Have you heard of IF? The words on everybody’s lips these days seems to be “intermittent fasting”. Everyone from weight loss enthusiasts to fitness buffs to medical doctors are talking about how fasting is making a comeback.
Fasting? As in, NOT eating? Um, no thanks. But wait – before you dismiss it as just another crazy crash diet, educate yourself with this quick guide to all things IF. Then, you can decide if intermittent fasting is right for you.
What is intermittent fasting – another fad diet?
For starters, intermittent fasting (IF) isn’t just another fad diet – it’s actually been around for a while, but it’s only recently that you’ve seen tons of fitness influencers doing it. So, what is intermittent fasting?
Put in the simplest way possible, IF focuses on when and how often you eat – it’s a way of changing up your eating schedule to prime your body for fat burning. Ok, I know that sounds like an infomercial, but let’s look at the science that backs up this claim.
Talk nerdy to me.
To understand how intermittent fasting works, you need to know a little bit about the fasted state – this is the sweet spot for fat burning. During the fasted state, your insulin levels are at an all-time low, so your body can easily burn fat – it doesn’t really have any other option. When you eat, your body uses glucose from your food as its energy source. It also fills up its glycogen stores for extra fuel. When you fast, your body uses up all that glucose and glycogen. What’s a body to do for fuel now? It turns to fat.
Unfortunately, it takes a long time (8 to 12 hours) for our body to use all that glucose and glycogen and get into a fasted state. Because of this, we rarely get our bodies there for any significant length of time. This is where intermittent fasting comes in. With IF, you intentionally push your body into that fasted state by stretching out the amount of time between meals.
What’s in it for me?
As I mentioned, intermittent fasting turns your body into a lean, mean, fat-burning machine (infomercial alert!). But there are lots of other benefits to intermittent fasting. This is evidence-based stuff – no gimmicks here.
- Lose weight. Intermittent fasting is a great way to shed fat and lose weight – in fact, this is the most popular reason to try IF.
- Improve heart health. Heart disease is the number one killer worldwide – yikes! Intermittent fasting may improve your overall heart health and lower heart disease risk factors.
- Lower blood sugar. Intermittent fasting is proven to lower insulin resistance and blood sugar levels, which decreases your risk of type 2 diabetes.
- Boost brain health. Intermittent fasting is linked to improved learning and memory, as well as a sharper, more focused mind.
All of these awesome benefits add up to a longer, happier, and healthier life!
There’s no one right way to fast.
You’ve got options when it comes to finding an intermittent fasting schedule that fits your lifestyle. Here are the two most popular types of IF to get you started.
- Daily Intermittent Fasting: With this schedule, you fast each day for 16 hours and then limit your eating window to 8 hours. This is the best type of IF for newbies because it’s super easy to jump in and get started (without too much “hangry” involved).
- Alternate Day Fasting: Just as the name suggests, this type of IF means you fast for a day and then eat for a day. And repeat. Going an entire 24 hours without eating can be tough – but it also boosts all those fasting benefits!
Other types of intermittent fasting include weekly intermittent fasting (fast one day per week) and the 5:2 method (eat 5 days, fast 2 days). These are basically just spin-offs of the intermittent fasting schedules mentioned above.
If these schedules don’t work for you, get creative and experiment with your own IF method. There’s no wrong way to fast!
So, is intermittent fasting right for you?
I’ll be honest – I’m not an intermittent fasting devotee. I personally like eating multiple times per day and focus on managing my insulin levels by eating food low in the glycemic index. It’s definitely possible to cut body fat without fasting. BUT that doesn’t mean there aren’t some very real, very awesome benefits to intermittent fasting. If your focus is on weight loss or general health, or if your busy schedule doesn’t allow for small meals all day long, then give intermittent fasting a try. Experiment and see how your body responds. It may be the perfect fit for you!
See you in the gym!