Intermittent fasting 101

Fasting has been practiced by religions and spiritual practitioners for millennia. It is known to have health benefits for the mind, body and some say soul. In the article will look at a variation, intermittent fasting. If you are new, then intermittent fasting 101 will help you get started and give you all you need to know.

You will learn what intermittent fasting is, it’s benefits with links to studies to back them up. You will also learn what you should be careful of and what to expect when you start.

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Intermittent Fasting 101

Intermittent fasting is a way of eating where you do not eat for set periods of time and then have a window where you can eat.

The most common is 16:8. This where you do not eat for sixteen hours, then you have eight ours where you eat. We will go into this and other intermittent fasting in this article.

Intermittent fasting’s focus is not what you eat, but when and how often you eat. That does not mean it is an excuse to eat anything you want. You are still better off eating a whole food healthy diet.

It’s not just beneficial for fat loss and avoiding weight gain, as most people think. It also has a positive effect on your hormones, your relationship with food and many other things. It’s a great addition to a healthy lifestyle.

It’s How are Ancestors Ate…

Intermittent fasting mimics the natural way our ancestors ate, They did not have abundant, always available food like we do today. There were days (and weeks) that they were not able to get a lot of calories and other days where calories were abundant.

They also had to deal with the seasonal nature of food.

So they adapted to deal with food scarcity. This adaption allowed them to thrive even without constant calories and nutrition dense food supply.

In fact, their bodies would respond in positive ways when they did not eat.

We have the opposite issue. We live in times of ready available calorie dense food supply. However, our bodies are still using the same operating system as our ancestors. Because we are always eating, we never give our body a chance to burn fat that it has stored.

Many of our physical (and mental) problems come from this unnatural fit of our bodies with this relatively new environment in our history.

Intermittent Fasting 101  Guide to the Different Fasting Methods

16: 8 is common method of intermittent fasting

There isn’t a perfect way to do intermittent fasting. It depends on your lifestyle, family life, your genetics and relationship with food. The intermittent fasting 101 methods guide will help you decide which method suits you.

Some people do better without breakfast, others cannot start the day with out it. You can use things like this to your advantage when deciding which eating periods to choose.

Lets have look the common intermittent fasting methods…

16/8 Method (The Leangains Protocol)

This involves a fasting period of 16 hours each day, then eating all your meals within an 8-hour window. For example, you might eat between 12 pm and 8 pm and fast from 8 pm to 12 pm the next day.

This is a good method if you like your meals spread out  and cannot wolf down a a lot of food in one go, as you have eight hours to consume it.

It’s good for beginners, as most of your fasting happens when you are asleep. So it takes less discipline.

It’s also good if you already do not eat breakfast. You are much more likely to stick with it because it fits into your current routine.

5:2 Diet (The Fast Diet)


With this method, you follow your usual eating habits for five days a week, and on two non-consecutive days, you cut back your calorie intake to between 500 and 600 calories.

This one can be more challenging if you are not used to fasting, as it requires a full day of very low calories.

I find it easier not to eat at all than have a low number of calories. As the small amount of food ignites hunger.

But it depends on your psychological make up. You might be Ok with it, knowing you can go back to eating normal the next day.

If your daily hunger is not consistent, with some days where you are not very hungry, this method could work for you.

Eat-Stop-Eat


This entails fasting for 24 hours once or twice every week. For instance, refraining from eating between dinner on one day and dinner on the following day.

This is how I started my intermittent fasting journey. I did this once a week. The first time I did it, it was a difficult, more for the psychological aspects than the physical hunger.

Once you get used it, it is not difficult., You will see your hunger comes and goes during the day.

You will also realize how much more time you have when you are not cooking or eating.  Get a good book or a movie, otherwise, the extra time might hang heavy for you.

Alternate-Day Fasting

With this method, you alternate days of normal eating with days where you either fast or consume a very minimal amount of calories (usually around 500 calories).

This can be one of the more difficult methods as you do not have more than one day in a row where you eat normal calories.

On this method people are more likely to have compensatory hunger. Where the day after the fast, the eat a lot more and also eat less healthy food to make up for the previous day.

Studies have shown people stick to this method less than others.

