The current health and nutrition buzzwords are – “Intermittent Fasting”!
There might be many crazy stories on the Internet about Celebrities following Intermittent Fasting and achieving desired fitness goals, like Hugh Jackman who had to gain lean muscle for The Wolverine.
But you are skeptical.
Over the last 4 months, I’ve tried a few patterns of Intermittent fasting.
- The minimum time period of my fasting was 1 week and maximum – 3 weeks. However experts suggest that you try a pattern for 3 months before you feel it’s making any difference.
- There were some that just did not suit my lifestyle, my body needs and even my mind!
- Only one form of intermittent fasting worked very well for my overall being.
- In this blog am writing nothing more than the various methods of intermittent fasting that are up for your understanding and trial. I’ve covered research on Intermittent Fasting as well.
DISCLAIMER & HEALTH WARNING
If you have existing health issues, it’s best to consult with your doctor or health care professional first before doing Intermittent Fasting. In addition, it may not be a good idea to try Intermittent Fasting if you have gastric, fatigue, hormonal imbalances, and if you’re nursing or planning to get pregnant.
You have to find out which method works for you! I cannot recommend a particular Intermittent fasting method for you since, as we all know, each body is different!
What is Intermittent Fasting & how it works?
- Intermittent Fasting is not a DIET, it is PATTERN of EATING. It is all about SCHEDULING your meal time. It doesn’t change WHAT you eat but rather WHEN you eat.
- Put simply, anyone who goes through Intermittent Fasting follows a certain cycle of fasting and eating.
- While most diets will recommend specific types of food to eat, Intermittent Fasting helps you accomplish health and fitness goals by recommending how often you should eat.
There are many methods of Intermittent Fasting, I have listed down some widely used:
16/8 Method [Lean gain]
In this method, you eat your first meal right after the 16-hour fast. Also called the Leangains protocol (click on this link to know more this form of fasting in detail), it involves skipping breakfast and restricting your daily eating period to 8 hours. Your 2 meals could be 12 noon & 8 pm and then 16 hours of fasting. You can choose your own timings.
Aside from the eating schedule, Lean Gains also recommends a protein-centered diet, carb cycling, a structured exercise regimen complemented with fasted training, and consuming more calories during workout days.
Did it work for me?
NO! Skipping breakfast is not my thing! I look forward to a morning making my brekka, solving my word puzzles in the newspaper and sipping my coffee! Didn’t go with my mindset!
2X24/Week Method [Eat Stop Eat]
This involves fasting for 24 hours, once or twice a week [minimum once]. Whether it’s once or twice a week, the premise here is to fast for 24 hours. For instance, you have brunch at 11 am today and start eating the same time again tomorrow. The meal time – you can decide. You can also fast from breakfast to breakfast, or lunch to lunch. You could have water, coffee and other non-caloric beverages during the fast, but no solid food.
Did it work for me?
NO! Because I work out 6 days a week and cannot survive on water and coffee for two days a week! This is great for people who would like to loose weight with no patience. I can tell you that this fast is extremely tough. I suggest – you start with 14-16 hours and then move towards a full day fast.
The 5:2 Diet
On two non-consecutive days of the week, only eat 500-600 calories. Eat normally the other 5 days. There is no restriction on what you eat on the reaming 5 days, for the 2 days you need to count calories. This diet is made famous by lots of celebrities.
I didn’t try this.
Alternate Day Fasting
Alternate day fasting recommends that you fast every other day. Assuming you’d fast overnight on Monday and all day on Tuesday – You’d eat again on Tuesday 8 pm, do your usual eating pattern all day on Wednesday, and repeat the same 24 hour-fast by Wednesday 8 pm.
People with planned fitness regimes will not like this kind of fast! Working professionals also will not be able to cope up with this fast. This is a tough fast and if at all you should do it – please keep it limited to a period of max 1 month. Again – remember to build up this kind of intermittent fasting by doing the 14-16 hours fasting.
