Intermittent Fasting (4 Diet Myths Debunked)
What is Intermittent Fasting?
Intermittent fasting is strategic meal planning with a short period of fasting. Its not a fad diet. Its not about deprivation -- you will not feel like you are being tortured. Its also not about caloric deprivation, you still need to eat enough food to fuel your body, but you are only eating during the window of time you've allotted. Most people eat bigger meals in a shorter time frame.
We've been told many dieting myths that people hold as the only way to live and lose weight.
- Diet Myth #1 - You must always eat breakfast, its the most important meal of the day.
- Diet Myth #2 - You have to eat often and best if they are 5 small meals to stay healthy and lose weight.
- Diet Myth #3 - You can to eat carbs earlier in the day so your body does not store them as fat.
- Diet Myth #4 - Never exercise on an empty stomach it will lead to muscle loss.
Keep reading to learn that these diet myths are just that -- myths.
Is it Starvation?
No. The main difference with fasting from starvation is that fasting is controlled. Starving is not deliberate or controlled. And you set a time to get food in your body making sure you get the nutrition you need to fuel your body.
You can fast for days or you can just fast for 16 hours. Anytime that you are not eating, you are fasting. You fast in between dinner and breakfast and that's typically 12-14 hours. So most all of us are fasting daily without thinking about it. Breakfast means breaking your fast - which is done daily.
Remember skinny is NOT the goal - Healthy is.
How Does it Work?
Fasting allows your body to burn off body fat. Humans have evolved to be able to fast without damaging health consequences. Body fat is food energy that is stowed away. Your body will eat its fat for energy.
What happens when you eat?
When you eat more food energy is digested than what is able to be used. Some of the energy is stored for later use, and insulin is an important hormone involved in food energy.
Eat food---->Increased Insulin----->Store sugar in liver/produce fat in liver
Burn Stored sugar and fat<-----decrease insuline<--------No food fasting.
The same process would go in reverse when you fast. Your insulin level would fall and your body would burn stored energy since no more food is expected to come through. Blood glucose levels also drop and your body uses it for energy.
So your body has two states of being, one when you are fasting and one when you are eating. The body is either storing or burning food energy. If you eat all day long and do not stop until its time to eat, over time you will see a weight increase. The reason for this is that you have not given your body enough time to burn its food energy.
In order to burn food energy you need to give your body more time to fast.
Benefits of Intermittent Fasting (IF)
The most well known benefit of fasting is weigh loss. But let's not keep our focus so narrow, there are many other advantages. The fasting period cleanses the body.
Benefits of fasting:
- Increased mental clarity
- Weight loss
- Body fat loss
- Lower blood insulin
- Lower sugar levels
- More energy
- More effiecient fat burning
- Augmented growth hormone
- Lower blood cholesterol
- Reduced inflammation
Fasting is simple. Most diets tend to complicate life and make it so hard to have it as a lifestyle. Fasting also saves time, you have less meals to prepare. And nothing is more effective at decreasing body weight and lowering insulin.
Types of Fasting
Short fasts -- less than 24hrs
There are many options on how long or short to fast. Shorter fasts allow you to fast more frequently. Here are some of the most popluar approaches.
16-Hour Fast (16:8)
You will fast for 16 hours, leaving you an 8-hour window to eat. All your meals would fall within that time period. This type of fasting can be done daily.
A typical day would look as follows:
11:00 am eat your first meal (you can drink black coffee or tea)
After your first meal you can break up the meals into smaller meals or you can just have 2-3 meals. Do whatever works for you schedule.
20-Hour Fast (20:4)
The second most popular option is fasting 20-hours and eating in 4 hours (20:4). This is also known as "the warrior diet." This approach is harder maintain on a daily basis but can be done. You would fast 20 hours and you window to eat would be 4 hours. In this time period you would eat perhaps 2 larger meals. As you can see with this and the other 20:4 IF you will most likely be skipping breakfast.
I would suggest that you start with fasting 16:8 until you give the 20:4 fasting option.
- If you start eating at: 8AM, stop eating and start fasting at 4pm
- If you start eating at: 12AM, stop eating and start fasting at 8pm
- If you start eating at: 3PM, stop eating and start fasting at 11pm
- If you start eating at: 7PM, stop eating and start fasting at 3AM.
Perhaps doing a daily fast is too much to consider. You may want to start out fasting one day each week. How would this look? After you have lunch on Sunday, than the next time you would eat would be lunch on Monday. This type of fasting would not lead to weight-loss but would have health benefits as stated earlier.
Alternate Day Intermittent Fasting
For this option you would fast alternate days. It would like this: you would eat dinner Sunday night and you would not eat again until Monday evening. On Tuesday you would eat all day and after dinner that evening you would begin another fast. This pattern would continue throughout the week.
Practical Tips for Intermittent Fasting
All foods and beverages that have calories are withheld during the fast. With that in mind make sure to drink a lot of water to stay hydrated. You can choose tap or sparkling water.
Its a good idea to star with 8 ounces of water in the morning. You can add lemon or lime to add flavor to your water. Cut cucumber or orange slices to a pitcher of water to also infuse the water with flavor. Some people enjoy adding apple-cider vinegar to their water. Just do not add sweetners or things like Kool-Aid, Crystal Light, or Tang.
