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I'm always experimenting with ways to help myself and my clients increase results in all directions. About three years ago I started experimenting with a technique that not only pushed me through some of my personal fat loss and muscle building plateaus but also helped many of my clients do the same.
What is this technique?
Intermittent Fasting, also known as IF.
Intermittent fasting (IF) is a pattern of eating that alternates between periods of fasting (usually meaning consumption of water only) and non-fasting. (wiki)
Let me be clear right from the start. This is not about starving yourself or pushing through natural hunger pangs. As you will see it's simply a tool to give your more insight into your own feedback allowing you to choose better actions in the future.
(IF) is extremely flexible and there is no right or wrong way to go about doing it. Simply find what works for you at that given time. I would encourage you to explore that flexibility and not be overly rigid in your approach.
WHY IS FASTING BENEFICIAL FOR FAT LOSS AND HEALTH?
The point of IF is intuitive and episodic natural deprivation which takes your body “off track” for a while mentally, physically and nutritionally allowing the system to reinvigorate and recalibrate.
Here are a few notable studies on the beneficial effects of IF;
- Intermittent and Alternate Day Fasting on Cardiovascular Disease and Cancer
- Influence of feeding frequency on nutrient utilization in man: consequences for energy metabolism.
There is no right or wrong way to fast but there are some guidelines I like to follow that help increase my results.
- Stick to real, whole foods
- Don't be overly forceful. If you notice negative sensations, listen and act accordingly (headaches, dizzy etc)
- Allow your body to determine your fast and not some fasting plan or program
- Drink plenty of high quality water (I prefer still mineral water).
TYPES OF FASTING
I like to use fasting intuitively and not forcing any particular order or type. Those listed below just happen to be different ways to look at your natural fasting tendencies. Start small (skipping meals) and work yourself to longer periods (24 hour fast).
Skipped Meals - Maybe you had a huge breakfast and when your normal lunch time rolls around you're just not hungry. Forgoing the next meal could be the best type of fasting you could do. Have you ever been in the middle of a meal stopping to think about the fact that you're not even hungry? We often base eating on a mental time schedule and never really check in to see if we even need food. Times that I notice weight gain for myself are often times that I'm not skipping meals when I should be (aka not hungry).
Beginning and End - This type of fasting revolves around eating a meal at the beginning and end of the day and skipping meals and snacks in between. It's similar to the above skipped meals pattern.
Condensed Window - This involves consuming your daily food intake in a condensed window of time, and I'm not talking 24 hours :-). The typical normal eating windows I experience are roughly 12 hours (with the break being sleep). Maybe starting with a 10 hour window, noting how you feel, and gradually moving all the way down to 3 or 4 hour windows is ideal. Find a window of time that best suits you.
Twenty Four Hour Fasting - I use this on occasion when I am wanting to break through a particular plateau. Being that a twenty four hour fast is a long time I must say that I did not start here. Again, test yourself at 12 hours or so and move down from there. This type of fasting is typically done weekly, bi-weekly or even monthly. Your body will let you know.
Alternate Day Fasting - just as it sounds. Alternating days of eating and non-eating (consuming water of course). This is a more intense type of fasting that I have honestly never tried.
WHAT I HAVE LEARNED FROM FASTING
- I don't need food every 2-3 hours (attributed to my bodybuilding days)
- My energy doesn't crash when I don't eat as often
- I can survive on smaller amounts of food than previously thought
- Calories need not be counted
- Psychology is always my limiting factor when it comes to eating
For me, the hardest part of fasting is the mental part (and not from depriving yourself) but from conditioned eating responses that I never question. (IF) will allow you to question and test these behaviors ultimately allowing you to move past them.
Good luck. Please feel free to share your (IF) story.