Have you met intermittent fasting? Let me introduce you. Despite its recent rise in popularity, intermittent fasting is not just another trendy fad diet – it has science-backed health benefits and can help you achieve your weight loss goals, too.
Sound like something you could be into? Well, I’m pumped to bring you a series of articles centered around intermittent fasting, where I’ll break it all down into digestible bits of well-researched, helpful information, tips, and more. Trust me, whether you’re a complete newbie or a fasting pro, you’ll want to stick around and get to know intermittent fasting on a whole new level.
Ready to get up close and personal? In this first article, I’ll give intermittent fasting a proper introduction – starting with the basics and a little bit of the science that backs it all up.
Intermittent fasting (IF), also known as cycle fasting, is all about when you eat instead of what you eat. So don’t think of IF as a diet – it’s really just a change in the scheduling and frequency of your meals.
With intermittent fasting, you’re not crash dieting – in fact, you’re typically not cutting calories at all. You also don’t have to deal with the headache of counting calories or keeping up with a food diary. This makes it simpler and less painful than a restrictive diet, so you’re more likely to stick with it.
The idea of intermittent fasting has been around for a while. For centuries, different religious groups have practiced fasting, and those in the medical field have also boasted of the benefits of fasting for almost as long. So IF isn’t a crazy fad diet – it’s a tried and true method that’s been around for a very long time.
But you don’t have to take my word for it. Let’s take a look at the science behind intermittent fasting and why it works for weight loss.
So if you’re not cutting calories, how can you expect to lose any weight by fasting? To better understand this, you need to first understand how and when your body goes into a fasted state.
The fed state is when your body is actively digesting food. This state starts when you start eating and lasts for around 3 to 5 hours after you eat. During this time, your body won’t typically burn fat – it’s busy doing its digesting thing.
After the fed state, your body goes into the post-absorptive state for about 8 to 12 hours after your last meal. Then comes the holy grail – the fasted state. During the fasted state, your body can easily burn fat because your insulin levels are low. Here is where the weight loss magic happens!
Because it takes so long to reach the fasted state, our bodies rarely get there. But with IF, we are intentionally pushing our bodies into the fasted state and burning more fat.
Aside from benefiting your waistline, intermittent fasting also has a whole host of overall health benefits. I’ll cover those in a future article, so stay tuned.
There’s no one right way to fast – there are actually several different variations of IF, and you can experiment with different options based on your schedule and lifestyle.
Here are a few of the most common intermittent fasting schedules. This is just a brief overview to give you a general idea of how IF works – we’ll go into more detail in future articles.
Daily Intermittent Fasting: Also known as time-restricted feeding, this is where you fast for most of the day (typically 16 to 20 hours) and limit your timeframe for eating (typically 4 to 8 hours).
For beginners, daily intermittent fasting is a great way to get started. By following this meal schedule, you are still eating every day – and you’re actually eating bigger meals. So it’s an easy way to start your IF journey.
Trying daily intermittent fasting can be as easy as skipping breakfast. This means you eat your first meal around noon, and your eating window lasts until 8pm (an 8-hour eating period). Then, you fast from 8pm until noon the next day (a 16-hour fasting period).
You don’t have to adhere to this exact schedule if it doesn’t work for you. Your 8-hour eating window can start anytime – eat from 8am until 4pm and skip dinner if that is a better fit for your lifestyle.
Alternate Day Fasting: With this type of fasting, you eat every other day, with little (around 500 calories) to no food on fast days. Alternate day fasting requires longer fasting periods, typically lasting 24 hours. Thus, you’ll be in the fasted state longer, boosting all the benefits of fasting – including weight loss.
Alternate day fasting allows you to eat at least one meal per day because of the 24-hour rotation. For example, you’ll eat dinner on Monday and then fast until dinner on Tuesday – so you’ll still have a meal on Tuesday, even though it is a fast day. In practice, however, this could still be a tough schedule to follow over a long period of time.
Weekly Intermittent Fasting: Following this schedule requires you to fast only one day per week. This is another great way to get started with IF. An occasional fast can still give you lots of benefits, although it may not be as good for weight loss as some of the other methods.
However, it does help you break through any mental block you may have with fasting. You’ll realize, “Hey, I didn’t eat for an entire day, and I didn’t die.”
It’s important to talk to your doctor before you start an IF program if you have any health concerns. For example, if you suffer from low blood sugar, thyroid problems, or diabetes, you’ll need to consult your doctor first to determine if IF is a good fit for you. Intermittent fasting may not be ideal for those with a history of eating disorders as well.
Now that I’ve made the introduction, I’m sure you’re anxious to learn more. In my second post of the series, I’ll fill you in on all the awesome benefits of intermittent fasting. Once you get to know IF a little better, it’s sure to be your new best friend!
Lilli is a weight training enthusiast with a background in both CrossFit and powerlifting. She lives on a ranch in Texas where she has built an amazing home gym right in her own backyard (err, garage). When she’s not working out, Lilli works as a freelance writer and travels as often as possible.