What is intermittent fasting?
Intermittent fasting is simply a pattern of eating, consisting on a period of fasting (not eating anything), followed by a period of eating. For some people, intermittent fasting is something they are already doing without even realizing it.
Keep in mind that intermittent fasting is a not a diet. This means that you should still be aware of what you are eating, tracking your macros and micro nutrients, depending on your fitness and health goals. The only difference is the timing of your meals: not what you eat but when you eat.
However, intermittent fasting can be a very helpful tool that can help you achieve your goals, specially if you’re trying to burn fat and lose weight, but it can also help if you want to keep your muscle mass while getting lean.
I know all this sounds too good and simple to be true, but there is plenty of research showing the benefits of intermittent fasting, and if you don’t believe me you can try it yourself and see the results. With that said, keep in mind that intermittent fasting is not a magical formula to follow, and it is not necessarily the best option for everyone. Each body is different, and there are different aspects to consider before trying to intermittent fast. This will be covered further in this article.
Types of Intermittent Fasting
As I mentioned before, Intermittent Fasting consists of a period of fasting followed by a period of eating. This can be done in different ways, meaning there’s several methods of intermittent fasting. This article is mainly based on the 16/8 method, which is one of the most popular ways to do intermittent fasting. The other methods wont be covered in depth but are still worth mentioning. The following are some of the most popular methods:
- The 16/8 method: Consists of fasting for 16 hours out of the 24 hours in a day. This means there is an 8 hour window where you can fit your meals. This method is the favorite for most people since it fells more natural to implement and is easier to get used to. I will be explaining more about this method on the “How to do Intermittent Fasting” section of this article.
- Full day fasting (Eat stop eat): With this method you don’t consume any food during a 24 hour period, and it is usually done one to three times a week. This method is particularly useful for those trying to lose weight fast since you’ll be consuming less calories during the week. This applies if you eat normally on the non-fasting days. The main problem with this method is that it is harder for most people to not eat anything for such a long period of time.
- The warrior diet: This is a daily fasting method, similar to the 16/8, except with this method you can eat small amounts of fruits and vegetables during a 20 hour fasting period, followed by a (usually big) meal at night during a 4 hour window.
How to do Intermittent Fasting
It is pretty easy to start doing intermittent fasting, but there are some things to consider before doing it.
The first thing is that you don’t need to go all-in at first. This means that you can start with a 12 hour fasting period, and progress to a 16 hour period as you get used to it.
What I recommend, and what most people usually do, is to eat your first meal at 2:00 p.m., your second meal four hours later (6:00 p.m.) and your final meal at 10:00 p.m., completing your 8 hour eating period. After that, you shouldn’t eat until it’s 2:00 p.m. of the next day, and start over. This schedule is the one I find easier to follow because I don’t have to go to bed feeling hungry, which I find very hard. However, if you don’t have a problem with that and you feel like you prefer to start your eating period earlier or later, there’s no problem as long as you respect the 16 hour fast, followed by the eight hour eating period.
Benefits of Intermittent Fasting
When I first started to do Intermittent Fasting, I did it simply for the practicality of it. I didn’t need to spend too much time in the kitchen preparing a lot of meals, plus it was easier to control my calorie intake. As I kept on going and seeing the results, I also found more information on the other benefits of Intermittent Fasting.
Here are the benefits that I found most important:
- Easier to avoid calorie surplus: This is one of the most obvious benefits, and might be the main reason of why you chose to do intermittent fasting. If you want to lose weight or if you’re only trying to burn that extra fat, you need to be on a calorie deficit. This means that you should eat less calories than your body consumes daily. With intermittent fasting, it is harder to eat a big amount of calories when you have a limited amount of time to eat (usually eight hours). This means that you have a little more freedom to eat without worrying too much about getting extra calories. However, this doesn’t mean that you should eat whatever you want even if it’s unhealthy.
- More enjoyable meals: This is related to the previous point. Instead of eating several small meals throughout the day, you get to eat three bigger and more enjoyable meals during the eating period.
- Lower blood insulin levels (increased fat burning): The periods of fasting contribute in lowering the levels of insulin in your blood, which in turn contributes in decreasing fat storage and promotes the use of stored fat as energy.
- Increase in growth hormone production: It has been shown that intermittent fasting can increase the levels of growth hormone (HGH) in your body. The advantages are that HGH increases muscle gains and fat loss. HGH is also linked with longevity.
- Easier to track macros: If you are trying to track the nutrients in the food you eat during the day, it is much easier to do so while tracking three big meals instead of six smaller meals.
Disadvantages of Intermittent Fasting
I have mentioned all the good things about Intermittent Fasting, but I should also mention some of its possible disadvantages.
- Discomfort while fasting: It might be hard to go through 16 hours with nothing to eat. Some people might get into a bad mood, others might feel tired, but that is why you should ease your way into it. As I mentioned before, start with shorter periods of fasting and then move your way up to 16 hours. Also drink coffee or tea to help with appetite.
- Harder to reach calorie surplus: This was mentioned before as a benefit of intermittent fasting, but it can also be a disadvantage for people who are trying to bulk or gain weight. It can get really hard to reach that calorie surplus in such a short period of time.
- It is not for everybody: Intermittent fasting is not a magical way of eating that is going to work for everybody. It should only be seen as a tool to help you lose that extra weight or gaining lean muscle. If you are already doing something else that is working for you, and you feel intermittent fasting is not something practical for you, then you shouldn’t do it.
Is there anything I can eat during the fasting period?
You shouldn’t be eating anything during the fasting period. This is the reason some people find it very difficult, and it is why I recommend to start with a shorter fasting period. However, you can drink water, coffee, tea or other non-sweetened or low calorie drinks. In fact, drinking coffee or black tea is very helpful for dealing with the feeling of hunger, due to the appetite suppressant effects of caffeine, plus it gives you that extra boost that we all like.