The Warrior Diet (AKA 20/4 Method)

Or Hofmekler came up with this diet. It involves eating small amounts of raw fruits, vegetables or grass fed whey protein during the day and eating one large meal at night.

Effectively fasting all day and feasting at night within a four-hour eating period.

After the one full day fast a week, this is the next one I tried. Although I have modified my intermittent fasting over the years, this was the one that I did for a long period of time. And was the first time I learned about intermittent fasting from Ori’s book the Warrior Diet.

In terms of difficulty I found it similar to the 16:8 method.

As it allows whey protein it is suitable for people who weight train and do not want to lose as much muscle as the other methods.

You can also do this method without eating anything during the twenty hours fasting periods.

The Benefits of Intermittent Fasting

Weight Loss is not the only benefit of time restricted eating

Although most people think of weight loss when they think about intermittent fasting , there are bigger and more profound benefits than just losing weight.

Keep in mind. some of these benefits have not been studied on humans. However the animal studies look promising.

Here’s intermittent fasting 101 on it’s benefits….

Promotes Weight Loss

Lets start with the most obvious one. Weight loss.

Unless you go crazy and binge eat during your eating window, you are going to be eating less calories. Following the law of thermodynamics, less calories means weight loss.

However, you have to be careful and make sure you get plenty of protein as you want fat loss not muscle loss. Muscle loss will slow your metabolism down and make it harder to lose weight. Also low muscle mass is unhealthy. You want to be a healthy weight not just a lower weight.

Be careful about not having too little calories during your eating window.

You need calories to function, so keep an eye on your libido, general energy and mood. If they drop, you are probably consuming too little calories and need to add some healthy fats.

Intermittent fasting and weight loss study: HERE

Improves Insulin Sensitivity and Sugar Levels

Insulin is a hormone that manages blood sugar levels in the body and helps turns food into energy in your cells.

You have insulin resistance when the cells in your body do not respond to insulin.

Being inactive, fat around the waste and a family history of type 2 diabetes are all factors that can make you insulin resistant.

As we have seen intermittent fasting helps with weight loss.

When we eat our insulin spikes triggering all kinds of processes including fat storage. You can imagine when you are eating all day, you are having a constant spike in insulin which makes your cells resistant to it. Intermittent gives you a break from this spike allowing the body to re-balance.

Insulin resistance also can raise your blood sugar. When you improve insulin resistance you can improve your blood sugar levels. This will help you avoid diabetes.

Study: HERE

Intermittent Fasting Enhances Heart Health

Intermittent fasting reduces inflammation in the body. This helps reduce blood pressure, cholesterol and triglycerides.

Study on how fasting may improve numerous risk factors for heart disease such as blood pressure, cholesterol levels, triglycerides, and inflammatory markers. : HERE

Boosts Brain Health

The hippocampus is the area of the brain that deals with learning memory. Intermittent fasting promotes growth of new neurons in this area.

Brain-derived neurotrophic factor (BDNF) preserves brain nerve cells and promotes growth of new ones. It influences our behaviour and learning memory.

Intermittent fasting increases BDNF.

Study on how intermittent fasting improves brain health by increasing brain-derived neurotrophic factor (BDNF) and may aid in the growth of new neurons. HERE

Intermittent Fasting Increases Growth Hormone Secretion

Human growth hormone (HGH) drives growth in children and  helps maintain our tissues and cells through our adult life.

It is produced by the pituitary gland which secretes less and less from middle age.

Low growth hormone can lead to…

  • Reduced exercise capacity

  • Lower bone density

  • Low muscle mass

  • Increase in body fat

  • Reduced collagen

Intermittent fasting increases growth hormone.

Study on fasting and how levels of growth hormone may skyrocket, facilitating fat loss and muscle gain. HERE

May Extend Lifespan

Animal studies suggest that intermittent fasting can extend lifespan.

Improves Cellular Repair Processes

In order to function at our best, our body needs to re-use old and dysfunctional cells. It also needs to remove cells that are damaged and no longer useful. This process is called autophagy.

Autophagy gets triggered when we go into survival mode. Intermittent fasting mimics the stress response of the body. Without food the body goes into survival mode.

This triggers it into using everything it can and get rid of things it cannot. So intermittent fasting encourages the body to re-use old cells and eliminate dead useless ones.

