Your Guide to Intermittent Fasting
Diets are a scary thing. People and their plans promise a loss of certain amounts of weight melting off magically, just by eating special super foods or secret herbs and spices that might cost well over $200. They want you to buy their book about special things you should cut out of your diet to lose weight or gain strength. Most of us don’t have time to read, much less pick and choose what we eat.
There are plenty of other ways to lose weight. While some of these diets are proven to work, there is way too much hassle in them. Exercising is the best way to lose weight, of course, but there’s a method that is becoming more and more popular throughout the world that takes less time, thought, and effort to do: intermittent fasting.
What is intermittent fasting?
To know what intermittent fasting is, you have to know what fasting is. Fasting is abstaining from eating food or drinking anything that isn’t water for a certain amount of time. Usually, this is done for religious reasons, but there are actually big health benefits when fasting for certain amounts of time. Back in the times of cavemen and beasts, humans didn’t have food readily available to eat all the time. Our bodies evolved from this, but our bodies still work similarly.
Intermittent fasting is exactly what it sounds like: not eating food or drinking liquids (except water) for an extended amount of time through the day. However, it’s a lot more than that. It’s a pattern you’re your body learns when it will have food and when it will not. There are different variations of intermittent fasting you can do: the 16/8 pattern, alternate-day fasting, the 5:2 fast, and the eat-stop-eat fast. There are other ways, but these have proven to be the most popular and efficient.
There are 24 hours in a day, as most of us know. The 16 is for the amount of hours you fast and the 8 is when you eat. That isn’t to say you eat one meal and then fast 16 hours… no, you get all your sustenance, carbs, and minerals during the entire 8 hours that you’re supposed to be eating. For example: if you eat from 9 AM – 5 PM, you can eat anything you want. From 5 PM – 9 AM, you fast. Most of our days start around 6 AM or 7 AM, so you would only have to wait two or three hours to eat.
There are many different ways to do this fast, but it usually involves eating one day and then fasting the day after. This may be a bit extreme for some people, but there are alterations to where you can eat 500-600 calories of food during these days. It can be difficult at first, but you won’t regret doing it.
This may also be a bit extreme for some people, but it can be done without pain or effort. For one or two days out of the week, you don’t eat anything. That’s right: for 24 hours, you eat nothing and fast. On the other days, you eat as much and whatever you want. This will help you control your cravings and lose weight faster.
This one is for those that enjoy calorie counting. On two of the days out of the 7 day week, you only eat 500-600 calories. The other five days can be anything you want, but you still would have to eat healthy here as opposed to the other fasts. Just make sure that the 2 days aren’t next to each other.
The best part about this entire thing is that EVERYONE can benefit from it. If you’re a mom who’s trying to lose weight, intermittent fasting will help you shed the pounds in a matter of days. Maybe you’re a bodybuilder looking to do more bulking—it works for you, too, especially since it increases Human Growth Hormone (HGH). If you’re a normal, every-day person who has their schedule filled to the brim, this will help you too.
Whether you’re young or old, your body will benefit from intermittent fasting. Our bodies aren’t so different on the inside, so they’ll work mostly the same. There are tons of benefits to intermittent fasting, which will be discussed below, but yes—you can even gain muscle through these methods while spending less time in the gym!
Why does intermittent fasting work?
We all know the quote “eat like a king for breakfast, a prince for lunch, and a pauper for dinner” or some variation of this. It’s readily accepted as fact, but it’s simply not true. When you’re eating food, your body goes into a state to use that food as energy. If you’re not eating, the body will try to take energy from that food—when fasting, food isn’t there. Therefore, it will take it from other areas: namely fat.
The point of the intermittent fasting is to basically skip breakfast. That might go against what you’ve always been taught, but it’s true and works best. Studies have shown that breakfast isn’t as important as we originally thought. That’s the beauty about science—new discoveries may disprove old theories! That doesn’t mean you have to give up your delicious bacon, eggs, and sausage. Just push it back to a later time!
When we eat food, as said above, our bodies react to the food to digest it. It takes a few hours to do so, so it’s not a good idea to pile up even more food while your body is processing it. There’s no mystery that there are bigger portions of food in America, so intermittent fasting even works with those portions.
While eating, your body does some pretty amazing things. Your insulin levels drop, but the sensitivity improves. The lower the insulin levels, the more fat your body can burn. Healing goes faster, too, through autophagy, which is when cells purge themselves of old materials to create new ones. This all happens, but it happens faster and more often with intermittent fasting.
Intermittent Fasting Benefits
There are tons of benefits to the intermittent fasting techniques. While some of the methods take a lot of practice, everybody can do it just as well as someone else (unless there’s something preventing that). Even if you have diabetes or some other food-related disease, you can still benefit from intermittent fasting.
