Eat Stop Eat...Diets that work aren't entirely based on calorie restriction and food elimination. They can include daily eating cycles and/or timed eating windows which are most commonly referred to as Intermittent Fasting.
Our bodies are either in one of two states at any given time: 'Feeding' or 'Fasting.' As such, we have periods of eating throughout the day with periods of 'not-eating' in between. In other words, not-eating = fasting!
Intermittent fasting is a plan of alternating systematically between the two periods to increase our fasting state. The goal is to trigger our bodies into unlocking their fat stores to burn as fuel ---ENERGY! This equals a powerful weight-loss tool.
How Does Fasting Unlock Fat Storage?
Well, let's begin long ago...Throughout our early evolution, humans subsisted as hunter-gatherers, striking out at dawn to stalk prey and forage for anything edible. We most likely nibbled something as we did so, in the hope of enjoying a larger --- more satisfying --- meal as the Sun sank low in the western sky. Day in and day out, working and fasting more than feeding.
Things changed approximately 12,000 years ago. Our hunter-gatherer ancestors began trying their hand at farming. First, they grew wild varieties of crops like peas, lentils, and barley and herded wild animals like goats and wild oxen.
We as hunter-gatherers became agrarian -- or farmers --- with more food on hand. Eating habits changed. Periods of feeding throughout the day increased. Fasting decreased.
And over a hundred centuries later, today, we spend less time in a fasting state and more in a feeding state. We eat! Often.
So, what does this mean? Well...after a meal, our bodies break down carbohydrates into glucose to be absorbed through the intestinal wall --- passed into the bloodstream --- and transported to our organs. This is our primary energy source. The glucose we don't burn right away is stored for use in the liver and adipose tissue (think 'fat'!), as glycogen and fats…Body Fat!
Between meals, when our bodies are fasting, the liver converts the glycogen back to glucose for fuel. And if the fast continues --- unbroken --- for 10 – 12 hours, the glycogen stores are depleted in the liver. Our bodies tap into our 'fat' tissue to be broken down into fatty acids and burned as fuel.
Do you see where this is going? Voilà! Body fat is burned should the fast last that long (10-12 hrs), and shedding excess fat has so many health benefits, including weight loss!
Besides weight control, fasting helps:
- Keep insulin levels low, reducing risks for diabetes
- Our brains benefit, as fasting promotes the growth and survival of neurons through increasing levels of neurotrophic factors - - - from 50 up to 400%!
- Intermittent fasters drink more water, which curbs hunger during fasting periods. Hydration aids anti-inflammation and helps fight off free radicals that cause inflammation
- Starve 'bad' bacteria in the colon
- Normalize blood pressure
- Fight cancer cells (which are glucose-dependent)
- Promote longevity.
A Few Ways to Intermittently Fast:
Intermittent fasting can be done in a variety of ways, but the most common and easiest is to take advantage of your natural overnight fast, skip breakfast , and delay your first meal by several hours.
A fasted state is reached completely once you approach the 10 -12 hour mark since dinner the night before, and you begin to rely on stored body fat for nourishment.
And if you can keep this intermittent fast going for 20 - 24 hrs, you'll see a significant increase in lipolysis (the breakdown of stored body fat into free fatty acids that may be burned as fuel).
- As an example, the 16/8 method - say you go to bed at 10 p.m. and awaken at 6 a.m. By far the most popular way of intermittent fasting is to skip breakfast every morning and have lunch as the first meal of the day at 12 p.m. This is followed by dinner within an eight-hour time frame by 8 p.m. The goal is to fast for 16 hours (overnight plus the first 6 hours of the day), then consume all of your calories in an 8-hour window.
Again, using the example above, you go to bed at 10:00 p.m. and awaken at 6:00 p.m. This plan is to skip breakfast AND lunch and have a large meal within a four-hour window at the end of the day between 4:00 p.m. - 8:00 p.m.
Here, the goal is to fast for 20 hrs "overnight plus the first 10 hrs of the day", then consume all of your calories in a 4 hr window. This fasting approach allows you to eat extremely large, highly satisfying meals at the end of the day, and it may be ideal for someone going out to dinner to socialize.
If you followed this technique every other day, "let's say three times a week", you would be OK.
We'll continue with the same bedtime of 10:00 p.m. and wake up at 6:00 a.m. This one entails fasting for a "full 24 hrs. twice a week nonconsecutively".
Let's say you ate your last meal the day before at 8:00 p.m. You fast overnight and for the rest of the current day, skipping breakfast and lunch and delaying dinner until 8:00 p.m. (for a full 24 hours with no calories). Many people believe that if they overeat the next day, the benefits of fasting the day before would be undone, but this is not the case.
People would overeat by hundreds of calories the next day, but they will not consume anywhere near as much as they would if they ate both days properly.
The purpose of all of these fasting approaches is to pass up breakfast, prevent snacking, and save calories for later in the day. All of these techniques are powerful, and you may mix and match them as much as you want.
Of course, for Intermittent Fasting to be safe and effective, it must be used in conjunction with well-balanced meals. Stick to WHOLE foods with maximum nutrient density, including carbs HIGH in fiber. Stay AWAY from refined carbs!
Continue to eat responsibly.
Eat plenty of
- Fish & Shellfish
- Non-starchy Vegetables
- High-fat dairy (cheese & butter)
- Clean, filtered water is BEST
- non-caloric beverages while fasting
- coffee and tea in the morning (without sweeteners preferably)
Exercise regularly, whether cardio or resistance training (weight lifting)...or both! In doing so, you will not lose muscle mass as long as you consume adequate protein before and after fasting.
As with any dietary change or plan, Intermittent Fasting MAY not be for Everyone – Consult YOUR Physician!!
- Children and teens
- Pregnant or breastfeeding women
- Those with eating disorders
- Anyone with Type I Diabetes or advanced Diabetes
- People underweight or frail
Intermittent Fasting definitely has its benefits. Regardless of the method, this way of dieting frees your mornings from a practical standpoint. Think about it?! There's no meal prep for breakfast therefore you're saving yourself time and also money! And think of the opportunity cost budgeting if you decide to skip lunch as well! It's a WIN-WIN!!!