Intermittent Fasting! The current trend in tackling weight loss, and improving health. What is it? Can it really help? Find out what it is, whether you should do it, and if so – how?

What is Intermittent Fasting (IF)? Quite simply, IF is deliberately skipping meals and sometimes going entire days without eating! Proponents of IF report benefits ranging from body fat loss, lean muscle gain, better sleep and even living a longer life.

OK, so DELIBERATELY skipping meals…this is where most people (including myself) normally switch off and say “No Thanks”. The nutritional knowledge of the past 20 or so years of eating “5 or 6 smaller meals throughout the day” is in direct contrast to this new (ish) approach.

So how exactly does it work? Well quite simply we need to look at 2 states of digestion, the Fed state and the Fasted state.

The Fed state is typically when your body is digesting and absorbing the food that you have consumed. This starts during eating and lasts typically for 3-5 hours. During this state it is hard (but not impossible) for your body to burn fat because your insulin levels are high.

After this phase is the time span after the 3-5 hours, known as the post absorptive state when your body isn’t processing a meal. This lasts until 8-12 hours post eating, taking you in to the Fasted state.

Typically we don’t enter the Fasted state until 12 hours after eating. During this phase with very little circulating blood sugar from food, our bodies are forced to enter a fat burning state, thus making us leaner.

Results???

Dr John Berardi from Precision Nutrition reported that over the course of 6 months he went from 190 pounds to 170 pounds bodyweight, dropping body fat from 10 – 4% – For readers who may be unaware, 4% body fat is typically the incredibly “ripped” look that a championship body builder will exhibit when on stage. Dr Berardi reported that he achieved his body composition goals in a way that was easier and less time consuming than with “traditional dieting”.

Dr Berardi isn’t the only one to get incredible results from this type of dieting as people from all over the world are reporting amazing results. From regular folk to world class athletes, IF has gained a lot of popularity as fans claim that it is the way that our primal ancestors would have eaten, often going many hours without food, then exercising on a very empty stomach in their quest to hunt for food.

To this degree, IF makes a lot of sense. Our primal ancestors were unlikely to suffer from obesity and related medical conditions as they didn’t sit at a desk all day eating refined, processed, high sugar foods washed down with caffeinated beverages.

There are however drawbacks to this eating strategy. If you work as most people do in an environment that demands your utmost attention to detail and high levels of concentration, it’s not always a great idea to go many hours without eating as your brain requires approximately 600 Kcal per day to maintain clarity of thought. Conversely however,for many people IF actually increases concentration levels as they don’t undergo the typical day to day sugar crash cycle which seriously creates brain fog.

Like any eating method, IF isn’t right for everyone. If for example, if you were a diabetic and had to eat very regular meals, IF simply isn’t going to work, and could prove very dangerous.

In fact, if you have any particular medical condition, take regular medication, are particularly sensitive to sugar and/or insulin response then you may want to approach IF with extreme caution. I would advise anyone considering IF to consult with their GP prior to even attempting IF as it is a pretty extreme way to diet, going against mainstream medical and nutritional advice from the past 2 decades.

IF Strategies at a Glance

There are a huge number of reported IF strategies out there, each reportedly being “The One” that can really make the difference to your body and mind. Of course, they would say that as they are trying to sell you the holy grail of health and fitness and the ultimate elixir of youth.

Some recommendations involve fasting for a couple of days per week, every other day or even daily. The twice peer week fast is even the subject of the 5:2 diet plan. On the 5:2 plan you eat your usual correct nutrition on 5 days per week but on 2 days (non consecutive) you cut your calorie intake to a quarter of your recommended intake.

Another way to fast is to simply restrict your daily eating to a specific window of time, such as an 8 hour or less window. For example if you woke at 7am and ate your daily intake of food by 3pm, by the time you ate breakfast the next day, your body would have been in a fasted state for 4 hours, not a huge amount of time, but daily it has been shown to improve insulin sensitivity. Low insulin sensitivity is associated with damage to blood vessels, high blood pressure, heart disease, obesity, osteoporosis and even cancer.

Of all the recommended strategies out there, the window of time method is perhaps the easiest to follow purely as it doesn’t require you to compromise your food intake with regards to calories. However, it should be noted that all IF strategies require patience and planning – it is not ever as easy as it sounds on script! Planning meals would be vital or failure would be imminent and very rapid. Again, I can’t stress enough the need to seek out advice from your GP prior to trying any IF strategy, as well as doing your homework on all IF strategies including what you can expect to feel, physically, mentally and emotionally.

To conclude, IF does work…but so do many other nutritional strategies.

Each diet that proves successful ie helping clients achieve goals long term have the following components in common:

1) They raise nutritional awareness and attention
2) They focus on food quality
3) They help eliminate nutrient deficiences
4) They help control appetite and food intake
5) They promote regular exercise

Long term adherence takes time, dedication and habit formation. So many nutritional strategies for so many clients and so many mindsets. At M.A.S.K. we have our favourites, however, ultimately we have helped many clients achieve their goals with a flexible and open minded approach to nutrition and weight loss, which has evolved and continues to evolve over time.

If we can be of any further help…drop us a line.

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