A current trend, although not sure I would call it a trend as I do believe it will be staying around, is Intermittent Fasting.
What is Intermittent Fasting?
Intermittent Fasting (IF) is not a Diet, it is what I would call an eating protocol, or a pattern of eating. IF doesn not focus on What you should eat, but rather When. With IF your meals are not measured, your food choices not scrutinized nor restricted. Although, you should be certain that you are eating healthy foods. Nothing will help you get or stay lean if you are eating a lot of processed or sugar laden foods.
Diets are easy in thought, difficult in practice. While Fasting is difficult to think about doing, but very easy to implement.
With any form of diet, you have to choose the foods, purchase them, prepare them and get in the mind-set that those are the only foods you can eat for a period of time. (The length of your Diet) Obviously there are a couple of problems, one being that your diet will ‘end’ at some point and you’ll simply revert to your former eating pattern, which will likely negate any weight loss you realized.
What are the benefits of Intermittent Fasting?
Weight loss, or maintenance is one of the many benefits of fasting. With IF, you put your body in a state where is ‘learns’ to use fat for energy, rather than the food you are consuming.
In addition to weight loss here are a few additional health benefits of Intermittent Fasting:
- Insulin Resistance/Sensitivity – Being insulin sensitive has been shown to drastically reduce your chances of getting Type 2 Diabetes and metabolic disease.
- Improved Fat Burning – Training your body to use stored fat for energy
- Inflammation reduction – Studies have shown that intermittent fasting can help fight inflammation, another key driver of all sorts of common diseases
- Lower Blood Pressure – Numerous studies have shown that Intermittent Fasting can also help in the reduction of high blood pressure.
These are by no means the only known or suspected benefits of Intermittent Fasting, just some of the more commonly discussed benefits.
Before we delve into the how to with Intermittent Fasting, let’s discuss, at a very fundamental level why you would want to.
In the human body, your body begins digestion as soon as you eat. As the food is broken down into its basic parts to be absorbed through the intestine, Insulin is also elevated. This rise in Insulin signals your body to store any excess calories in your fat cells. As long as your Insulin is elevated, the burning of fat is halted, while the body burns glucose (from your last meal) instead.
When Fasting (Intermittent or Long Term Fasting) your body enters a state, interestingly called, the Post Absorptive (Fasted) State. This state begins when your body has consumed, digested, absorbed and stored. We technically Fast every night when we go to bed, hence the term ‘breakfast’ or breaking the fast. By NOT eating first thing upon waking, you can keep your body in the Fasted state longer, thus ensuring your body burns fat for energy rather than Glucose, or food.
The key goal we are trying to achieve with Intermittent Fasting is to force the body to start mobilizing stored body fat from your fat cells and burning this fat for energy (instead of glucose).
Different Methods/protocols of Intermittent Fasting.
There are several methodologies of Intermittent Fasting – However the basic premise is that you split your day or week into “eating windows” and “fasting windows”.
During your fasting window, you eat very little (depending on your chosen fasting protocol) or nothing. In your eating window, you eat as you normally would. No need to select and prepare specific foods, nor deprive yourself of some of your favorites.
Important to note that if during your eating window, you consume large amounts of processed or sugar laden food, you will likely NOT see many of the major benefits of Intermittent Fasting.
Below are several of the most popular methods of Intermittent Fasting:
- 16/8: With this method you divide your day into 2 sections. A feeding time and a fasting time. You will fast for 16 hours and upon breaking your fast, will have an 8 hour feeding window. The most common way of performing this is to ensure your last meal is completed no later than or you eat nothing after 9pm. The next morning, when you awake, you skip breakfast and do not eat your first meal until 1pm.
These times are not defined in any way, other than what is conducive to your lifestyle. It’s not the time on the clock that matters, but the 16 hour Fast
- Eat-Stop-Eat: This is simply fasting for a 24 hour period, once or twice a week. An easy way to accomplish this is to not eat from dinner one day, until the next day’s dinner.
- OMaD (One Meal a Day): This is a simple protocol that is exactly as it sounds. You eat One meal a day and Fast until your next meal. As with any of the Intermittent Fasting methods, it is best to choose a meal/time that best suits your lifestyle to ensure maximum success. It may be that you eat a Large Breakfast and do not eat again until Breakfast the next morning, or it could be from Dinner one day to dinner the next. This could be done 1-3 times per week.
- 5/2: With the 5:2 method, 5 days of the week you eat as you normally would, while the remaining 2 days, you restrict your caloric intake to 500 – 600 calories per day.
These are by no means the only Intermittent Fasting methods, but just a few of the more popular ones.
Traveling, for business or pleasure can not only disrupt your training and fitness regimen, but it can also wreak havoc on your eating protocol. (I hate the word Diet) Eating in airports, fast food, or even high calorie and alcohol meals with customers and colleagues.
I often take business trips as an opportunity to take my Fasting to another level. (My normal eating routine now is the 16:8 protocol and I do this nearly every day)
Occasionally on a business trip, I will extend my Fast for a full 24 – 36 hours, thus reducing any temptations to indulge.