I have this feeling many people are thinking the way I used to think when I started to read up on fitness and nutrition;
fasting is unhealthy and will break down muscle tissue after just a couple of hours.
This thinking is just factually wrong. Though, it might not be for everyone, there are several health benefits to intermittent fasting, and I’m about to tell you some.
What is intermittent fasting?
Intermittent fasting (IF) is when you eat your daily intake within a certain amounts of hours. The time you give yourself to eat is called your ‘eating window’. As humans we naturally have fasting periods. We don’t eat when we sleep, meaning one’s fasting period will be the hours we sleep, and the hours before and after sleep we stop or start eating. Most people who don’t use IF mostly stick to something similar to a 12:12 fast, meaning they fast (sleep and don’t eat) for 12 hours and consume their daily intake withing the 12 remaining hours of the day. This way of eating might leave 2-4 hours between each meal.
IF means you decrease the amount of hours in your eating window and increase your fasting time. The most common one is 16:8 where you don’t eat for 16 hours (6-10 of these you sleep) and eat your daily intake during the remaining 8 hours. Many use this eating pattern as a way to lose weight since eating your daily intake within 8 hours can make it seem like more, than spreading it across 12 hours. But it also has several health benefits for those just looking to get healthier, or it might just work better for your lifestyle in general – the best way of eating is the one you can stick to for it to become a daily routine, while enjoyable.
How I use intermittent fasting and why?
I first started IF during my last year of school before the navy, at the age of 18. I’d never been big on breakfast and would always feel nauseous after eating ‘too early’. Since I didn’t feel hungry in the morning naturally I had no issues waiting until around 12-13 in the day to start eating. After a while I could feel my concentration get stronger in the mornings before eating and I stopped snacking as much as I used to because I could eat bigger meals during the day and therefore not feel hungry, especially during the evenings.
During my time in the navy I mostly did shift work so it would be natural to wait to eat until later in the day when my shifts spanned from 11 pm to 8 am.
Today I follow the 16:8 IF, having my first meal at 12-13 and stop eating at 20-21. Usually I will drink black coffee and water during the fast as I’m not at the level of needing supplements during my fast (BCAA and others) at the moment.
What does the science say?
- IF might fight against chronic disease: Many studies suggest IF can trigger an increased production of growth hormones and neurogenesis in the brain it might help fight against chronic illnesses and aging.
- Increased concentration: The increased neurogenesis in the brain might also boost your concentration levels.
- It might keep you fuller, longer: A lot of people think smaller, more frequent meals will keep you fuller through the day. Some never studies has shown that 3 meals a day vs. 6 meals a day can lead to a greater feeling of fullness. One of the reasons for this is because of the higher levels of protein each meal would have if you eat 3 times a day vs. 6 times a day, and protein makes one feel fuller, longer.
- Possible weight loss: When you are giving your body constant nutrition it can use that nutrition as fuel through the day. If you’re going many hours of the day fasting there is a potential your body will need to use your fat stores as energy until you have your feeding window. With the chance of increased feeling of fullness a calorie deficit might be easier to stick to, which will then result in a weight loss. IF is not a diet and will not result in weight loss unless you are in a calorie deficit.
- It might turn on fat-burning genes: Some studies show that IF potentially can increase the activity of genes that increase fat oxidation; burning of fat. This can put you in a greater deficit despite not increasing your food intake or increasing your energy usage.
- Might aid against emotional eating: Since you can feel fuller, longer IF might help aid against emotional eating or boredom snacking.
There is a lot of good reasons to try out IF, but you also have to make sure you reach your daily calorie intake that you need. Some might misuse it as a way to under eat, which will have very negative effects on the body during the long-run.
The most important thing to take into consideration is if it’s something you could do in the long term and would still enjoy. Some people like to have several meals, or just a few but with several hours between them – and if that works for you, then you should continue to do so!