Intermittent Fasting: What’s all the fuss about?
It’s #FastingFriday – well, for this week at least. What a cold, rainy, dull, grey day. That just makes me feel blah. I’m still trying to figure out how I lived in England for almost a decade because it would appear that I’m allergic to the cold. Go figure!
So fasting days are slowly becoming synonymous with ‘research’ days. You know my style – google it! I’m sure I wouldn’t have gotten through my degree by purely googling but hey, it keeps me away from the kitchen and from wanting to stuff my face full of all the prepped veggies in my fridge! I guess it could be a lot worse…! In keeping with the fasting day, I thought I’d write a post about just that: Intermittent Fasting. Where to start, what it entails, does it work; basically whatever I can find and summarize, I will share!
When I decided to start fasting, naturally, I wanted to find out as much as possible beforehand because it needed to be the right decision, and fit, for me. I know people who talk about 5:2 or 16:8, some that eat anything and everything when not fasting… So it all gets a bit confusing. I came across this article on Life by Daily Burn, and it’s clear, concise method of explaining each of the 5 Types of Fasts was right up my alley. It’s a great read and also begins with a bit of the science behind fasting – well worth a read if you’re keen or even on the fence about intermittent fasting.
So let’s look at the 5 types briefly:
So this is the 16:8 version, described as best for: ‘Dedicated gym-goers who want to lose body fat and build muscle’.
There’s a difference in fasting hours for men (16 hours) and women (14 hours), so the ‘feeding’ period is 8 hours (men) and 10 hours (women).
The fasting period means no calories – you can drink zero- calorie drinks such as water and black coffee, but nothing else (calorie free sweetner and sugar free gum are allowed but from a Reboot/Paleo perspective, this would be a no).
The eating period needs to be the same everyday or else it messes with the hormones and you get yourself into a right old twizzle (that’s my daughter’s word for ‘twist’ – she was 2 when she first told me about feeling twizzled…). Anyway, there are also specific rules about what to eat and when, so it’s good if you need a strict schedule.
Eat Stop Eat
This would be the 5:2 version. It’s described as best for ‘healthy eaters looking for an extra boost’.
You fast for 24 hours once or twice per week. That seems like a long fast right….!? To me it does anyway, but people do swear by it. I guess you’d get used to it after a while. The good thing is that there are no stipulations about what you eat on your non-fasting days so that makes it a bit easier I guess. However indulging in a tray load of donuts may not be the best idea anyway, even though technically you’re allowed to eat whatever you want.
One point made about this type of fasting is that regular workouts must be incorporated, resistance training in particular.
The Warrior Diet
This one allows one meal per day, and generally, a 20 hour fasting period. It’s best for ‘people who like following rules. The devoted’. (So not me then… Although, maybe me…)
So the thing that I like about this is that during the fasting period, you can munch on some raw veggies or have some juice, or protein. Well that seems manageable. You have to also eat in a particular order during the four hour ‘feeding’ period – start with veggies, then protein, then fat. Hmmmm… I quite like having a bit of everything in one bite so I dunno about this part. Nonetheless, it appears to be very popular so it must clearly work!
Fat Loss Forever
This one is described as best for ‘gym rats who love cheat days’.
It incorporates all of the above methods (1-3) into one plan, plus you get a cheat day. Wait, what?!? Yes, a cheat day … Followed by a 36 hour fast.
There’s the catch. Also, if you are more likely to reach for unhealthy foods during your cheat days, or can’t cheat ‘healthily’, this may be an issue. Apparently this works, but that whole 36 hour fast thing puts me right off.
UpDayDownDay (Alternate Day)
Here’s me. This is what I’m following and so far, so good. It’s described as best for ‘disciplined dieters with a specific goal weight’ – so that would be me then.
The concept is simple – you eat normally one day (based on the general 2000 calories for women; 2500 for men), then you restrict your calories to 400 (women) and 500 (men) calories on every alternate day. You don’t become a crazy person with a calorie counter – you just get used to knowing what you can eat on those fasting days! A quick google search of 400 calorie meals can give you some idea. It’s not too bad at all!
The plus side for me is that I’m actually losing weight. I don’t weigh or measure – I just go by what my body looks like and how loose my clothes are getting! Also, it gives me time to research and write more on DownDays because I’m not prepping and cooking food (yay!).
Benefits of Intermittent Fasting
Looking into some of the benefits of IF, I came across this article about some of the IF health benefits and talks about the improvement of diabetes to a reduced risk of cardiovascular disease amongst others.
This is a fantastic article by Precision Nutrition on just this. I’m just going to copy and paste a section of it for ease of reference:
– blood lipids (including decreased triglycerides and LDL cholesterol)
– blood pressure (perhaps through changes in sympathetic/parasympathetic activity)
– markers of inflammation (including CRP<, IL-6, TNF, BDNF, and more)
– oxidative stress (using markers of protein, lipid, and DNA damage)
– risk of cancer (through a host of proposed mechanisms; we’ll save them for another review)
– cellular turnover and repair (called autophagocytosis)
– fat burning (increase in fatty acid oxidation later in the fast)
– growth hormone release later in the fast (hormonally mediated)
– metabolic rate later in the fast (stimulated by epinephrine and norepinephrine release)
– appetite control (perhaps through changes in PPY and ghrelin)
– blood sugar control (by lowering blood glucose and increasing insulin sensitivity)
– cardiovascular function (by offering protection against ischemic injury to the heart)
– effectiveness of chemotherapy (by allowing for higher doses more frequently)
– neurogenesis and neuronal plasticity (by offering protection against neurotoxins)’
Sounds pretty good to me. However, being a Libran, I need balance. So, what are the downsides ? Are there any?
Again, let’s head back to that article by Precision Nutrition. There’s a ‘Not so Fast!’ caption in the article beyond which a few of the perhaps not ‘cons’ of fasting, but rather just some points to bear in mind. One, and this is true for almost anything in life, this ‘diet’ or ‘lifestyle’, whatever you want to call it, isn’t for everybody. It certainly doesn’t work for everybody, and if it does, not always in the same way with the same results (it would just be weird if it did right!?). Also, being a fairly new ‘trend’, there isn’t much evidence based on any long term studies of the effects of IF – most of the research so far is centred around animals. So we don’t really know, in the long run, what the true benefits potentially are. I guess those of us doing it now are the guinea pigs.
So after all that, will I continue? Yes, I will. I’ve skipped meals before, and have not really been much of a breakfast person, so this just streamlines me and gives a bit of structure within which I can still skip meals but in a more controlled way. I’m all about control. You might say ‘I exercise control in all things’ …. Sound familiar? Gotcha ! 😉
Back to REBOOT !
So no breakfast today, and also no eggy coffee (yet). I’ve had 2 cups of black coffee thus far, am aiming for an eggy coffee at lunch time, and haven’t the foggiest about dinner yet! Will do a mild workout after the eggy coffee for an energy boost.
I struggled this afternoon. Everything looked appealing and all I wanted was to gobble it all up. Ugh. I blame the weather. It’s cold, windy, rainy, and just plain ‘reach-for-that-big-bowl-of-pasta’ kinda weather. Luckily, I did not reach for anything other than the prepped cauli, courgettes, and butternut in my fridge. I had some homemade veg stock also prepped so I threw it all together, added some ground cumin and coriander, a bit of chilli, and bam! In about 15 minutes, I had soup! It’s spicy, and just warms the cockles I tell ya!
Probably not the prettiest looking thing but it sure packs a punch taste wise. Nom nom nom…