Intermittent fasting might sound like a desperate weight loss starvation protocol to some, but it’s quite the opposite. In fact, you can eat until your belly’s content and still lose weight—but only within a specific window of time.
Move over Atkin’s. You, too, South Beach. Zone Diet: you’re so last decade….
The latest diet trend is intermittent fasting. Not familiar with intermittent fasting? After reading this, you’ll know the basic facts and health benefits of intermittent fasting (IF). And you’ll certainly be hearing about intermittent fasting more and more in the mainstream media. It seems poised to become just as popular as household-name diets, if not more so.
That’s because, first off, it’s not really a restrictive diet. And secondly, despite its relatively recent entry into the mega-billion diet marketplace, it’s actually thousands of years old.
There are a couple other primary reasons why intermittent fasting will likely surge in popularity. Peer-review research supports it for weight loss and other benefits. Furthermore, it’s really easy to stick to the diet, unlike many other popular weight-loss schemes. (Ahem, Master Cleanse, we’re talking about you.)
But let’s not get too far ahead of ourselves. First, let’s learn some basic facts about intermittent fasting.
Intermittent Fasting: how old is it?
Although this may be one of the first times you’re hearing about IF, the practice of it dates back to prehistoric times. In fact, fasting as a practice is a mandate in holy texts such as the Old Testament and Koran.
The type of fasting in the Old Testament differs from that of the Koran. And this difference illustrates a couple popular ways of fasting. In the Old Testament, religious fast days (such as Yom Kippur) require adherents to the Jewish faith to abstain from all food and drink, usually for 25 hours (from sunset to nightfall). As for the Koran, holy book for over 1 billion Muslims, the holy month of Ramadan is an example of an intermittent fast. During Ramadan, observers eat only between nightfall and sunrise.
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Intermittent Fasting: how do you do it?
There are a couple primary ways to do intermittent fasting for weight loss (religious overtones aside). First, is a calorie restriction diet. And it works like this: 2-4 days a week, you eat way less calories than you usually do. For example, on Tuesdays and Thursdays, you restrict your intake to about 500 calories. This method (alternate day fasting) is gaining in popularity. But there’s another method of IF that I prefer….
Before discussing what the second kind of intermittent fast is, let me get this out of the way first. Intermittent fasting is not starvation. When some people hear “fasting” they equate it with food abstinence. As a certified nutritional therapist, I consider starving yourself of vital nutrients just to lose a couple pounds (say, to squeeze into a wedding dress) the worst thing you can do for your health.
And let me just also add that this second type of intermittent fasting, which I’m about to describe, I’ve seen first hand how well it works.
My husband, Brandon, is a IF guinea pig. Intrigued by it, Brandon has been doing intermittent fasting for over a year now. I gotta say I think I’ve fallen back in love with him (don’t worry, babe; I didn’t really ever fall out of love with you). His abs are now like a Greek statue; his slight fast food belly melted away.
Intermittent fasting: time-restricted feeding
The second kind of intermittent fasting, the protocol that’s really benefited Brandon and lots more people, is called “time-restricted feeding (TRF).”
And it works like this. At first, you only eat during a 12-hour window. It really doesn’t matter when. This is one reason why Brandon and lots of others love intermittent fasting. You’re probably familiar with one of the golden rules of nutrition that you shouldn’t eat late at night. Well, with TRF, you throw that theory out the window.
Eventually, with TRF, say, after a week or two, you narrow your eating window to 10 hours. Do the simple math and that means you’re fasting for 14 hours. Then, after another week or two, you narrow the eating window by two more hours. That means you’re only eating during an 8-hour window, say, from 12 noon to 8 p.m.
The best part about TRF is that you’re not really restricting your calorie intake. Although, to be sure, your belly will shrink after fasting for 16 hours. Therefore, you’re not going to want to break your fast with a huge serving of steak and eggs. (Keep reading for tips on how to break your fast.)
But how does fasting for 16 hours a day benefit your health and help you lose weight? And get washboard abs like Brandon?
