If you’re even remotely interested in fitness, weight loss and healthy eating then you must have heard of the term ‘intermittent fasting’. While fasting in itself is not a new concept by any means since people have been fasting for religious reasons for centuries, the reason intermittent fasting has gained popularity is because of its incredibly positive effect on weight loss.
*Consult your doctor and a certified dietitian before starting intermittent fasting, especially if you suffer from any illnesses or diseases like diabetes.
What is Intermittent Fasting and why it works?
Intermittent fasting is a diet plan where you cycle between periods of eating and fasting. The reasoning behind intermittent fasting is that your body is designed to transition between two states: Fed and Fasted.
When it’s fed, insulin increases signaling your body to store excess calories in your fat cells. In this state, the body burns glucose to get its required energy and stores the rest as fat without using any of the fat already reserved in the body. In the fasted state, insulin stays low triggering the body to start using the stored body fat from your fat cells for energy resulting in fat burn and ultimately weight loss.
Essentially, fat burn only occurs in the fasted state, while fat gain occurs in the fed state.
Fasting is actually a form of exercise - it's a metabolic workout.
Top 5 Methods of Intermittent Fasting
12-hour Fasting – This is the shortest fasting duration and good for beginners. After your meal, fast for 12 hours before your next meal. A good start is through taking advantage of the natural overnight fast by eating breakfast as late as possible
Example: If you had your dinner at 8 p.m., the next meal will be breakfast at 8 a.m.
16-hour Fasting (Leangains Diet) –This involves fasting for 16 hours then eating all your calories in an 8-hour window. How many meals you eat in this 8-hour period is up to you, although low-calorie consumption will be helpful in weight loss. You can also snack inside your eating window.
Example: If you had your lunch at 2 pm, you will have 8 hours of eating period during which you can either have an evening snack around 6 pm and dinner around 10 pm. Your next meal will be at 2 pm the next day.
20-hour Fasting – Also known as “The Warrior Diet”, it consists of fasting during the majority of the day and consuming all your calories in the evening. It involves a 20:4 hour split.
Example: Eat one big meal in the evening and fast for the next 20 hours.
24-hour Fasting – It is essentially a one-meal-a-day diet. You fast from breakfast to breakfast, lunch to lunch, or dinner to dinner according to your preference.
Example: Eat breakfast at 9 a.m. on day 1 then the next meal will be 9 a.m. on day 2.
The 5:2 Fasting Diet – This diet was popularised by Dr. Michael Mosley in his book ‘The Fast Diet’. It involves five days of normal eating with two low-calorie fast days.
Example: Keep your meals low in carbs and high in fat. The two fast days can be done consecutively or spaced out between normal eating days.
What should you eat
Although intermittent fasting does not require counting calories, it is still best if you eat a healthy diet designed for weight loss to get the maximum benefit out of your efforts. The best diet is the Low Carb High Fat diet. Also known as Ketogenic diet. This makes fasting easier as it naturally adapts the body to become used to the mobilization of fat instead of glucose for energy and lowering of insulin secretion.
If you do eat carbs, make sure they mostly consist of fiber, as they are indigestible and does not elevate glucose and insulin. If you do eat digestible carbohydrates, however, never eat them early in the day, as it will lead to fat storage and sabotage fat burning a lot, as well as setting you on a blood sugar and hunger roller coaster.
For a keto diet, split in daily calorie intake as follows:
5% carbohydrate or <20-50g
Keto diet is particularly beneficial to those with diabetes as it improves insulin sensitivity, reducing the need for insulin and controlling blood sugar levels. For diabetics, do any diet only under the strict guidance of your doctor.
Good Food : Meat, Green Leafy Vegetables, Eggs & Dairy, Cheese, Oils, Nuts and Seeds, Avocados, Cauliflower, Berries, Non-green veggies, Diet Soda, Tea/Coffee (unsweetened), Water
Bad Food : Bread, Pasta, Rice, Starches (Potatoes, etc.), Sugar, Corn, Wheat, High Flour, Legumes, Beans, Fruit (except some berries), Soda
A good goal is 24 hours per week of fasting.
Side Effects of Intermittent Fasting
There are some side effects to Intermittent Fasting as well which include:
1. Mood swings,
2. Fatigue, difficulty in concentration, and dizziness
3. It may lead to an increase in cortisol, the stress hormones leading to more stress. High cortisol is also linked to fat storage which isn’t ideal for weight loss.
4. Some people may go into a calorie deficit state leading to hair loss.
Breaking the myths of fasting
• Feel free to take any vitamins or supplements while fasting as long as they don’t have calories.
• Don’t worry about losing muscle. It’s fine as long as you eat adequate protein before and after fasting.
• You won’t lose muscle as long as you exercise regularly especially with resistance training like weight training.
Intermittent Fasting for Gym Goers
While intermittent fasting is mainly a diet for those with sedentary lifestyles, it doesn’t mean that gym goers can’t take advantage of it. According to a research by American College of Sports Medicine (ACSM), people who exercise for an hour a day require a daily intake of 0.8-1g of protein per kilogram of their body weight.
If you do weight training and cardio, this figure goes up to 1.2g per kilogram of body weight. So if your weight is 80kg and you do a basic split routine (concentrating on two body parts a day) plus some cardio, you need 80g of protein a day. And if you’re trying to bulk up, you need almost 100g of protein per day.
The best fasting method for gym goers is the 16-hour fasting (Leangains) as mentioned above.
The main goal of these fasting methods is to skip breakfast, avoid snacking, and lower calorie consumption.
Once you’ve adapted adequately, intermittent fasting is actually fun, easy, enjoyable, and oddly liberating—while also making you thinner and healthier!