Understanding Intermittent Fasting

As mentioned on my instagram account earlier this week, I want to talk a little bit about the basics of intermittent fasting. As of late you may have heard of it as this amazing new way to lose weight and get healthy. Lots of people on the internet and on social media have been raving about the incredible results they have gotten from it. It may come across as this amazing new fad diet that will surely run its course then fade away as so many other fad diets already have. In truth however, intermittent fasting or IF as we'll refer to it is anything but a fad diet. It has actually been around for thousands of years but its just over the past few years that we have started realizing the benefits of it. Generations ago, our ancestors didn't have 24/7 access to food. They were forced to hunt and gather for several hours and their food only lasted several hours before it was consumed or went bad. Hence they were confined to a specific window of the day where they could eat. With the advancement of civilization, food became more and more readily available to the point where we can now access food at any time of the day or night. This in turn has led to an increase in the prevalence of diseases such as diabetes, hypertension, high cholesterol or the so called "diseases of civilization." So what is IF exactly?

IF is a a type of cycled eating pattern that, as its name implies, alternates between periods of fasting and non-fasting. There are mainly 3 different types- alternate day fasting, the 5:2 method, and time restricted feeding otherwise known as the 16:8 method. Alternate day fasting involves fasting for a 24 hour period of time followed by a 24 hour non-fasting period. The 5:2 method comprises of complete fasting or modified fasting (limiting to 500-600 calories) during 2 out of the 7 days of the week. The 16:8 method, which I will describe in detail below, restricts eating to 8 hours during the 24 hours of the day. All of the methods work and are greatly beneficial but from my own personal experience, the 16:8 method is the most practical and easy to do.

So what exactly is the 16:8 method of IF? A mentioned above, the 16:8 method involves restricting all of your food intake to a set 8 hours in the day. This usually means eating all of your meals between noon and 8 pm or 11 am and 7 pm depending on when you wake up. During the fasting hours you can have anything that has no calories. Usually this will be beverages such as water, coffee or tea but like I said, it can be anything that doesn't contain calories. I personally like drinking lots and lots of water during my fasting hours. I will also usually add a couple cups of black coffee or tea. Occasionally I will have some green tea depending on how I feel. Remember, the coffee or tea has to be black with no sugar or cream/milk added otherwise it will defeat the purpose. The caffeine in the coffee and tea helps curb your appetite and also rev up your metabolism. I have found that during my fasting hours I actually have much more energy and my brain is much more focused and sharp. During the eating window you can basically eat as many meals as you want depending on the amount of calories that you want to stick to. I will discuss calories restriction for weight loss in a different post. Whether this is 2 big meals, 3 moderate meals or 4 small meals it doesn't matter as long as you stick to your eating window. IF allows you to have a bit more flexibility in what you eat especially when you are trying to lose weight. This means that you don't necessarily have to stick to a low carb, or low fat or really any specific type of diet or be ultra strict about what you eat. Having said that this doesn't mean you can stuff your face with junk food every day. Remember, weight loss still requires you to be at a caloric deficit and improving your body composition requires you to take in the appropriate macros. Generally though as long as you stick to a sensible diet during your eating window you will start seeing some great results. IF makes dieting a lot more fun and enjoyable.

To be successful at IF you do need to focus on a couple of things. First off, focus on the number of hours fasted, not the exact times when you eat. For instance, if your last meal was at midnight then you shouldn't eat until at least 3-4 pm the next day. If your last meal was at 8 pm then you shouldn't eat until 11 am or noon the next day. Secondly, set up your eating schedule so that you fast for at least 4-6 hours after you wake up. These are your peak hours where your metabolism increases and calories are burned. To give an example, on average I wake up around 6-7 am. My first meal is at about noon. I have a small meal around 3-4 pm. I workout about 6-7 pm and my last meal is at 8 -9 pm.

IF has been studied and has been shown to have multiple beneficial health effects such as protection against neuro-degenerative disease, decreased insulin levels, improved insulin sensitivity, reduced risk of heart disease, reduced blood pressure and cholesterol levels, increased metabolism, extended lifespan, reduced oxidative damage and inflammation, reduced leptin levels, decreased risk for cancer and improved mental focus. Hopefully this sheds some light and gives some answers to questions you may have about IF. On my instagram page I talked a bit about the science behind IF and I will again talk about it in a future blog post. Let me know if you have any more questions.

-The Soccer Doc

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