One of the big buzz words/concepts circulating in the fitness industry right now is Intermittent Fasting. It’s a practice that has been around since biblical times, but only recently is it being talked about so much. IF is used by athletes, body builders, and people wanting to lose weight, but the benefits go way beyond weight loss and improved muscle mass. Most of us have probably been told to never skip breakfast. In fact, When I was getting certified as a personal trainer 16 years ago, there was always a strong emphasis on NOT skipping meals, especially breakfast. However, over the past few years, I’ve been reading more and more about IF and how incredibly beneficial this lifestyle can be for the body. After doing it myself for about a year, I’ve decided that I LOVE it and want to help you see if it could be a good fit for you as well.
What is it?
Quite simply., Intermittent fasting is an eating pattern where you cycle between periods of eating and fasting. It is NOT a diet although you should be mindful of eating plenty of protein, healthy fats and fiber when you are eating your meals.
Numerous studies show that it can have powerful benefits for your body and brain. I have found IF to be a great body hack which keeps your body in fat burning mode at any age. There are so many benefits to incorporate this lifestyle. Here are 10 of my faves!!
1. Intermittent Fasting Increases Human Growth Hormone and helps your body stay younger.
One the BEST thing that occurs when fasting is that your body produces more Human Growth Hormone. This is extremely important as it helps your body stay younger longer, increases your energy levels, helps your body build lean muscle, helps with post workout recovery and improves sports performance. Instead of spending time digesting food, your body will be able to produce more HGH. In fact, HGH production can increase 5 fold when IF. Couple it with HIIT and weight training (while fasted) and your HGH production can increase by 1000%. Yes please!!!
2. Intermittent Fasting Can Help You Lose Weight and Belly Fat
Many people who try intermittent fasting are doing it in order to lose weight.
Generally speaking, intermittent fasting will make you eat fewer meals. I usually eat 2 meals and a snack or 2 during my fed window which inevitably decreases my calorie consumption for the day. Additionally, intermittent fasting enhances hormone function to facilitate weight loss.
Lower insulin levels, higher growth hormone levels and increased amounts of norepinephrine (noradrenaline) all increase the breakdown of body fat and facilitate its use for energy.
For this reason, short-term fasting actually increases your metabolic rate by 3.6-14%, helping you burn even more calories
In other words, intermittent fasting works on both sides of the calorie equation. It boosts your metabolic rate (increases calories out) and reduces the amount of food you eat (reduces calories in).
All things considered, intermittent fasting can be an incredibly powerful weight loss tool.
3. Intermittent Fasting Reduces Insulin Resistance Lowering Your Risk of Type 2 Diabetes
Type 2 diabetes has become incredibly common in recent decades.
Its main feature is high blood sugar levels in the context of insulin resistance.
Anything that reduces insulin resistance should help lower blood sugar levels and protect against type 2 diabetes.
What this implies, is that intermittent fasting may be highly protective for people who are at risk of developing type 2 diabetes.
4. Intermittent Fasting Can Reduce Inflammation in The Body
Studies show that intermittent fasting can help fight inflammation, another key driver of all sorts of common diseases
5. Intermittent Fasting May be Beneficial For Heart Health
Heart disease is currently the world's biggest killer.It is known that various "risk factors" are associated with either an increased or decreased risk of heart disease.
Intermittent fasting has been shown to improve numerous different risk factors, including blood pressure, total and LDL cholesterol, blood triglycerides, inflammatory markers and blood sugar levels.
6. Intermittent Fasting Induces Various Cellular Repair Processes
When we fast, the cells in the body initiate a cellular "waste removal" process called autophagy
This involves the cells breaking down and metabolizing broken and dysfunctional proteins that build up inside cells over time.
Increased autophagy may provide protection against several diseases, including cancer and Alzheimer's disease
7. Intermittent Fasting May Help Prevent Cancer
Cancer is a terrible disease, characterized by uncontrolled growth of cells.
Fasting has been shown to have several beneficial effects on metabolism that may lead to reduced risk of cancer.
Although human studies are needed, substantial evidence from animal studies indicates that intermittent fasting may help prevent cancer
There is also some evidence on human cancer patients, showing that fasting reduced various side effects of chemotherapy.
8. Intermittent Fasting is Good For Your Brain
What is good for the body is often good for the brain as well.
Intermittent fasting improves various metabolic features known to be important for brain health. This includes reduced oxidative stress, reduced inflammation and a reduction in blood sugar levels and insulin resistance.
