Every week, there seems to be some new trend within the health and fitness industry. Whether it’s a new diet, a new way of eating, or a new magic pill, you can be guaranteed that it will help you ‘lose 10 pounds without breaking a sweat’.
While most of us are quite skeptical of such claims (as we should be), it can be challenging to sort through all the misinformation to find something that works – like intermittent fasting for example.
Intermittent fasting has gained a heap of traction in the health industry over the last year or so, as it has been suggested to promote fat loss and improve health. While its claims may seem somewhat lofty, there is evidence to suggest that it may indeed offer a means to accomplish these goals quickly and efficiently.
When implemented correctly, that is.
What is Intermittent Fasting?
In short, intermittent fasting describes small periods of eating broken up by prolonged periods of fasting (a.k.a., NOT eating).
While this may sound an unusual dietary approach, it’s important to reinforce that we essentially undertake a period of fasting every single night during sleep. Overnight, we abstain from eating and proceed to break our fast with the first piece of food we eat the following day.
Now, the first thing worth explaining is that the term intermittent fasting actually encompasses a somewhat broad range of eating patterns. With this in mind, there are multiple approaches to that are often utilized.
Some intermittent fasting protocols recommend that we extend our overnight fasting period by a few hours. While others suggest that we fast for days at a time. No matter what process an individual prefers, they are essentially trying to induce the same outcomes.
Intermittent fasting is said to maximize the hormonal changes that occur when the body is in a fasted state. In doing so, intermittent fasting has been suggested to increase our ability to lose fat while simultaneously improving our health.
What are the benefits of intermittent fasting?
There are a number of positive things that happen to the body when we begin to fast. After a period of fasting, we see two key hormonal changes in the body:
First, the amount of insulin found in the blood is reduced significantly. Insulin is known as an ‘energy storage hormone’, as it promotes the movement of protein, glucose, and fatty acids, from the bloodstream and into the body’s cells, where they can be broken down and used for energy at a later date.
When insulin levels are high, the body is in a state of storage. This can make it difficult to physically use fatty acids and glucose for energy.
When insulin levels are low, the body is no longer in a storage state, and subsequently has easy access to fatty acids for energy. As a result, intermittent fasting can greatly improve our ability to breakdown and use fat for energy, while also inhibiting its ability to store fatty acids.
Through these interactions, we see a huge increase in our ability lose fat on a daily basis. As an added bonus, reduced insulin secretion has also shown to greatly reduce our risk of developing metabolic diseases (such as diabetes and obesity), cardiovascular disease, and even age-related cognitive decline.
Second, after fasting we see a huge spike in the secretion of human growth hormone. As human growth hormone plays key roles in both fat metabolism and the development of new muscle tissue, this can cause some large improvement in our body composition.
Taking each of these into consideration, intermittent fasting has been shown to cause large increases in our resting metabolic rate. This increase can lead to significantly greater energy expenditure on a daily basis. This is imperative to promoting the loss of body fat and improving metabolic health.
How can I implement fasting?
Applying intermittent fasting into your life does not have to be complex. While some people recommend regimented and timed fasting protocols (where you can only eat between certain times during the day), we believe they do have some noticeable downfalls.
For one, they are very restrictive. They lock you into a strict eating schedule that allows very little flexibility. Secondly, these arbitrary and regimented eating windows don’t factor in the time we wake up, or go to bed. As a result, they’re NOT exactly applicable to everyone at an individual level.
The benefits of intermittent fasting come from spending time in a fasted state. This means a fast lasting anywhere between 12 and 18 hours will have the positive effects previously mentioned.
As such, we typically recommend people to fast for 4-6 hours after waking each day, irrespective of whether they wake at 5am or 8am.
This still provides more than enough time to get the positive effects of intermittent fasting (often using around a 16-hour fast), without having to deal with the regimented time periods associated with more traditional methods.
What can I consume during my fasting period?
During the fasting period, it’s integral that we do NOT consume any calories. As soon as we consume some form of energy, we will cause an increase in insulin secretion along with a reduction in growth hormone secretion.
This will ultimately eliminate the positive effects associated with intermittent fasting. Now, I should also note that this doesn’t mean that you can’t consume anything.
During fasting, we can consume zero calorie beverages, such as black coffee and green tea. While these won’t fill the stomach, they have been shown to blunt hunger, making fasting easier.
What about exercise and intermittent fasting?
We often get questions about exercise and intermittent fasting. As such, it is important to note that our fasting windows should be tailored around our workout regimen.
This means that training in the afternoon would be your best bet when implementing our preferred fasting strategy. That’s because you can consume a solid meal both before AND after your exercises. For those individuals who MUST train in the morning, we can make it work – it just requires a little effort.
For morning workouts, we recommend you supplement with BCAA’s prior to commencing. This will eliminate the risk of muscle catabolism (the breakdown of muscle tissue for energy) without impacting the body’s hormonal levels.
A full meal can be consumed a couple of hours after training to maximize recovery.
Intermittent fasting is NOT necessarily a magic pill. But it can be used to put the body in an optimal state to lose fat and improve health.
By implementing the protocol outlined within this article into your lifestyle, you can reap the rewards without having to deal with the negative implications associated with a strict, regimented fasting routine.
If you have had any experience with intermittent fasting, we would love to hear about it. Drop us a comment and we will get back to you as soon as possible!