Teas are a great option. This can range from black, oolong and herbal teas. You can enjoy tea hot or cold to add. Adding spices to you tea is another way to add variety to your teas. Cinnamon (also known to supress your appetite) or nutmeg are used the most in teas. You can also drink green tea it helps suppress your appetite and can help you during your fast. Green tea also full of anti-oxidents.
Caffeinated or decaffeinated coffee, is also allowed. You can also add nutmeg or cinnamon but no milk or sweetners.
Bone broth can be made from beef, pork, chicken or fish bones. You can also drink vegetable broth is your vegan, but bone broth does contain more nutrients. To stay hydrated add some salt to you bone broth.
Here’s a recipe for bone broth.
Makes approx. 8 cups of broth
4 pounds beef bones
2 unpeeled carrots, cut in 2-inch pieces
1 leek cut into 2-inch pieces
1 onion, quartered
1 garlic head, halved
2 celery stalks, cut in 2-inch pieces
2 bay leaves
2 tablespoons black peppercorns
1 tablespoon cider vinegar
6-quart (or larger) pot or a slowcooker
Preheat your oven to 450 Degrees F
Put the beef bones, carrots, leeks, onions, and garlic on a rimmed baking sheet and roast for 20 minutes. Then add bones to baking sheet and bake another 20 minutes until they are dark brown. Bake in the oven.
Fill a pot with 12 cups of water (filtered water is best). Add peppercorn, bay leaves, celery, and vinegar. Add the bones and vegetables to the post. Add more water to make sure the bones are covered.
Cover the pot and bring to a boil. Once its boiled reduce to a low heat. Remember to skim the foam and excess fat as it cooks for at least 8 up to 24 hours on the stove top. You can also use a slowcooker to speed up the process. Remove solid fat from the top of the chilled broth. It can be stored up to 5 days and 6 months in a freezer.
Should I Ease in to eating after breaking my fast?
Be careful and break your fast gently. Do not eat a large amount for your first meal after you break your fast. Overeating can lead to discomfort.
I'm quite hungry, what can I do?
The hunger will pass and its best to stay active in another activity and not obesses in the fact that you can not eat. Drink water or tea while the hunger subsides. As noted before green tea is an appetite suppressent and can help you drink this as well.
Can I exercise when fasting?
Yes you can. There's no reason to stop your exercise routine. All types of working out can be done. Most people who follow IF will eat their largest meal at the end of their window of time to eat thus helping fuel them for their early morning workouts. Alternatively if you workout in the evening have you second meal be the largest prior to working out.
What are the side effects?
Constipation is common. Eating less may lead to going less. Make sure that you are consumeing enough fiber in the time period you have chosen to eat. This will help you not have this side effect.
Headaches are common and tend to go away after the first few days of fasting. Adding salt to your diet will help you to not get headaches.
How to manage hunger?
This becomes more of a mental challenge, but you must know that the hunger will pass and you will eat again. If you drink a cup of water, tea or coffee the hunger will pass.
How do I Handle Fasting and Social Settings?
Eating with friends is a large part in most peoples lives, I know it is for me. So what do you to do if you have a meeting that does not fit within your "eating window?" The best advice schedule your meetings if you can around the time you are able to eat, but if its not within that time redjust your fast. You do not want to be controlled by your fast either. And you don't want to avoid social situations because your fasting.
Is breakfast the most important meal?
That's a big misconception and does not hold to be true. Skipping breakfast allows for your body to burn more fat for energy. Hunger is at its lowest in the morning so its quite easy to give up breakfast. Well you may not eat breakfast in the morning but its does not mean you can't have breakfast at lunch time. All you are doing is chaning the time you eat them, so go do breakfast for lunch.
Does fasting lead to over-eating?
It can but you will soon realize that your body will react adversely to overeating. Its best to to ease into your first meal after you break your fast. As far a show much you should eat in a day it should stay the same. The only difference is that you have a shorter window to eat those calories. It may be harder to eat larger meals at first but I'm sure you body can adjust.
Does fasting burn muscle?
No, it does not. During a fast you body will breakdown glycogen into glucose into energy. Then the body will increase fat breakdown to provide your body with energy. The extra amino acids are also used for energy, but the body does not burn its muscle for fuel. Our bodies are created to be able to deal with fasting.
Don't you have to eat every 3-hours?
Your body burns calories as its digesting foods. So the thought behind eating many meals throught out the day is that having your body digesting often would lead to more calories burned, resulting in weightloss. But the issue is the caloric burn while digesting food is proportional to the size of your meal. If you eat 2200 calories in small meals or just in 2 meals you are still digesting the same amount of calories. So it does not matter if you eat 3 meals, 6 meals or 2 meals if the amount of calories are the same.
- Stay hydrated
- Stay busy
- Drink coffee or tea
- Ride out the hunger
- Don’t binge after fasting
Who should not fast?
People who are underweight, pregnant or breastfeeding should not fast. You should not fast if you have a medical condition that can cuase implications.
Can I lose weight fasting?
Yes, as long you are still in a caloric defecit. If you overeat than you most certainly will not see a drop on the scale. Any caloric defeicit will lead to weightloss so you can choose whatever diet you are able to make as a lifestyle change.
Give intermittent fasting (IF) a try and if it works for you keep doing and if it does not than no big deal. The only diet that works is the one you can do for a lifetime.