Intermittent fasting is a type of eating pattern in which you have periods of eating and fasting throughout the day. The usual goal is to control calorie intake or weight loss, but there are more benefits to it.
The purpose of it is to ensure a calorie deficit by having less and shorter eating periods throughout the day. This calorie deficit leads to fat loss when the food eaten during eating periods is nutritious and low in calories.
I have done it myself when I felt that I’ve overeaten the day before or even on the same day. I fill up with water or coffee or both. This is because I count my calories.
The Challenges of Intermittent Fasting
The challenges of intermittent fasting in the beginning are difficult, but most are temporary such as:
- Hunger pangs are normal in the beginning, but they subsides as your body adapts.
- You will feel weak and inattentive as your body adapts to the new eating schedule.
You must ensure that you consult a medical professional before any diet changes that you take, especially if you have underlying health conditions like diabetes, blood pressure or underweight etc.
Health Benefits of Intermittent Fasting
- Weight loss: since you’re in a calorie deficit throughout the day and by the end of the week, it leads to your weight loss.
- Heart health: it can reduce blood triglycerides (blood fat), cholesterol and blood sugar, which reduces chances of heart diseases.
- Brain health: it improves brain functioning and awareness.
Intermittent Fasting Methods
16/8 Method: The method in which you fast for 16 hours and eat in an 8 hour period. Try waking up, not eating breakfast and start eating from 1-2 pm to 9-10 pm. This way you ensure you’ve got energy to use during most of the day and prevent sleeping hungry.
The 24-Hour Fast: This method involves fasting for 24 hours. 1-2 days during the week which you decide to eat all your meals on the one day. You will only eat again the next day on the last meal time. I.e. fasting from the end of dinner of the previous evening and only eating again at dinner the following evening.
How to Start
- Decide what method you’ll be using. There are more methods out there which could work for you other than these 2. I recommend starting with the 16/8 method since it is easier.
- Decide the time or time period you’ll be eating to ensure that it can be achieved daily. Consistency is more important than anything in achieving your fitness goals. I recommend fasting from the morning until lunch time. You have your eating period for the next 8 hours from that time. E.g. fasting from 9pm to 1pm the following day and eating between 1-9pm of that day.
- Meal prep is important, because planning and knowing what you’ll be eating every day will ensure that you are not searching for scraps to put together. You will prevent hunger this way too. Not preparing meals in advance can lead to binge eating on fast food which kills the purpose of you being in the fast anyway. Meal prep can be done any time, I recommend Sunday as it is usually where you have the most time.
- Repeat – Work hard, be patient and consistent because this is how you will ensure the effectiveness of it.
How to Make the Most Out of It
There are many ways to make the most out of your fasting, there are hunger pangs that you’d have to get through in the beginning because you’re not eating.
- Drink non-caloric beverages like water and coffee (you can add a bit of sugar and milk for your taste, even though they may add a bit of calories to your drink). They are appetite suppressants and can ensure that you’re not too hungry when you’re going to eat.
- Keeping yourself busy is another way to ensure that you do not feel the hunger pangs. When you’re too focused on what you’re doing to worry about your stomach.
- During the period that you’re eating, you should try reach a calorie or macros target to see the best results. Don’t overextend yourself on being in a calorie deficit or surplus as this can lead to bad eating behavior. E.g. being too hungry the next morning causing binge eating or feeling bad due to overeating etc.
- Sleeping enough allows for the fast to feel a lot shorter and also ensures that your progress made in nutrition and training can be achieved. During sleep, hormones are released that enhance fat loss and muscle gain. Sleeping at least 7 hours will ensure that you’ve completed 7 hours of your fast and have x-7 hours to go!
- Working out is another way to maximize your fasting results because your body will look to burn whatever is in your body while you working out. The usual case would be fat burn if there’s no contents in your digestive system. Working out can also kill time and have the same effects of being busy. You will feel hunger a bit, no lie, but that’s what the water or coffee is for.
Should You Do Intermittent Fasting?
You’ve probably fasted before in your life, I know that I have intentionally and unintentionally. Having dinner and a late night, then end up sleeping in late to wake up and only eat lunch midday as the first meal, is a kind of intermittent fasting. It is not a very healthy one because of the late night.
Whether it is for you is a question only you can answer, because that is the most important thing to acknowledge. Don’t do it because someone says you must and again, before you try any change in nutrition that you’re not used to, consult a physician/doctor, especially if you have a health condition.