People tend to overhear fancy words thrown around fitness circles online, or in the gym, but not a lot of people know what intermittent fasting truly means. Here’s a brief overview of what intermittent fasting is, some recommended intermittent fasting schedules, and who should follow it.
What Is Intermittent Fasting?
Succinctly, intermittent fasting is a procedure of alternating between a narrow interval of ingesting food, and an extended period of not having anything. We are technically all fasting from our last meal in the evening, until our first meal the following day. It is not dieting; it is just a pattern of eating. There is nothing too lunatic about intermittent fasting; it’s just extending the period.
You will undoubtedly have done a moderate length fast in the past, just as the situation demanded. Perhaps it didn’t cross your mind to eat food and next thing you know it’s the middle of the afternoon, and you have your first meal. That’s technically a fast.
Undoubtedly, the idea of intermittent fasting for fitness is to do it with a purpose.
The Benefits of Intermittent Fasting
Some of the advantages of intermittent fasting are:
- Increased insulin sensitivity, essential for good health, muscle gain and to lose weight.
- Fats act as an energy resource, so when the fats mobilise it is easy to burn fats.
- Understanding the relationship between food and staying hungry. You come to realise that you can survive for a few hours without food and that hunger is just a mild feeling that vanishes after some time.
- If you prefer having mini meals, it is advisable to cut down on time spent preparing and eating food. Sometimes, switching to a couple of large meals can be liberating.
- A study shows that many people were not feeling hungry until they began to eat. Having large meals then leave them with a sense of contentment.
- Research suggests that intermittent fasting can reduce the risk of a heart stroke, it increases the rate of metabolism, lowers blood pressure levels, reduces the risk of cancer.
Intermittent Fasting Schedule
There are a lot of different intermittent fasting schedules. Below are some of the recommended programs:
‘Eat, Stop, Eat’ is a one-day fast, followed every week. The advantages of this plan include being able to eat regularly for the majority of the time, and there’s no trouble in scheduling just one 24 hour interval without having anything.
Downsides include 24 hours is a long time to fast for, and it affects your ability to socialise for a day.
‘Lean Gains’ is an everyday fast of 16 hours, followed by an 8-hour eating interval. Lean Gains is designed with bodybuilding in mind – with a workout in a fasted state, immediately followed by the first meal. It is different from the rest on many grounds. This regime is for people who like to maintain the mass of the muscles.
Cons include having to schedule your exercise around your eating interval and the associated program necessities.
‘The Warrior Diet’ is an everyday 20-hour fasting program, followed by one heavy meal at night. However, in this diet, you can only consume a limited amount of fresh fruits and vegetables. The mini snacks throughout the day make this style of fasting easier to follow.
The drawback of The Warrior Diet is that the directive on what to eat are firm and for some people, one heavy meal at night will not sit well and would disturb your sleep.
‘Alternate Day Fasting’ as you might assume, rotates between a fasted day and a fed day. The fasted day is not fasting, but rather a little calorie day, followed by a typical eating day. The only motto is weight loss, and it will induce a substantial caloric deficiency.
The downfall is that it can be tough to eat just a bit, people often prefer not to eat at all than it is to eat something small and then stop. Couple this with being able to eat whatever you wish on the regular days, so long as it stays within your calorie intake for the day, it has the potential for binge eating.
‘Eat, Stop, Eat’ is preferably the best option for people interested only in staying fit and healthy. ‘Lean Gains’ and ‘The Warrior Diet’ are for athletic-oriented people, to improve the strength and mass of the muscles. ‘Alternate Day Fasting’ helps in losing the weight quickly, though it may not be the most sustainable regime.
Check before you try Intermittent Fasting
You should opt for intermittent fasting if and only if:
- You want an easy way of getting a better hold over what you’re eating without always having to check and measure food or be overly strict in what you can eat.
- You are willing to minimise your calorie intake but struggle with hunger throughout the day.
- You wish to improve your focus and attentiveness.
- Your work makes it challenging to eat consistently, or for an extended period.
- You like eating more at night and do not feel like eating much or at all earlier in the day.
- You workout in the evening and want to keep the bulk of your calories around/after your workout.
- You opt for eating a couple of large meals, rather than more frequent mini meals.
Intermittent fasting is not a good option for you if you:
- Are not healthy, or on medication.
- Have diabetes or a problem with controlling sugar levels and have energy dips if you do not eat properly.
- Have had eating problems.
- Tend to binge on the food items that you are trying to avoid when you feel hungry.
- Avoid eating later in the day, as it affects your sleep.
- Need food to start your day well.
- You’re trying to gain and find it hard to eat large meals, finding it better to consume more calories split over many smaller meals.
- Hunger or not eating can negatively affect your mood.
- You have work-related commitments to attend a meeting that would conflict with your fasting regime.
Wrapping It Up
Intermittent fasting can prove to be good for a lot of people, improving their focus and energy, and make weight control a more conscious effort. However, it is not for everybody. If you still want to try, I would choose the regime that resonates with you and your goals, and test it.
Give it time to adjust. If you’ve never fasted, it may take a little while to get used to it. Then assess your outcomes. If it works for you, great! If it doesn’t, don’t worry. There’s plenty of other styles of eating available that will fit better with your unique needs.