Itâ€™s known as intermittent fasting, or IF for short and itâ€™s become pretty popular in the couple of years, but what is it? Just another dieting fad, or a genuinely healthy way of eating? Well the good news is that intermittent fasting may actually be much healthier than the more normal pattern of eating exercised throughout the developed world.
(Salads are ideal for a pre-fasting meal. Image Credit)
The theory behind IF is that we were created by evolution over hundreds of thousands of years and therefore it makes sense that we should perform best under the sorts of conditions we evolved in. Suffice to say that our ancestors didnâ€™t eat 3 or 4 times a day and they may often have gone for several days without food.
But you care about your lifestyle and how IF can help with weight loss right? Ok, so letâ€™s look at the upsides:
No matter what eating plan you are on, to lose weight you need to eat less. Eat too much and youâ€™ll gain weight. So not eating is obviously going to lead to weight loss as long as you donâ€™t overcompensate when you do eat.
Change How You Eat
By going without food you learn that you donâ€™t actually have to be a slave to your appetite. Not eating is ok and you donâ€™t have to plan your life around food. Itâ€™s actually very liberating!
Keep Your Muscle
Itâ€™s best to work-out whilst following an IF diet and assuming you do so, fasting actually spares muscle compared to a â€˜regularâ€™ diet with a similar calorie deficit. Keeping muscle means you lose more fat, so thatâ€™s a good thing.
Clear Out The Toxins
Your body spends most of its time digesting food and itâ€™s not great at multi-tasking, so when you stop eating, something amazing happens: digestion stops and your body instead focuses on repairing and clearing out toxins.
Your First Fast
Intermittent fasting isnâ€™t an easy way to lose weight (thereâ€™s no easy way to lose weight), but it is a tool which will help you to adhere to a healthier lifestyle. Before you can benefit you need to resolve to eat more healthily and live better.
In the days before your first fast you should clean up your diet, donâ€™t eat anything processed or unhealthy. That includes things like:
- Bread, Pasta & Rice
- Cakes, Cookies & Biscuits
- And Only Drink Water
Additionally, the day before your fast, lower your calorie intake. Overeating in preparation is a bad idea since it will just up-regulate your appetite for the following day. Focus on only eating low-calorie and nutritious food (think vitamins).
You can also supplement some vitamins if you struggle to eat enough veg (although donâ€™t use that as an excuse not to eat any veg) and some whey protein might also help, since protein satiates you better than carbs or fat.
How Long To Fast For
Some people fast for a day or more at a time and others stick to regular shorter fasts, so just focus on what works for you. For your first fast you will probably want to keep it less than 24 hours, but you can try a longer fast once you get used to it.
A popular option is to fast for 20 hours and have a 4 hour eating window, but you could even start with a 16 hour fast and 8 hour eating window.
If you are doing shorter fasts you can fast every day, and once you get used to it, sticking to a daily 18 hour fast is actually fairly easy. You basically skip breakfast, have a late lunch and eat dinner at a normal time, then donâ€™t snack in the evening.
If you prefer longer fasts you can try one or two 24 to 36 hour fasts a week. Just find which option suits you best.
How To Survive Your First Fast
Just remember that the first fast is the hardest one, particularly because of the detoxing that occurs. Detoxing releases toxins into your body (ready to be flushed out) and it can cause side-effects which make you feel a bit rubbish.
Rest assured though, this is temporary and once you begin your healthy lifestyle you will be able to keep it up and youâ€™ll feel better as a result. Remember to eating lots of natural foods and avoid any additional toxins â€“ this will make your bodyâ€™s job easier.
As you start fasting, as long as you donâ€™t overeat during feeding times, your appetite will diminish. Appetite is more habit than actual need, so fasting does get easier and eventually you will find that you donâ€™t even think about it!
If you do choose to experiment with IF, good luck with your first few fasts. Stick at it and before long you will feel the amazing health benefits and lose weight at the same time.