The only method that worked for me were – 12:12 (fast for 12 hours and eat for another 12).
This made me feel light, energetic, ensured an early dinner and kept me very disciplined about my food habits. Within two weeks I was feeling full of energy, sleeping better, and working out even better. It did not disrupt my life style, I enjoyed my breakfast even more, ate lighter dinner. It did require discipline in terms of less socialising in the night – But am perfectly Ok with that for at least 5 days a week!
Intermittent Fasting & things you should know:
Insulin Sensitivity (and benefits of intermittent fasting)
As you know Insulin helps keeps your blood sugar level from getting too high or too low (hypoglycemia). And studies have shown 20+ hours of fasting period increases insulin sensitivity.
Eating way too often, too much, or too poorly can make your body less sensitive (insulin resistance) to insulin’s effects, don’t forget Diabetics.
As Intermittent Fasting increases your insulin sensitivity, you get some benefits:
- Your body becomes less resistant to insulin, which in turn helps prevent storage of excess glucose as fat. This is good news if you’re currently working to lose fat mass (and gain lean body mass later on).
- Low triglyceride levels, (liver produces triglycerides that are stored into existing body fat for later, just in case you’ll need them for energy in the future) (resulting from increased insulin sensitivity) is associated with reduced risk of coronary disease. Research cardiologists at the Intermountain Medical Center Heart Institute have already confirmed this benefit in relation to fasting.
Role of Exercise
We all have heard or read, its common advice to eat at least something before a workout. However, advocates of Intermittent Fasting also recommend a regular exercise regimen to achieve desired fitness goals. In a 2014 abstract presented at the Journal of the International Society of Sports Nutrition annual conference, an intermittent fasting protocol (closely similar to the Lean Gains protocol) resulted in a decrease in fat mass as well as body weight when paired with resistance/strength training.
Endurance athletes seem to benefit from Intermittent Fasting too. Fasted training has been shown to boost glycogen and it gets replenished in the muscles faster, allowing for more activity and exertion. Cyclists who fast have also been shown to have increased power-to-weight ratios.
Impact on Metabolism (VERY IMPORTANT)
We have been told before that eating three square meals or six meals a day will boost your metabolism? It turns out that increased meal frequency has no direct impact to body composition, particularly if you don’t exercise regularly. Does that mean that fasting, the opposite of eating frequently, can boost metabolism? Not necessarily. In fact, metabolism may be slowed down during fasting as a means of conserving energy.
A good summary of the metabolic benefits/lack of benefits recently appeared in a blog post discussing Alan Aragon’s 2015 article Intermittent fasting: After over a decade of research, where are we today?
In his analysis, the author concludes the following:
- Intermittent Fasting is effective for reducing markers associated with low body fat and has demonstrated superiority to other diet regimens
- There is no metabolic advantage involved in Intermittent Fasting effectiveness
- Muscle gain may be possible in Intermittent Fasting, but any gains may not be optimal
- There is no significant difference in the results among popular Intermittent Fasting methods and all have demonstrated effectiveness
Is Intermittent Fasting for me?
Now the logical question, Is Intermittent Fasting is for me?
While the practice of Intermittent Fasting has been widely accepted and praised for its benefits, there are some that report that Intermittent Fasting may be detrimental in some cases, particularly in women’s health.
The impact of Intermittent Fasting on women’s health is still up for debate as there are also women who report that they too have reaped the benefits of IF. IF for Women article by the Precision Nutrition team is worth checking out.
If you want to try something new and want to try it out, go for it, choose the method that you feel you can practice. While you’re doing Intermittent Fasting, track your meals and progress. Record what you feel during and after the fast.
My unsolicited suggestion always – DO NOT STARVE YOURSELF! Keep trying till you figure what works for you in the long term! Exercise, eat less, eat everything you like, control your portions, regular medical check ups, Stay the course of health – mind and body included!