Hello friends, and welcome to this month’s Joyinmovement newsletter,
Have you heard of intermittent fasting? Have you tried it?
I’ve been practicing intermittent fasting for at least 5 years. Over the years I’ve briefly mentioned it. I get many many questions about it as it’s become more popular in the media. So this month I’m devoting a whole newsletter to the topic…….let’s dig in!
As I mentioned, intermittent fasting has hit the mainstream. Its proponents claim that it causes more rapid weight loss than other approaches, that it makes dieting easier, and that it improves blood glucose control and blood lipid levels.
What Is Intermittent Fasting?
Fasting in general is a pretty simple idea: for a certain period of time, you don’t eat. With intermittent fasting you break up your fasting periods with eating periods.
This idea is actually nothing new. Historically humans have fasted during sleep, during times of famine or scarce food, and for spiritual reasons. And modern science has been studying the effects of intermittent fasting since 1946.
What’s new is that the research on the potential benefits of occasional fasting is beginning to catch up with this practice. Most of this research has been done on animals, though human research is on the rise.
How To Practice Intermittent Fasting?
There are many approaches. The most popular and most studied seem to be the alternate day fasts and the extended morning fasts. Let’s briefly look at some of the different techniques!
1. Alternate Day Fasting (36-hour fast, 12 hour feed)
With this idea you eat every other day. As an example, on Monday you’d eat within a 12 hour window, say 8 AM to 8 PM and then fast overnight on Monday, all day on Tuesday and overnight Tuesday as well. Then eat on Wednesday and so on.
2. Meal Skipping (random fast and feed cycles)
This technique models how our ancestors ate. This idea also includes eating unprocessed “evolution-friendly” foods (Paleo diet style) and randomly cycling your caloric intake and skipping breakfast or dinner once or twice a week. The rules are very flexible!
3. Eat, Stop, Eat (24 hour fast, one or two times per week)
You would fast for 24 hours once or twice per week and eat sensibly the rest of the week. You can choose whichever 24 hours you want, fasting from breakfast to breakfast, or dinner to dinner, for example.
4. Leangains (16 hour fast, 8 hour feed)
With this technique you have an 8 hour feeding period followed by a 16 hour fast. There are a few food and workout rules as well. The fast begins every evening and lasts until the following lunchtime and repeats every day.
5. Warrior Diet (20 hour fast, 4 hour feed)
You fast, or eat very lightly, for 20 hours each day. Then you eat your daily food intake within a 4 hour feeding window. Most people place this 4 hour eating window at the end of their day.
As you read through these different variations on intermittent fasting, don’t focus on their differences. Take a look and ask yourself what’s SIMILAR! You’ll find they’re all variations on a single theme.
Frequently asked questions:
1. Will fasting like this cause muscle loss? Probably not. As long as you get adequate protein and include resistance training, you should maintain muscle mass.
2. Can I drink coffee or tea during a fast? Yes! And drink as much water as you want.
3. Should pregnant or nursing mothers try intermittent fasting? Probably not. It’s more important you eat enough nourishing foods to meet both yours and your baby’s needs.
4. Should I train before or after eating? In other words, should you train in a fasted or fed state? There seem to be advocates for both. I suggest you talk to your trainer about this and see what they suggest. Or try both, and see if you feel the difference. Fasting and training work best when individualized!
Here’s What I Do!
After trying a few different approaches, here’s what works for me. After about 8 pm each night I stop eating and don’t start again until 10-11 AM the following day. I do this every day. I feel my hunger arise and know it’s time to eat. It works for me.
Because I started this 5 years ago and did not know whether I would continue the practice, I didn’t take before and after blood tests. So in a sense, I’m hedging my bets and feeling that down the road research will prove the benefits of intermittent fasting. In the meantime, my evidence is anecdotal. I feel great, am fit and trim, and have plenty of energy throughout the day both in mind and body to live the life I enjoy.
In the end, intermittent fasting appears to be one potential helpful dietary approach. Remember though, it is not the holy grail for weight loss or health improvements for all. The best approach still comes down to building consistently healthy habits, eating nourishing foods, and finding what works for you!
Until next month, may your Joyinmovement flourish,
P.S. If you’d like help working through your own nutritional plans, please contact me. http://www.shellistein.com/nutrition/