Easier than Dieting
Whether you want to diet or not, intermittent fasting is like being on a diet, but you don’t have to worry about carbs or how many grams of sugar you should take in. You can eat anything you want as long as you do it in the windows you provide yourself. Your body will process the food more easily and you will digest a lot easier, as well. Eating anything you want is a lot better than counting carbs and finding how much you can eat in a day, wouldn’t you agree?
Extending off the above benefit, it makes your day a lot less stressful. Not having to worry about food for most of the day can be a great weight lifted off you. You don’t have to decide on food and you won’t have to divvy up your portions for a longer day. Three meals a day can be a hassle, but two meals a day can make it better.
Either way you look at it, intermittent fasting is healthy. It brings your body to a state of regulation and scheduling that it can take advantage of. If you pile food on top of food through three meals a day, your body will be constantly producing a smaller amount of everything, which can sometimes get wasted or turn energy into fat. Not only that, but it will also lengthen your life!
Lowers Risk of Heart Disease
While you still want to eat healthier regardless of what type of diet or fasting you do, your risk of heart failure or blockages are significantly decreased with the fasting methods. While you burn fat, you will also lower your cholesterol and, through additional exercise, you will find that your heartbeat will grow stronger and healthier as well!
Can Cure Gout and Prevent Other Diseases
Gout can be a terrible disease that affects your metabolism and can cause arthritis. This, along with preventing diabetes and cancer, can be obtained through the intermittent fasting methods. It will stabilize your metabolism and assist it without having to work all the time with three meals a day. Putting your metabolism on a schedule and helping regulate it can have adverse effects on gout and other potential diseases that may be trying to grip you.
How do you get started with fasting?
It might be hard or even scary to try to fast for 16 hours, much less an entire DAY of not eating. The thing is, that’s simply a mindset. Being worried about eating food, or even pangs of hunger, are all about your thought process. The thing is, human beings can go without food for about 3 weeks before succumbing to hunger. While no one should do this in the first place, a day is nothing in comparison to three weeks.
It’s quite simple to do if you overcome the thoughts of needing to eat. It can be a bit more difficult if you eat a lot of sugary things, considering that adds to your cravings. One must overcome these cravings in order to star the fasting, but all you have to do is decide not to eat. It’s a lot easier than trying to choose what to eat.
Here are some tips on getting started:
- Don’t start fasting all at once. Even the easiest of transitions need to be eased into; you can burn yourself out quickly. Over the course of a week or two, add an hour between waking up and your first meal of the day. For example, if you usually wake up at 8, eat breakfast at 9 over the next few days. Then, the next step is to eat breakfast at 10, and then 11, until you’ve pushed back or cut out breakfast altogether.
- Drink lots of water. Despite not eating food for however long you plan to fast for, make sure that you drink water regardless. While water won’t supply you with all the nutrients you need, you still need to drink it. Not only will sate your thirst, but you will fill your belly enough to make it seem like you’ve eaten to ease the hunger pangs.
- Rice and carbs will make you feel fuller than other foods. If you want to wean yourself off that first meal faster, eat a small bowl of rice during the fast. A cup of rice is 206 calories, so even if you’re doing the 500-600 calorie fast for the alternate-day fasting, the rice will expand in your stomach and make it feel like it’s gotten a full meal.
Example Plans for the Fasts
If you’re unsure where to start for your fasting plans, there are plenty of resources out there to get you started. Here, we have some plans that you can use or base your own plan from. All you have to do is replace the times to situate your needs.
With the 16/8 fasting method, you can adjust the times as you need, as long as you eat and get your calories in an 8 hour window. With this plan, we are starting our day at 6 AM and not eating at 10 AM. From that point onward, we eat from 10 AM to 6 PM. This is our 8 hour window, of course. After 6 PM, we eat nothing until the 10 AM point the next day.
This is the eat-stop-eat method that was explained above. With this method, you fast for 24 hours once a week. It is possible to do this twice a week, but you should only do that if you can do one day a week to start off. It is also important that you eat a heavy meal before you start the 24-hour period. That’s less time you have to spend while awake without food in your belly!
This plan can be used for both the Alternate-day method and the 5-2 day method. Keep in mind that the 500 calories can be substituted for nothing, but it can be difficult to do this. The hunger pangs will be more prominent and can be hard to contain if you don’t eat anything. However, this will probably give you the best results, considering the amount of food you have cut back on!
While dieting isn’t necessary for everyone, especially if they exercise well enough, intermittent fasting can still provide benefits. If you want to eat anything you want, this is the method for you. Whether it’s the 16/8 method, the alternate-day method, or whichever one you want to choose, it will make your life better. You will gain a better understanding about yourself and the world around you, your stress levels will decrease, and your food purchasing will even lower.
Don’t be afraid to try it out—the worst thing that can happen is you might get a bit hungrier for more food later, but that’s normal. You need to get all your calories and proper nutrition despite fasting, if you decide to go through with it. It can work for anyone! The toughest part is sticking to a plan and not eating. It can certainly be difficult at first, but it will help you in the long run.