Several studies in rats have shown that intermittent fasting may increase the growth of new nerve cells, which should have benefits for brain function.
It also increases levels of a brain hormone called brain-derived neurotrophic factor (BDNF). When BDNF is lacking, depression and other brain problems has been known to occur.
9. Intermittent Fasting Regulates the Hormones Leptin and Ghrelin
When hormones in your body are not balanced, a plethara of problems exist. Most noteable are the hormones Leptin and Ghrelin. Ghrelin, also known as the Hunger Hormone, tells your body it hungry. If it is not balanced, you will feel hungry all the time. IF helps diminish that hunger hormone.
Likewise, IF also balances Leptin which is the hormone that tells your body whether to burn or store fat. Keep it balanced, and your body will be a fat burner and not a fat storer.
10. Intermittent Fasting helps with Detoxification
One of the greatest benefits of doing IF is that your body has the ability to detoxfiy much faster since it doesn't need to spend its energy digesting food. This gives the liver more time to detox, your colon more time to cleanse, your lungs more time to filter, and your kidney's more time to balance out the fluids in your body.
Intermittent Fasting May Extend Your Lifespan, Helping You Live Longer
One of the most exciting applications of intermittent fasting may be its ability to extend lifespan.
Studies in rats have shown that intermittent fasting extends lifespan in a similar way as continuous calorie restriction.
In some of these studies, the effects were quite dramatic. In one of them, rats that fasted every other day lived 83% longer than rats who weren't fasted.
Although this is far from being proven in humans, intermittent fasting has become very popular among the anti-aging crowd.
Given the known benefits for metabolism and all sorts of health markers, it makes sense that intermittent fasting could help you live a longer and healthier life.
How to Do Intermittent Fasting
Intermittent fasting has been very popular for many years and several different methods have been used.
All of them involve splitting the day or week into "eating periods" and "fasting periods." During the fasting periods, you eat either very little or nothing at all.
These are the most popular methods:
- The 16/8 Method: Also called the lean gains protocol, involves skipping breakfast and restricting your daily eating period to 8 hours, for example from 11a.m to 7 pm. Then you "fast" for 16 hours in between. This is what I use and recommend as it is the easiest and most sustainable method. Just pushing breakfast back a few hours seems to be the easiest method.
- Eat-Stop-Eat: This involves fasting for 24 hours, once or twice a week, for example by not eating from dinner one day until dinner the next day.
- The 5:2 Diet: On two non-consecutive days of the week, only eat 500-600 calories. Eat normally the other 5 days.
By making you eat fewer calories, all of these methods should make you lose weight as long as you don't compensate by eating much more during the eating periods.
I've personally found the 16/8 method to be the simplest, most sustainable and easiest to stick to. It is also the most popular.
What should I eat when I breaking my fast?
This really depends on your goal.
- For overall health/longevity-bone broth/collagen, gelatin are great. I simply add some collagen to a smoothie
- Fat loss- MCT oil It basically primes the pump and tells the body what to use for fuel. If you break your fast with fat, you are telling your body to burn more fat.
- Muscle building - rice cake - it opens the cell to be more receptive to protein which is needed for building lean muscle.
I break my fast with super food coffee and something with protein, fat and carbs. Smoothies, a quinoa bowl, eggs, avocado and veggies. Ideally, you will eat a diet rich in protein, healthy fat and fiber.
Biggest Mistakes When IF
- Not getting enough healthy foods when you are in your eating window
- Adding creamers to your coffee during your fast. Black coffee only! You musn’t initiate a caloric response during your fasted state.
- Consuming BCAAs (it initiates an insulin spike and is considered breaking a fast.
- Not Getting enough water
Fasting promotes cell apoptosis which means cell death. When fasting, your body is working on cell regeneration. If you don’t have enough water, your body can’t rid itself properly of toxins.
- Not getting enough minerals
It’s important that you get enough salt, magnesium, potassium during your fed window.
Are you ready to get started with your healthy lifestyle? If you have any questions about IF, carb cycling or fitness, I would love to help. Did you know that I offer meal plans that do all the work for you? I give you a grocery list, tips for meal prep, ingredients lists and step by step instructions. In fact, the current 4 week plan that I'm using to help so many of my clients lose weight and feel great is NOW available to the public.
My meal plans will get you results. PERIOD!! Not only will they transform your body, but the meals are healthy, delicious, and keep you feeling satisfied. The worst diet is one that feels like a diet. I give plenty of healthy swaps that taste absolutely amazing!!! Check out my 4 week plan here.
Helping you love the body you live in,