The Deal with Intermittent Fasting
If you’ve caught me at the gym for any period of time, you know I love to talk about nutrition. Give me more than 60 seconds, and you’ll probably get my spiel on intermittent fasting (IF). After many desperate attempts to find an eating lifestyle that would not only help me with my short term goals, but that would be sustainable for me in the long term, I landed on giving IF a go.
So what exactly is intermittent fasting?
Allow me to give an oversimplification: intermittent fasting is cycling between fasted and non-fasted periods. In a normal 24-hour day, we wake up and eat breakfast around, say, 7:00 AM. And eat all the way through your pre-bedtime snack around 9:00 PM. This traditional way of eating has a 10 hour fasted period (when we sleep, and the time awake before breakfast) and 14 hour “feeding” window (also known as, a traditional American workday). Even simpler, feeding = eating, fasted = zero calorie consumption. With an intermittent fasting model, a general schedule may have a 16 hour fasted period with an 8 hour feeding window, or a 14 hour fasted period with a 10 hour feeding window, or a 12 hour fasted period with a 12 hour feeding window, and so on and so forth, until you discover your fasting/feeding sweet spot.
I’ve never really been a breakfast person (do not @ me), and I prefer my coffee black; so shortening my feeding window made eating in a deficit in order to achieve my short term goal feel so much less restrictive. In my previous attempts, I was spreading my allotted calories over a typical feeding window (a 14 hour day) and was always starving. So when it came to shortening my window, I found having coffee “for breakfast” and maintaining satiation over 8 hours a much better system for me.
Okay, and what is the big deal?
Firstly, IF is not for everyone. And that’s okay. If you type into the Google machine “what is intermittent fasting”, you will surely get a myriad of mixed reviews. My nutrition journey led me to IF by way of trial, error, and a willingness to explore corners of my nutrition under the guidance of a nutrition coach and my neurotic way of investigating. But in the interest of giving more context, here are a few of the benefits of IF (you can also read about one scientist’s straightforward experiment with IF here):
- Provides mental benefits: ketone bodies are released into the bloodstream while fasted – creating fuel for the brain and mental clarity
- Boosts adenosine levels: improving your sleep quality, increasing energy levels, and requiring less sleep in general
- Offers rejuvenation: solid, youthful boosts! Promotes autophagy so you’re left with strong, thriving components of cells
- Increases the amount of immune system stem cells: allowing your immune system regenerate and flourish
- Gets insulin levels get back down to baseline: giving your body a chance to recover
- Resets your gut biome: promoting digestive health after each fast
- Lowers level of myocytes in the blood: which reduces inflammation
- Promotes fat loss: your body is stressed in a fasted state which triggers adrenaline and starts the fat burning process, fasting kickstarts lipolysis
While this all may sound like a dreamy cure-all, remember that every body is different — and what works for me may not work for you. To balance it out, here are some of the drawbacks to IF that you should take into consideration:
- You get hungry! Increasing the length of time you have to go in between feeding periods will certainly make you hungry (hangry?)
- Your cortisol levels elevate while fasted (cortisol + food = fat storage), making IF a somewhat controversial option for women; so you have to be strategic about how you break your fasts
- You may get cold while fasting because blood flow is going to fat tissues to convert from adipose to visceral fat tissue (which gets burned)
- You may get headaches, but these are not your typical hypoglycemia (throbbing) headaches, rather they are a dull, constant headaches as pain receptors readjust to lower glucose levels
- You may experience bloating as your gut biome is changing and adjusting over the first few weeks
- You may experience sleeplessness due to increased adrenaline and low levels of orexin
- You may develop an eating disorder or slow your metabolism if approached carelessly. Even though you’re eating for a short window, it’s imperative you still fuel your body with the appropriate amount of calories and nutrients it needs to thrive. It is also important to note that a focused eating lifestyle can trigger an obsessive behavior — so my topmost advice is to not approach this process/lifestyle transition alone.
Regardless of what nutrition methodologies you adapt into your lifestyle, moderation and consistency over long periods of time is the key to overall health and wellness success. There is no long-term solution that is fast (even though it’s in the name). If you’re curious about whether intermittent fasting is right for you, let’s set up a time to talk. Whether you’re the next IF ambassador, or you decide it’s not sustainable for you, discovering these nutritional paths is best done with a coach by your side, and I’m here to help. You can set up a quick, free intro session with me here!