Benefits of Intermittent Fasting
Studies like this one (and this one) show that IF normalizes (reduces) the amount of fat you have in your blood. In addition, IF controls your blood sugar, increases insulin sensitivity (a good thing) and even decreases blood pressure. Moreover, intermittent fasting reduces inflammation in the body. Most importantly if you’re trying to lose weight, IF reduces body fat. And here’s the best part: studies show that it takes just 8 weeks for these benefits to manifest. (For hubby, Brandon, it was even less.)
And here are some other benefits of IF, according to research. University of California, Berkeley researchers suggest it can reduce your risk of cancer. Also, when you fast for 16 hours, it might help activate genes in your DNA that help you live longer.
To remind you, intermittent fasting isn’t really a diet, within reason, of course. You’re not going to reap the benefits of intermittent fasting if you eat lots of junk food during the 8-hour eating window. But because you can more or less continue to eat the foods you love without restricting your calories, lots of people are able to stick to IF for a long time. In fact, this study concludes, “an IF protocol has been shown to produce higher compliance.”
Anecdotal evidence doesn’t mean squat to scientists and certain consumers who need proof that something works. All I can tell you is that Brandon swears that he has more energy and is able to focus better, for longer periods of time.
Intermittent Fasting: how to break your fast
I cringe every time I hear or read about this. Allow me to explain. Every now and then, I’ll read a Facebook post. It goes a little something like this…. “So excited to start my 7-Day Cleanse and purge those toxins. One last naughty meal at the Jack In the Box before I officially start.”
Argh! No! No! You can’t eat like crap (pardon my potty mouth) right before you do a cleanse or an even longer 21 Day Detox. Absolutely not. You’ll set yourself up for nasty detox symptoms like a killer headache.
The same goes for breaking your fast. After you fast for 16 hours, the last thing your body needs (and wants) is junk food. Eating junk after fasting will negate much of the benefits of intermittent fasting (including activating human growth hormone [HGH], which helps you burn fat).
What your body needs to break the fast is a nutrient-dense drink, which will resupply your body with vitamins and minerals. Organic Green Drink is the perfect thing for breaking the fast.
What to Drink In the Morning So You Don’t Break Your Fast
As I previously state, your belly will shrink after fasting for 16 hours. (Don’t worry, it takes very little time to get used to going this long without eating. Plus, you’ll feel very energetic because your hormone levels will be more balanced.)
Thus, you’re not going to feel like breaking your fast with a big meal anyway. Keep in mind, though, that if your fasting window is 8 p.m. to noon, you can’t have any Green Drink before noon. That’s because Green Drink contains calories. So you’d be breaking your fast.
There are some non-caloric things you can have in the morning to keep you going. Brandon likes to have some black coffee. I don’t recommend adding non-caloric sweetener. That’s because it may trigger cravings for calories. That being said, add Stevia or Monk Fruit Extract if you can’t stand the taste of black coffee and need to satisfy your sweet tooth.
Another popular drink that won’t break your fast that’s been making the rounds in intermittent fasting circles combines the following ingredients: Himalayan sea salt, lime juice, apple cider vinegar, and cream of tartar. The ingredients in this bizarre concoction all have a purpose. The sea salt provides you with trace minerals, which are essential for everything your body does. The apple cider vinegar helps your body absorbs these trace minerals. Also important is that the vinegar helps stabilize your blood sugars. This helps you stick with the fast. Next, the cream of tartar is very high in potassium, which also will help you fast for a full 16 hours. The lime juice is optional but the reason it’s added is it may help aid the body in detoxification.
Intermittent fasting: how to get started
If you’re ready to give IF a try, it’s really simple. For the first week, pick an equal 12-hour fasting/eating window. For example, eat between 8 a.m. and 8 p.m. A week later, try to extend your fast time by two hours. Then, a week after that, bump it up to a 16 hour fast. And don’t forget to break your fast with some Green Drink.