Disclaimer: Before starting any lifestyle modification when dealing with a medical condition like diabetes it’s best to contact your physician and ensure it’s right for you.
If you’ve followed any kind of social media fitness personality over the last year or two you’ve probably run into the new craze of ‘Intermittent Fasting’ abbreviated as ‘IF’. So what is it? We’ll start with a quick overview, some benefits, some specifics and science, and finish with some hurdles you may face + tips for success.
IF in a nutshell
Intermittent fasting (IF) involves a ‘fasting window’ and an ‘eating window’. The fasting window involves no caloric intake and the eating window generally involves 2 meals. We’ll look at some options for the fasting window further down.
IF has been credited with an increase in fat burning, longer lifespans (in animals), anti-aging, and lower disease risks.
When searching for the right IF plan, you might come across people talking about ‘16:8’ which is a simple way of describing 16 hours of fasting and 8 hours of eating. Some variations exist like 14:10 or 20:4, but all it refers to is the timing of eating.
Not a Diet
Intermittent fasting is not so much a diet as it is a lifestyle. It does not dictateWHAT to eat but WHEN to eat. This makes it an ideal option for someone like me that struggles with making the right food choices and has an affinity to those delicious late night snacks.
Can IF work for me?
For this I’ll speak anecdotally. I’m a shift worker, I work 12 hour days at a hospital. I’ve tried every diet under the sun before stumbling across IF.
IF has absolutely helped me control my eating without changing much else. My eating window is from 12:30-830 (days or nights) which allows a nice lunch and dinner. I made a list of my favorite parts of Intermittent Fasting:
Convenient – No extra preparation time
Extra Sleep – No breakfast needed, stay in bed longer.
Socially acceptable – Still lets you meet friends for lunch/dinner
Effective – I dropped from 201.2 – 193.4 (7.8lbs) in 3 weeks of IF
Cuts out snacking – Makes it easier to drop snacks
Cheaper – No more breakfast bills
More Energy – I have much more energy throughout the day than I ever have
Design a plan for you
It’s very simple to get started on IF. Pick an eating window, I suggest a 16:8 window like 12:00noon-8:00pm to start. Can’t skip breakfast? Try a 10:00am-6:00pm window instead.
What’s important is that you give your body 16 full hours without taking in any calories.
Once you get more comfortable you might venture into 20:4 or alternate day fasts.
There are some variations of the diet, but for the most part stick to only water during the fasting window. If you're craving that coffee or tea, most advocates of IF say that black coffee is okay, I personally prefer just water as black coffee can be hard on an empty stomach.
The science behind IF
While I will go on a much deeper dive into the alleged science behind IF another day, here are some quick points behind why IF supposedly works.
Fasted state burns fat – The body only goes into this fasted state after 12 hours of no caloric intake. It then begins to break down old cells for energy.
More in tune with primal self – Humans in the past would not always get a meal every day, only in very recent history has food become so abundant. IF taps into the way humans have been living for thousands of years.
Hormone regulation – Insulin is a major player in storage of energy and the body keeps that energy as fat. IF controls insulin levels and a number of other hormones including Human Growth Hormone.
IF is not without it's challenges. I’ll speak again from experience because I’m a food lover and it was a big change for me.
For the first few days it might feel like you’re going to waste away, but push through! Just remember, the hunter gatherer humans sometimes went days without having a full meal, we’re very capable of surviving on our fat stores
I personally have weak self-control around food but I think of it this way – if I cheat on my fasting window I’m going to reset the fasting cycle and screw myself. Grab a glass of water and chug it to stave off that hunger and temptation
So you had some drinks with friends 3 hours after your fasting began, don’t worry! You can shorten your eating window tomorrow and start 3 hours later or just restart tomorrow. The beautiful thing about IF is that it’s a lifestyle not a diet so you can make exceptions.
6 Tips for Success
So I’m going to round out this IF guide with a few tips that I learned along the way.
Drink lots of water – Water not only fights hunger (often we mistake being less than hydrated for hunger) but it also flushes out the cells that are being broken up for energy.
Get your electrolytes – Make sure you eat properly during your window and get all the electrolytes you need, this will keep headaches and faintness away. You might even want to find a zero-calorie electrolyte supplement for your fasting window.
Visualize your goal – Often visualizing a goal contributes to the success of it. Visualize often your goal weight and it will help you through those periods where you want to grab a chocolate bar during your fast.
Share with friends – Tell your friends/family what you’re up to, show them articles, ask them to hold you accountable. Sharing with friends/family is a great way to stay on track.
Give it time – It takes a few days to get used to the feeling of hunger, it does go away after some time.
Don’t get discouraged – It’s okay if you try and fail. Just keep trying and you’re on the right track!
Contact me – If you have any questions I’d be happy to try and help, reach out to me via email on the contact us page.