Why Intermittent Fast?

I hate diets. I’ve tried far too many of them over the years, with varying levels of success. So when I first heard of Intermittent Fasting (referred to as IF from here on out) I was intrigued, mainly because it focused on when you eat as opposed to what you eat.

At it’s core IF is a period of eating, followed by a period of fasting. We do this naturally (it’s called sleep), but by dressing it up with fancy name it can now be marketed and sold some new sort of fad diet. As far as fad diets go, it’s one of the better ones as it doesn’t restrict any particular food, but rather manipulates when you eat your calories to harness the fat burning power of the body’s natural processes

For years we’ve been told (mainly by cereal manufacturers) to eat breakfast because it’s the most important meal of the day. That we need to somehow need to “jumpstart” our metabolism and top off our fuel tank so we have energy for the day.

First of all there is no noticeable slow down of your metabolism during an overnight fast. In fact it takes 72-96 consecutive hours of fasting to affect your metabolic rate. Second, after 12 hours of fasting your body begins drawing off body fat for its energy needs. For someone looking to lose weight or stay lean wouldn’t such a state be desirable?

The other myth we are often told (again, by food and snack bar manufacturers) is that we need to eat every 3 hours to stoke the metabolism. Yes, you burn calories as you digest food, called the thermic effect of feeding (TEF), but the number of calories burned during digestion is directly correlated to the quantity of calories consumed. So whether you eat one 2000 calorie meal or spread that out between five meals the cumulative TEF is the same. This study also put this myth to rest.

So how do you Intermittent Fast?

Well, aside from simply delaying your first meal of the day by a few hours, there are a few different methods out there with set rules to follow. Of course I hate rules because they inherently seem restrictive. My own version of IF has evolved to more of an intuitive sense of eating when hungry, but I’ll outline a few of the more popular version before I get to that.

First, there’s the leangains method. This is typically a 14-18 hour fast with a 6-10 hour eating window. You simply consume your meals during the feeding window and there is no limit on the number of meals you eat, but you should try and consume the same number of calories you would normally. That’s a theme in most of these versions, but I’ve found it difficult to keep my calories up just because I get super full with one or two big meals.

Next up is the eat, stop, eat version where you perform a 24 hour fast 1-2 times per week. The one advantage of this setup is that you technically still get to eat everyday. Let’s say dinner on Monday is your last meal, then you fast until dinner on Tuesday. That’s a 24 hour fast, but you don’t have to go from waking to sleeping without eating.

An alternative version to eat, stop, eat is doing that every day and simply eating one large meal at night. Getting in all of your calories in during one meal is not an overly fun experience though so that one is a little harder to maintain.

Another similar method is to alternate fasting days with normal eating days. You eat all of your meals on one day, morning through night, and then fast the entirety of the next day.

Then there is bulletproof fasting, where you consume only fats during your fasting period. This is purported to keep your body in a fat burning state by restricting glucose either from ingestion of carbs or conversion from proteins ingested. A side note, your body will break down protein from muscles stores to form glucose when it runs out of liver glycogen so if you are doing high intensity, glycogen depleting exercise it’s best to do so at the end of your fast or to supplement with branched chain amino acids to spare your hard earned muscle.

I used to be really anal about timing my fasting periods, especially when I first started out. I wasn’t a fan of longer fasts so I naturally gravitated to the daily 14-18 hour fast. I would fast from 5-6 at night to 9am break the next morning and if for some reason break came before I hit the “magic” 15 hour mark I wouldn’t eat until lunch. Like I said, quite anal.

Eventually I learned to be less strict and let my hunger dictate when I eat. One thing doing the occasional longer fast does is to teach you to recognize true hunger and become comfortable with the feeling. There is nothing wrong with hunger, but we’ve been taught that we need to eat right away when hungry otherwise there will be dire consequences. The fact is, unless you’re diabetic, nothing bad will happen to you.

Actually lots of good things happen.

There’s the aforementioned fat adaptation, where your body becomes better at using stored body fat for fuel. As a result circulating triglyceride levels in the blood decrease. In addition, by not flooding your body with a steady stream food your insulin levels drop and you increase your insulin sensitivity. This method of eating can also increase your leptin sensitivity, which is an appetite suppressing hormone, meaning once you get used to periods of fasting you’ll actually start to feel less hungry. Periods of fasting have also been shown to increase lifespan, reduce inflammation, and lower risk of chronic disease.

Despite all of the benefits, the idea of going long periods of time without food can seem daunting and it’s definitely not for everyone. Females, due their particular hormonal environment have been known to struggle. For others, the struggle is in their mind.

Once I started viewing IF as a break for my digestion system, rather than period of deprivation, “surviving” the fast became much easier. Now it’s just a given, and periods of hunger during the fast are acknowledge and assessed. If it’s normal hunger I continue to fast. One trick is to drink plenty of fluids, especially upon waking. Dehydration has a way of masking itself as hunger. If the hunger is particularly uncomfortable and won’t go away then I eat.

These days my first “meal” is usually a shake after my workout. This is around 2pm. Then I have a large dinner around 5pm and another snack around 7-8pm. Sometimes I’ll eat something before my workout if I’m particularly ravenous and on days where I run in the morning I’ll have a bulletproof coffee (MCT oil and grass fed butter blended into coffee) or eat a spoonful of coconut oil to give myself a little energy boost.

This less strict version works well for me. I only have to worry about making one meal per day, which just frees up a ton of time and mental bandwidth. I eat when hungry and don’t fret if I can’t follow a specific schedule or miss a meal.

Simple and easy, which is how it should be when it comes to “dieting.” If it’s overly complicated there is just no way to stick with something long term. Something simple like this can become a habit easily. After doing this for the better part of two years I don’t even remember what it’s like to eat breakfast on a consistent basis.

I’m okay with that. I just have my eggs and bacon with dinner

Another KB Complex "Fun"isher
A Guide on Dietary Fat

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *