There are so many diets out there that promise to work however may not be the right fit for us. Even fitness and nutritionists who have been in the industry for years can get caught up in trendy diets. One of the biggest diet trends that many people are curious about is Intermittent Fasting. Even I have been intrigued by this style of eating and have done some research and with the encouragement of my Naturopath, have tried it out for myself.
There are many reasons for the drive behind the popularity of intermittent fasting. Research is showing a variety of positive health benefits attained through intermittent fasting including; improved heart health, increased brain function, prevention of many chronic diseases, increased life span, and loss of weight.
Intermittent Fasting can probably be thought of as more of a lifestyle than a “diet”. It is a fact that everyone in the fitness community will say that they are never truly dieting but rather making lifestyle changes that suit their needs. When working with my clients my goal is to find a nutritional lifestyle that suits their personal needs.
Intermittent Fasting, or IF for short, is a change in your eating routine where you consume all of your daily calories in a shorter window of time. As the name implies, intermittent fasting is alternating between periods of eating normally and periods of fasting. These “periods” of fasting are open to user definition and can typically range between 12-48 hours.
For years, many of us who train and who are taking on a healthier lifestyle are fully invested in incorporating a routine of eating 6 small meals a day, every 2 hours. The question is, what makes this the ideal solution for everyone? And, how realistic is it? IF is completely different and throws those ideas out of the window by making a daily eating routine more flexible.
How Intermittent Fasting is Different from Normal Dieting
What sets IF apart from traditional diets and the reason for the name, is the fact that you eat all of your daily calories between compressed set times. So for example, you can choose to fast for 16 hours and then consume your normal calories within an 8-hour window. My recommendations would be to fast during your rest and sleeping hours and then fuel during your most active hours. For example: Your first meal would start at 11 am, with your last meal around 7pm. Your feeding window can start at any time, and it can range between 12-48 hours. What is important is that you want to align your workouts to precede your biggest meal, so an example of a full 24hr schedule may look like the following:
1. 9:00 am – Lift weights
2. 11:00 am – Meal 1 (50% of your daily calories)
3. 3:00 pm – Meal 2 (25% of your daily calories, taper the carbs)
4. 7:00 pm – Meal 3 (25% of your daily calories, taper carbs more)
The Science Behind IF
At this point, you’re wondering what the purpose of this lifestyle change is for? Researchers have looked at how we originally hunted and ate thousands of years ago and have taken those eating patterns and applied it to modern man. Many years ago you only ate when you hunted and killed something. Their bodies became use to going without and during times of fasting, your body begins to break down the glucose that is stored in your liver and muscles into glycogen. Glycogen is what your body uses for energy along with actual stored body fat. When you run out of glycogen stores, which can occur anywhere between 6-12 hours after beginning of your fast, your body is more likely to utilize stored body fat rather than glucose in your blood stream or glycogen in your muscles and liver.
Many people worry that eating less often means your metabolic rate decreases, but actually the opposite happens. Your metabolic rate stays the same and will actually increase after 24 hours of fasting. In fact, you are burning fat while sustaining lean muscle tissue and energy. As well, there are many more long-term health benefits that come from incorporating fasting as a lifestyle.
My Final Thoughts…
This is a diet that can easily suit most people’s lifestyles and as well to not have the added stress of carrying around a cooler filled with food all the time. What is most important is that you incorporate a eating lifestyle that suits your needs and that will also deliver optimal health benefits.
Try IF 1-2 days out of the week to see how you feel and if it makes sense for your lifestyle. The best way to use IF is to first be eating a clean and healthy diet, then adjust your body to a time schedule that makes sense to your lifestyle. For example, fast during time of rest then fuel yourself when you are most active. As well, the more consistent you are with your workouts and clean eating, the better the results you will achieve nutritionally and with weight loss.
7 Tips for Successfully Starting Your IF Lifestyle
Keep these tips in mind when you start implementing your new IF lifestyle:
- Drink plenty of water. Staying well hydrated will make the fasting periods much easier to get through, as it will keep your stomach feeling fuller.
- Fast overnight while you sleep and are at rest. Have your last meal around 7pm and aim to fast through the night, so that you’re sleeping at least eight of those hours.
- Don’t fast more than 2x/week. Fasting 2x per week for a total of 24 hours is ideal and will cut your calorie intake by about 30%. Fasting more would cut calories too drastically and would cause a decrease in strength, energy and potential over eating.
- Think of IF as a lifestyle. Think of fasting as a lifestyle and not as a period of deprivation from over eating. You should already be consuming a healthy, clean diet and fasting should not “make up” for unhealthy eating. Instead it should enhance your already clean eating regime. This mindset will allow you to incorporate a fasting plan for long-term health.
- Break your fast with normal size meals. Consume the same kind and size of meal you’d have if you were not fasting. No over sized, high processed, junk meals! Be sure to have a regular sized meals consisting of clean, unprocessed foods.
- Hit the gym. Pairing intermittent fasting with consistent exercise will encourage results faster. Your goal should be active on a daily basis with 2-4 strength-training sessions a week.
- Try it for at least 2 months. Your first fast will be the hardest considering your body is not used to it and you will initially feel hungry. However, it gets easier after 2-3 weeks. As mentioned before you will need to find a time schedule that suits your lifestyle. Allow yourself at least 2 months to fully adapt and experience all the health benefits of fasting. Then make a decision as to whether it suits your health needs.