big factor in these. Alternating windows of fasting and eating with regular resistance training leads to greater fat loss than doing either of these alone. As fat stores are being used to fuel the bodies functions. It’s ideal to fast for around 14-16 hours if you’re an average weight. If you’re BMI is above 25 then longer fasts may work fine but always consult a specialist.
Many Athletes and professional models use fasting methods to drop fat quickly and efficiently.
Important Considerations While Fasting
Fasting takes planning and preparation. I regularly create lists for any new diet and workout plan. Before beginning any fasting regimen, you must get a handle on your schedule, stress, and nutrition.
Be realistic about your goals when conducting a fast. Inadequate sleep, unhealthy or emotional eating patterns, and insufficient stress management can impede weight loss or undo any advances you make.
- Undereating is easy to do when you have a small eating window
- Over eating is easy to do when you know you have to consume a certain amount of calories in a small window
- On a fast your food choices are even more important; sugar levels drop whilst fasting so make sure you don’t rush your body with too much sugar, salt and fat
- The body needs fuel to function so whilst on a fast make sure you rest as much as possible (strength training should be done with consideration).
- Try not to break your fast by having an intake of any calories; including coffee and squash. Drink plenty of water
Before your body adjusts, you may experience mild but unpleasant symptoms for the first three days. Hunger, irritability, slight headache, and disorientation are common while you’re adjusting. Around day four on a restrictive fast, you should begin to feel significantly better than you normally do when not on a fast.
Some people should not fast. Children, pregnant and lactating women, and diabetics should avoid fasting unless instructed to do so by their GP.
I fast 3 times a week (more if I can), but only on cardio and non-strength training days unless It’s within an hour of breaking my fast. Heavy workouts needs heavy replenishments so I will eat a particularly large meal straight after a long fast and calculate macros and full nutrition as much as possible for my first meal.
I have found fasting a huge benefit for myself as I never enjoyed ‘lunch’; the types of foods and the need to prepare food 3 times a day. Fasting gives me more choice for eating what I want when I want and keep my calories and macros on track.
Do any of you fast – what have your experiences been?
- (1) https://www.globalhealingcenter.com/natural-health/fasting-guide-different-types-fasts/
- (2) http://www.allaboutfasting.com/benefits-of-fasting.html