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If you are active in the health and fitness world chances are you've heard of the term "intermittent fasting" and if you are unsure of what it really easy, here is a simple explanation. Intermittent fasting is when you go 12-16 or more hours of not eating anything and only drinking water. Many practice intermittent fasting for it's weight loss and other health benefits.
One common misconception is the fasting is the same as calorie restriction. This is simply NOT true. If you are fasting you are not restricting your calorie intake, instead, you are simply restricting your eating window during the day. Intermittent fasting is often a diet technique that is used to over come a weight loss plateau.
While going this long without eating might sound difficult at first, you have to consider the time at which you eat dinner and account for the hours afterwards till your next meal. So if you eat dinner at 7pm you might not have breakfast till 7 to 10 in the morning. You might have days that counted as intermittent fasting without even knowing it! So what benefits does intermittent fasting have for those who practice it?
Benefits of Intermittent Fasting
The benefits of intermittent fasting are largely backed by science and research. These benefits include the following:
- Increases Energy
- Could boost the immune system
- Can lower your risk of diabetes and improve your heart health
- Been shown to improve cognition, memory, and help with clear-thinking
- Can make you less insulin resistant and staving off fat
- Can make you more resilient towards stress
- Accelerated fat burn during fasting period
While there are many benefits of intermittent fasting, if done incorrectly it can actually cause a hormonal unbalance in women. This is because women are more sensitive to signs of starvation. If the body thinks that it is being starved it will retaliate by producing more hunger signaling hormones like leptin. It can also through off other hormones in your body causing a stop in the ovulation process and even effect menstruation. This is why it is important to fast correctly. This is why I recommend women do
Types of Intermittent Fasting
There are many different types of intermittent fasting and you'll what to choose the type that will best fit into your lifestyle. Here are a few of the popular types of intermittent fasting:
- Skipping Meals - This type causes you to skip meals every so often. Don't force it on yourself and get to the point where you are too hungry. Build up to it gradually by postponing a set meal a hour or two each day until you get more accustomed to eating at a later time. Eventually you'll get to the point where you completely and comfortably skip that meal. The easiest meal to target, in my opinion, is breakfast.
- Alternate Days - Some choose to alternate their days with days of fasting and days of unrestricted eating. One those unrestricted eating days they still eat a low carb diet. They will usually have one of two days a week where they fast.
- Fasting with Fitness - Many athletic and active individuals will practice working out in a fasting state. It is a stagey to enter Ketosis and burn fat for energy. With this strategy your post-workout meal would be your largest and contain the most amount of your macronutrients.
- Break it Up - Some people choose to fast for longer period than 12 hours and do so by breaking up the fasting into more manageable time slots. An example would be breaking a 24 fast period into two, so like 18 hours of fasting and 6 hours for calorie intake. You can adjust this to what ever time slots best suit your needs.
Intermittent Fasting and Weight Loss
Weight loss is probably the most common reason as to why people choose to fast. Fasting is not the same as starvation, you are not restricting calorie intake, just the window of time in which you eat. While practicing intermittent fasting many people have discovered that they will naturally consume less calories through out the day, and without starvation.
There has also been research that has suggested that intermittent fasting helps with increasing fat oxidation. Intermittent fasting causes an increase in the production of growth hormones and decreases insulin levels. All these factors work toward helping you lose body fat.
Choosing Intermittent Fasting over diets that require calorie restriction is an easy choice. Intermittent fasting is less restrictive, simpler to follow and easier to stick to in the long run.
Intermittent Fasting and Ketosis
Intermittent fasting has become a very popular practice among those who already follow a Ketogenic Diet. If you are just starting to lose weight or have alot of weight to lose I would recommend just starting out with the Keto Diet.
The Keto Beginning is the best guide I have found for beginners and will give you all the information you'll need for a successful keto lifestyle change.
Many people that practice the Keto diet (myself included) have seen results faster when participating in intermittent fasting. When your body is already used to being in a state of ketosis and burning fat it is going to adjust to fasting a lot better.
Keto Intermittent Fasting
For those that already have a Keto based diet. Deciding to add intermittent fasting will only maximize your fat burning potential even further. When you are in a state of ketosis your body is already using fat and burning fat as it's source of energy. Combining ketosis and intermittent fasting makes your body more efficient at burning fat. Essentially, the more time you spend in a fasting, the more fat you burn than if not in ketosis.
Another benefit of a keto diet and intermittent fasting is that you are going to be low on carbs and your glucose levels are much lower than for those non-keto/low carb dieters, This means that you will enter a state of Ketosis faster and burn fat reserves even longer.
The Feeding Period
The feeding period is the window of time you will have to eat and consume you daily calorie and nutrient needs. The number of times you eat during this period does matter. All that matters is that you are eating and getting your nutrients. So if you need to be on a 2000 calorie diet than you should be consuming 2000 calories during this window of time.
For example, I like to skip breakfast as a part of my intermittent fasting schedule. After skipping breakfast I eat a BIG lunch around 1pm and a BIG dinner in the evening around 7pm. During those two meals I make sure I hit all my macronutrient needs.
Intermittent Fasting Schedules
People have different intermittent fasting schedule and in the end it's all up to you and your personal preference. If you are not sure what schedule you should try here are a few ideas:
- 16/8 - So 16 hours of fasting and 8 hours of feeding window. Example would be having a eating window from 11 am through 7pm and than fasting for the next 16 hours. With this schedule the next time you would eat would be again at 11am the following day.
- 18/6 - 18 hours of fasting and a 6 hour eating window
- 19/5 - 19 hours of fasting and a 5 hour eating window
Now don't think that you need to fast every day. Many people like to alternate days or even alternate weeks.
- Alternate Day Fasting - this would include longer periods of eating one day and periods of fasting the next day. And you would alternate this pattern. Essentially, one day of fasting and one day of normal eating, than another day of fasting, etc.
- Alternate Week Fasting - This would mean one week of normal eating and than you would schedule fasting the next week. On your fasting week you could choose to fast every day during the week or pick and choose days of the week to fast.