Rules were meant to be broken. Even the golden rule: always eat breakfast. A commonplace rule such as this is rarely challenged, especially within the fitness and health community. It’s widely regarded as a fact, perhaps even a law of nature.
People will argue that if you want to lose weight, you need to start the day with a healthy breakfast. Your metabolism will get fired up and burn off all that stubborn fat. Well, that’s not exactly true.
It goes along the same realm of, make sure you eat six small meals a day and never eat after 6 PM. It’s all recycled and outdated knowledge. The fact of the matter is that it couldn’t matter less if you get all your food in several meals, one big meal, or if you eat at midnight or at 5 in the morning. What does matter is the roller coaster ride of rising and falling blood sugars.
You’ve probably experienced that feeling after a big meal where you just want to lie down and fall into a coma. Or that 3:30 feeling you get when you just can’t seem to get anymore work done. All of that and more is caused by blood sugar levels.
Besides making you feel miserable, those feelings can also cause you to gain some unwanted belly fat.
Eating 6 meals a day or eating breakfast can be a real pain when you are trying to lose weight. When you are cutting (losing fat) it isn’t uncommon for you to be eating 1400 or even 1200 calories a day if you’re a woman and between 1800-2000 if you’re a man (these numbers will vary based on your metabolism). Broken down, that could be 400 calories a meal if you eat three times a day. Or worse, 200 calories a meal if you follow popular science advice about eating 6 times a day.
So goodbye steak, potatoes, and all other calorie dense foods you love to eat. Hello boiled chicken, cabbage, and low fat cheese.
Doesn’t sound like fun, does it?
Well, Intermittent Fasting might just be your saving grace.
Intermittent Fasting or IF for short, is more of a diet structure than a real diet.
IF has been shown to:
- Increase life span
- Reduce the risk of multiple common diseases
- Lower your grocery bill
- Increase the body’s responsiveness to insulin
- Make your pants feel bigger
- Encourage fat oxidation
- Allow you to sleep in later
- Reduce body weight, LDL, and triglyceride levels
- And much more…
It can get those roaring rapids of blood sugar levels down to a steady stream in no time.
So What is Intermittent Fasting?
IF is going a period of time without eating. Typically between 14 and 36 hours.
Sounds hard, right?
It’s actually easier than you would think. We all fast on a daily basis, we just refer to it as sleeping. IF is all about extending that period of fasting. The most popular approach is between 16 and 24 hours. Which means you will never go an entire day without eating.
For example, if you ate dinner at 6 PM, like most do, than you would fast through the night (like you already do) and just skip breakfast. This will land your first meal at high noon the next day. Giving you a grand total of 18 hours fasted. All you did here was plan to not eat after dinner (no late night snacks) and you skipped your morning breakfast.
The best way to think of it is as feeding windows. Pick a window congruent to your work or school schedule and stick to it. This window is typically 8 hours but you might find yourself doing even less. In the previous example we used the first meal of the day at noon so if that would start your window then you could eat up until 8 PM that night.
Or if you wanted, you can pull it back and eat from 10 in the morning until 6 at night. The choice is entirely up to you. Now it is suggested that you keep that window the same every day. Don’t go changing it too much otherwise you won’t see all of the benefits.
Another type of IF would be the 24 hour fast. Unlike the 16 hour fast by using daily windows, with the 24 hour fast you only perform this once or twice a week to see the benefits. An example of this would be eating dinner at 6 PM, and fasting through the night and the better part of the next day up until dinner at 6PM again. This way you are never going a day without eating, just parts of two days. Now although you may think you’ll overeat at this meal you won’t. There’s a limit to how much food your body can process in one sitting.
During the fast you can chew sugar free gum, drink tea, or even coffee (just don’t put in cream and sugar). Using them will help appetite suppression and make sticking to IF much easier.
Don’t forget to drink a ton of water during your fasts as well.
Although IF might sound like an eating disorder, it is in fact far from it. You are still eating the same amount of calories within a week as your normally would. Or if you are restricting calories like on a diet than you would still be consuming the same weekly amount as well.
The only difference is you are eating them within shorter windows throughout the week.
So How Does Intermittent Fasting Work?
After eating anything, your body will spend several hours processing what you just ate. Because you have all this food in your system your body will prefer to burn it for energy instead of the fat you have stored. Especially if you just ate carbohydrates or sugar. Your body loves to burn those first.
Within the “fasted state”, your body doesn’t have any tasty sugar or carbohydrates, or any food for that matter, so it will decide to pull from your fat stores instead.
Success! You are now a fat burning machine.
The more you fast, the more fat you burn. If you combine this with good eating habits and calorie restriction you can see very impressive results in no time.
IF will not only help you lose weight, but it will make you more disciplined and help you enjoy life while dieting. You can now eat two 600 calorie meals instead of six 200 calorie meals. Or if you prefer the 24 hour fast, you would be eating one 1200 calorie meal. Which means you can eat the foods you want and actually feel full afterwards.
Give it a shot, try not eating after dinner this week and just drink coffee in the morning until lunch. See if you don’t feel better and lose some fat while doing so.