There are literally dozens of diets that have come and gone in recent years. Intermittent fasting, which is what we’ll be covering today, is one of the few that are actually effective.
Unlike many fads, IF is easy to understand and apply.
Strictly speaking, intermittent fasting is not a diet, as it doesn’t specify what you should or should not eat. It’s an eating method that cycles between periods of fasting and eating.
Intermittent fasting can help you lose weight and improve your health in several ways. Of course , you’ll get much better results if you combine it with a healthy nutrition plan.
Two Popular Intermittent Fasting Methods
There are many ways to do intermittent fasting. Here, we’ll take a quick look at two of the most popular methods.
The 16/8 Method
Personally, this is the method that I find easier to follow, especially over the long-term. As the name implies, you fast for 16 hours and consume your daily calories within an 8-hour period. The simplest way to do this is by skipping breakfast.
Eat. Stop. Eat.
With Eat Stop Eat you fast for 24 hours once or twice a week. For example, if you eat lunch on Monday, you’ll have to eat nothing until your Tuesday lunch. You can eat normally for the rest of the week.
Unlike me, some people prefer Eat Stop Eat over the 16/8 method. I’ve tried both with great success, so just pick whichever you can stick with most comfortably.
The main problem you’ll face with either method is hunger. When you first begin intermittent fasting, you may experience some trouble concentrating and low energy levels. However, these issues will quickly resolve themselves as your body adapts to your new eating schedule.
And if you’re really hungry, you can suppress your appetite with some coffee or tea, preferably without sugar.
The Benefits Of Intermittent Fasting
There are many health reasons to do intermittent fasting.
IF is a powerful fat loss tool. With a small number of meals, it’s easy to regulate how many calories and macronutrients you consume. Also, IF can increase your HGH levels, which will help you build muscle and burn fat.
IF may help with anti-aging and other health problems. Some animal studies have shown that IF could lead to a greater lifespan. Additionally, it will increase your insulin resistance, protecting you against type-2 diabetes.
Intermittent fasting can stabilize your energy levels. When you’ve gotten used to intermittent fasting, you may notice that your energy levels remain stable throughout the day. This happens for a couple of reasons. First, eating food does not immediately give you energy. The process of digesting a meal can take hours and actually makes your body use energy that could be used for other tasks.
Second, when your body is absorbing nutrients from a meal, your blood sugar levels rise, giving you a temporary energy boost. Soon, however, they decrease again, and you end up hungry. This constant cycle of eating and digesting may cause your energy levels to fluctuate.
On Bodybuilding And Meal Frequency
Nowadays, bodybuilding nutrition guidelines dictate that you should eat 5-6 balanced meals every day. They say that’s the best way to build muscle and burn fat.
And while I seriously respect the effort bodybuilders and fitness models put into what they do, this doesn’t mean that what’s right for them is also right for you.
The benefits of eating multiple balanced meals a day have been exaggerated.
You will not lose your muscle mass or get fat if you don’t eat for a few hours. In fact, intermittent fasting is closer to our natural eating schedule than eating 4 or more balanced meals a day.
Keep in mind that mankind survived for millennia before grocery stores and fridges became a thing. The abundance of food that we now take for granted did not exist 200 years ago, so we have evolved to be able to function without food for extended periods of time.
Having said that, this doesn’t mean that the multiple-meals-a-day approach doesn’t work. I’ve used it and gotten great results with it for a big part of my fat loss journey.
And some fitness professionals claim that when they’re preparing for a competition, they can’t get lean enough with intermittent fasting. However, the body fat percentages these people have on competition days are unhealthy. They undergo severe dietary restrictions and purposely dehydrate themselves to temporarily bring their body fat down to insanely low levels. This is not only unsustainable, it’s also very hard on the body and not something you want to emulate with your everyday diet.
The Unparalleled Simplicity Of Intermittent Fasting
We’ve already established that there are several health benefits to IF, but I find that the single greatest benefit it offers is simplicity.
Intermittent fasting is very easy to do compared to a traditional healthy diet as there is usually less cooking and cleaning involved. Consequently, even people that can’t put in the time and effort other diets require may find that they can stick with IF without problems.
For example, I typically eat 2 meals a day. At around 2 or 3 PM I eat a big salad (around 800-1200 kcal) and then I eat my main meal for dinner (meat, fish, a big omelet etc). I usually only cook once a day and I don’t have to constantly fret over my next meal. This allows me to focus on other stuff, like my job and training.
Intermittent Fasting And Fat Loss
IF is probably one of the best ways to burn fat over the long-term. As I previously mentioned, you can regulate your calorie intake more effectively with a small number of meals. But there is another reason that IF is such an effective weight loss tool.
It fundamentally changes the way we think about food.
For many overweight or obese people, food is a way to get pleasure and deal with stress. They’ll eat whenever they feel the emotional need to do so, not when they’re actually hungry. And I know from experience that the multiple-meals-a-day approach doesn’t help with that mindset.
When you have to prepare and eat multiple meals a day, you constantly have food at the back of your mind. When do I eat my next meal, what do I eat, how much do I eat etc.
With IF, on the other hand, there is a specific time frame in which you get your calories and the rest of your day is spent doing other things. Once you’ve gotten used to the fact that food isn’t always available, it stops being your go-to solution when you feel stressed.
Note: This doesn’t mean that general fat loss rules like calories in vs calories out don’t apply to intermittent fasting. If you want to burn fat safely and permanently, combine IF with the tips in Eating For Fat Loss – A Comprehensive Guide.
Is Intermittent Fasting Safe?
Fasting is basically the process of not eating food for certain periods of time. There’s nothing inherently dangerous about it as long as you don’t go overboard.
Having said that, people with pre-existing medical conditions should always consult a doctor before trying a nutrition plan. Also, there is some evidence that IF may affect women differently than men. Ladies, check with your doctor just to be safe.
In case I haven’t already made it clear, I believe that intermittent fasting is one of the best ways to eat.
I’ve known about it long before it became a trend. I was first introduced to the concept by a book called The Warrior Diet back in 2010. And while I haven’t constantly practiced it, I often return to it because it makes eating healthy ridiculously easy. As I’m writing this post, I’ve been following the 16/8 method for over 2 months.
Whether you want to burn fat, build muscle, or maintain your body weight, you can do it with IF. Try it out and see how it goes. If you find that a different eating schedule works better for you, that’s fine. Intermittent fasting is not the only path to staying healthy.
TIl next time, stay on the grind.