In a world saturated with fad diets and nutritional lifestyles, there’s a newcomer to the nutritional block that is rapidly gaining both attention and popularity - Intermittent Fasting (IF). IF is not a specific diet fraught with rules, but rather a pattern of eating to follow. Unlike your traditional diet plans, IF tells you WHEN to eat, as opposed to WHAT to eat. Obviously, this has appeal for those who love variety in their diets, and don’t want to be limited in their food options.
Before we dive into the exciting world of Intermittent Fasting, let’s first make note of other popular nutritional models that IF is not:
Carb Cycling is the process of altering carb consumption on a daily basis, alternating between high carb, moderate carb, and low/no carb days, in a pattern of your choosing. In carb cycling, you are altering both the what and when of what you eat.
Ketogenic Dieting is a low carb, high fat diet. The thought process behind eating this way is that starving your body of carbohydrates forces your body to go into ketosis, a state in which it utilizes fat as opposed to glucose for energy. Ketogenic dieting is an alteration of the what in your nutritional life.
Now that we have that out of the way, let’s begin.
Fasting by definition is abstaining from food or drink over an extended duration of time. In IF, you are setting a very specific window in which you will be consuming all of your food for the day. There is no specific rule to the fasting versus feeding window in IF. Typically, an individual will abstain from food from the moment their dinner is finished, to roughly 12-14 hours later, when they will break their fast the next day.
So, why does IF work? The science behind it is not unlike what we have previously discussed happens when one engages in cardio in a fasted state. In a fasted state, your body utilizes both glucose and fat reserves, for energy.
In a fed state, insulin is high, which basically means it is very difficult for your body to burn anything other than the nutrients you just took in. After eating, it takes your body approximately 3-5 hours to digest and fully digest and absorb the nutrients from your meal, and another 5-7 hours (that’s a total of 8-12 hours post meal, folks) to enter that magical fasting state - where insulin production decreases, blood glucose drops, and stored fat becomes the body’s main source of energy. By abstaining from food for 12 to 14 hours (or even longer, for some individuals), you are staying in the fat-burning state for longer periods of time, and are therefore burning more stored fat in the process.
There is clearly more than one way to practice IF, and the schedule you choose should be a function of the most appealing option for you.
In daily IF, you are typically fasting for 16 hours, and eating for 8. It doesn’t matter which point in the day you choose to fast, as long as you the hours are consecutive, obviously. For example, making your eating window from 8 AM to 4 PM would mean you do not eating anything from 4 PM until 8 AM, the next day. 12 PM to 8 PM or even 6 PM to 2 AM will work just the same.
In weekly IF, you can choose to fast an entire day (24 hours), and eat normally the remainder of the week. You can also choose to utilize the 8/16-hour fed/fasted model only one day a week, or even on alternating days.
No matter the IF model you choose, the benefits are mostly the same.
Not all diets are equal, and current research shows Intermittent Fasting to be a solid option for both fat loss and general wellness.