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The Basics of Intermittent Fasting

intermittent fasting
Intermittent fasting has become a popular diet choice to support overall health. Is it right for you?

The best practices for what you should eat and when seem to be in a constant state of flux. We now know that eliminating fat entirely and bulking up on processed carbs is the wrong way to go, and that 3 meals a day isn’t the gold standard. However, there is still a lot of debate and research raging about the American diet. Gone are the days of the food pyramid standing as the final word on eating, so where does that leave us?

Many nutrition bloggers, health professionals and specialists have started questioning the recommended American diet and eating schedule and have started experimenting with alternate eating schedules and lists of off limits foods. One new eating concept gaining steam in the national health scene is the concept of intermittent fasting.

Read on to learn more about this increasingly popular health practice and see if it might be worth incorporating into your daily routine.

The Basics of Intermittent Fasting

Although it’s a word often associated with spirituality, fasting is simply the practice of choosing not to eat for a set time period. Intermittent fasting should be approached more as an eating pattern than a diet. Generally, fasters will eat only during a selected period of the day, say 12pm to 6pm, and abstain from eating the other 18 hours of the day. While hunger pangs may come and go at first, they are the brain’s way of asking for the food schedule it’s accustomed to and will dissipate with time and practice.

Potential Benefits from Practicing Intermittent Fasting

Intermittent fasting advocates report a healthy list of potential benefits associated with adjusting their eating schedule including healthy sleep. Having a regular schedule for calorie consumption may help your brain shut down sooner and sleep deeper as irregular blood sugar spikes are no longer a factor. Studies have also shown that intermittent fasting can support a healthy weight, may help the body get rid of damaged cells and supports insulin sensitivity. An internal medicine study shows that intermittent fasting may also help support a healthy libido and support a healthy mood, which may lead to support for a healthy quality of life for participants involved in the study.

The Effects of Intermittent Fasting on Your Workout

Skipping breakfast before your workout goes against the grain of typical eating patterns but it may lead to better results at the gym. Health advocates who practice regular fasting often recommend fasting before your workout to burn more fat in a shorter period of time. When you start burning calories during your workout, your body begins looking for ways to fuel the increased energy demand. A research study out of Cambridge shows that working out on an empty stomach has been associated with an increase in fat burn by up to 20% as well as assisting in lean muscle development.  

A Beginner’s Guide to Getting Started

Jumping into intermittent fasting cold turkey is not recommended and may actually set you up for failure. It’s best to start off small and gradually increase the amount of time between your meals, starting at 10 or 12 hours and working up to 16, 18, or even 24 hour fasts. It’s recommended to drink water, tea, and coffee during your fasting hours to stay hydrated.

You may also want to try front loading your schedule and to-do list in the morning to keep busy and distract yourself from missed meals and snacks. You might find that you get more done in these early morning hours before tucking into a plate of eggs or a bowl of granola. In time your body and brain will readjust their expectations regarding calorie intake and may pay you back with support for focus and energy.

Have you experimented with or considered trying intermittent fasting? Tell us about your experiences and results in the comments section below.