Intermittent Fasting - The Down Low
It’s one of those trendy fitness phrases that people don’t tend to know much about, but are ready to give it a try for the sake of shedding body fat.
“Extra, extra, read all about it! Intermittent Fasting - the cure for all your fat loss needs!”
Well...it may not be a “cure”, but I am gonna give you a quick low down on what Intermittent Fasting (IF) is, what I like about it, what’s not so great, and how to decide if it’s right for you. Let’s go!
What Is IF?
Intermittent Fasting is a technique that’s probably been around since the beginning of time. It was almost always out of necessity, but fast forward to today and its used as a technique for managing fat-loss.
In short, IF is a simple protocol for going a prolonged amount of time without eating, followed by a short eating window.
Typically it’s anywhere from a 12-18 hour fast (no food) then use the remaining hours of the day to eat your calories.
The idea is that by not providing your body with its primary energy source, *glucose, you’ll force it into a fat-burning state to derive its energy.
*Key fact: the carbohydrates you eat are broken down into glucose. Glucose is the most basic form of carbs and what your body can actually use.
The public opinion is certainly mixed (see here vs. here), but I personally believe IF can be an awesome technique to manage daily caloric intake and therefore, fat-loss.
What I Like About It
It’s simple. All you do is eat within a certain period of time; that’s it.
Because you’ll only be eating within a limited period of time, you’ll be much less likely to go over your daily calorie goal.
And although it isn’t officially clear whether or not IF transforms our bodies into
fat-burning machines, I believe our bodies at least do a much better job of burning fat when our glycogen is depleted.
Here’s a great study to support my theory, if you’re interested.
Glycogen is the stored version of glucose (remember, your body’s primary source of energy). When you don’t give your body additional carbs, it will start using your glycogen stores. When those are depleted, physiological changes cause our better to better utilize stored adipose tissue, aka body fat.
This explains why you can drop 3lbs overnight by not eating any carbs. You depleted your body’s glucose stored in your muscles & liver, and all the water that is stored with it. It also explains why you jump 3lbs on the scale the morning after eating all the chips and gauc at your favorite Tex-Mex; you filled all your glycogen stores.
It’ll usually even out within a few days and you’ll be back to your original bodyweight, assuming you didn’t eat SO much that the excess was stored as fat.
Aside from being simple and (most likely) making our bodies better at utilizing our body fat for energy, it can help reset our stomachs’ natural capacity.
If you eat a huge meal, your stomach stretches. If you go a period of time without eating, it will become tighter, less elastic. The capacity of your stomach plays a big role in your hunger cues; those who regularly eat larger meals have less elastic stomachs and tend to take longer to feel full. One way ticket to overeating!
So if I end up eating bigger meals than usual on the weekend, I like to practice Intermittent Fasting at the beginning of the next week to help my stomach capacity get back to normal.
What I don’t Like As Much
Let’s face it, feeling hungry kind’ve sucks. And when you practice IF, you’ll definitely go through a few spells of feeling quite hungry.
On the bright side, they don’t last very long. And drinking plenty of water helps a lot!
It’s also not a great idea to complete a high intensity workout when you’re fasting.
You’ll be demanding a lot from your body in terms of energy output, at a time when your body is depleted of energy.
A + B = you'll feel like dog doo-doo.
So you’ll need to plan ahead and schedule your tougher workouts for when you’re
If you’re diabetic, you’ll definitely want to speak to your doctor before trying any amount of Intermittent Fasting.
Regulating your blood sugar is serious business, especially when you’re diabetic.
He or she will likely tell you it’s not a smart risk. So please keep that in mind if you’re Type 1 or Type 2.
Overall, Intermittent Fasting can serve as a simple set of guidelines for when to eat and help to manage your daily calorie intake. By managing your calorie intake better, you'll more likely stay in a caloric deficit and ultimately achieve fat loss.
Intermittent Fasting may help your body burn fat more efficiently and reset your stomach’s natural capacity, which will better regulate your natural hunger/satiety cues.
I’ll typically fast for around 12 hours about 2x per week, and I find it really helps to keep my body fat where I like it.
It’s by no means a “cure all”, or some magic trick that will produce fat loss in lieu of a crappy diet and no exercise. But when done correctly and periodically, I believe it can be an awesome tool to manage body fat!