New and repaired cells mean a healthier, robust body.

Study on how fasting triggers autophagy, a process that removes old and dysfunctional proteins from cells, aiding in cellular repair. HERE

Intermittent Fasting May Help Prevent Cancer

Although the studies have been done on animals only, it looks like intermittent fasting may reduce the risk of cancer.

We think it is due to the following factors…

  • Decreasing production of blood glucose

  • Triggering stem stem cells to regenerate the immune system

  • Increasing the  production of tumor-killing cells

  • Having balanced diet

Study that indicates that intermittent fasting may prevent cancer, though human research is needed. HERE

Enhances Gene Expression

Gene expression (DNA) means what a cell can do in response to the environment.

Intermittent fasting changes the DNA of cells.

Study on how fasting influences gene expressions that protect against disease and promote longevity. HERE

Intermittent Fasting Improves Eating Patterns

It can help regulate eating patterns, potentially leading to improved metabolic health.

If you only feel like you have eaten enough when you feel completely stuffed, then intermittent fasting can help. It will help you feel comfortable with hunger and change your set point of where you feel you have eaten enough.

When you do it consistently, it also teaches you to not be thinking of food all the time.

You will realize you do not need to eat constantly for energy.

One thing many people notice is that it brings up hidden beliefs and emotional issues that they have try to suppress with food, Some more serious than others.

Intermittent Fasting 101 Guide to What You Can Expect When You Begin

You will have a better relationship with food

Everyone is different so don’t get too hung up on what you should be feeling. But I can tell you, that one thing that is common , hunger!

This is something you will get used to.

Some people feel an energy drop, others will get an energy boost,

However, you should not feel anything extreme, like dizziness or nausea. if you, do stop and consult your doctor.

Depending on the method, you will experience rapid weight loss. However, most of this early loss will be water weight. Later on you will experience fat loss from fewer calories consumed.

If you are consistent, you’ll find your focus and energy improve as your body is on alert and has more energy because it is not constantly digesting food.

Intermittent Fasting Safety Precautions

Make sure you drink plenty of water. Black tea and coffee are ok as well. They will also help you deal with the hunger, especially the coffee.

As with any drastic changes that effect your health, consult your doctor before you start.

Be especially careful…

  • If you are trying to conceive or have a history of amenorrhea,

  • If you are pregnant or breastfeeding.

  • If you have diabetes or difficulties regulating blood sugar.

  • If you’re taking medications, it’s important to discuss with your healthcare provider before making any changes.

  • For people who are underweight or have a history of eating disorders.

  • If you have low blood pressure.

  • Children should not do intermittent fasting.

How to Get Started With Intermittent Fasting 101

The best way to get started is to pick a method that you are most likely to stick to and fits in with your mindset and lifestyle. If you do not eat breakfast anyway, then going for the 16:8 method is a no brainer.

Start slowly if it helps. For instance you can do the 16:8 method once in the first week and build slowly as you want from there.

You can also play around with the methods. Do a 16:8 one day, then a full 24 hour fast another day. Just don’t make it too complicated.

I do mostly 16:8 and then occasionally add a 24 hour fast.

FAQ

1. Will intermittent fasting slow down my metabolism?

No. But you have to be careful to make sure you are getting enough calories during your feeding window.

2. Can I drink liquids during the fast?

Yes. You can drink water, tea and coffee. Stay away from soda and anything with high calories though.

3. Should I take supplements while fasting?

You don’t have to, but you can. Make sure the supplements are not fat soluble, as they require you to eat fat with them so they get absorbed.

4. Is it unhealthy to skip breakfast?

If you are healthy, not at all.

5. Can I work out fasted?

Yes. In fact it has shown to increase many of the benefits of intermittent fasting.

6. Does fasting cause muscle loss?

Although it is not an ideal way of eating if your focus is on building muscle, as long as you are eating enough calories and protein then you will not lose muscle mass.

Conclusion

Intermittent fasting is a way of eating where you restrict the time you eat to a smaller window and do not eat anything for the rest of the time.

This can be hours in the day where you do not eat, or a whole day at time. Choose a method that suits you.

This intermittent fasting 101 article has given you the benefits, what to expect and who should avoid it.

If you are healthy then the best way to experience it’s benefits is to give it a go.

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