What is Intermittent Fasting? A few Rules to get you started!
Fasting is human
Let me introduce you to the daringly promised magic pill for fat loss, muscle growth and even longevity. The past year’s new kid on the block of the nutritional trends. Getting this diet public was one of mankind’s greatest recent achievements. Right behind getting Donald Trump elected as POTUS1 and inventing the pet rock.
Just kidding. Right now your bullshit alarm should go wild. Although most of the previous points may not be entirely true, I am a big fan of intermittent fasting and it can benefit you, too.
I tried my best to keep this post as short as possible but, as it is a complex topic and I don’t want to rush everything, it will take some time for us to work through it.
Nonetheless, let’s take a look at what intermittent fasting is about – and what’s not!
While there are many new diets every year of which many are total crap – lookin’ at you carnivore – Intermittent Fasting is none of them.
Instead, Intermittent fasting is a different way of looking at nutrition timing. It is more of a new way to plan your meals.
A diet restricts you. It restricts your total calories, your choice of foods, or lets you sometimes even question your sanity.
Intermittent fasting does nothing like that. It is just a timeframe in which you are allowed to eat. The most common form has a feeding window of 8 hours. You get to eat for 8 hours and fast for 16 hours. This is also known as the 16/8 schedule – must’ve been a genius who named that!
In this post, I will talk about this schedule in particular. While most of the points are legit generally, keep mind that there are some slight differences between all the kinds of intermittent fasting.
But first – let’s see what Intermittent Fasting is good for.
The benefits of intermittent fasting
My personal experience
First – I have to say that I am very skeptic of many claims made, concerning this form of eating. I started, young and naive, to become invincible and bought into much of these bold promises. Nowadays, I stick for the simplicity it gives me.
The biggest benefit I see in Intermittent Fasting is the flexibility You don’t have to worry about breakfast.2 That way you are really flexible in the morning and don’t have to prepare that meal. It saves time and stress, especially if you are prepping most of your meals!
While fasting I tend to be more active. That means I am awake and wanna do stuff – get things done. Not immediately, but throughout the whole morning.
Plus, a great thing I’ve learned while fasting is to distinguish genuine hunger from appetite. You’ll learn also that you don’t have to worry about meal timing like this madness takes place in the fitness world.3
What research suggests
Increased activity while fasting is also backed up by science. They explain it in increased levels of stress hormones – to get your *** up and hunt for some food, you starving caveman! To me, this makes complete sense, too.
Another point, measured especially while fasting for longer periods (24 hours and plus) is an increased secretion of growth hormone, as well as creating a beneficial environment for the healthy secretion of insulin within your body.
Also, your body keeps in mind how to survive properly while running on carbs and ketones. In our modern society are carbs everywhere. Seldom, we are starving or eating just fats – our body doesn’t often has to use ketones as fuel.4
Another great book, partly on intermittent fasting is James Clear’s Atomic Habits*.
A few guidelines to intermittent fasting
What intermittent fasting schedule to choose?
My personal recommendation would be to start easy and try out the 16/8 schedule.
There are a lot of other schedules, but I consider some (fast for 48 hours), too hardcore for beginners and am not convinced of their general usability. 5
Keep in mind that all these schedules are rough guidelines:
If you can just fast for 14 hours – that’s totally fine. No reason to beat yourself up.
I just would try to stick to the set eating times every day, because your body accustomizes its hormone secretion to it.
If you are always eating at 7:00 in the morning and now suddenly try to eat your first meal at 13:00 – you will be hungry at 7:00! But don’t worry – after an initial pain period, your body will remember quickly when it should be hungry and when not.
you are chasing trends, look for a short-term-fix or another magic diet
My experiences with intermittent fasting
I am following the 16/8 principle now for 2 years. But I keep it spontaneous. Sometimes I have even breakfast, but I come back more or less to a restricted timeframe of eating.
In the beginning, I’ve been super strict with that frame. I had to eat at 12:00. After 20:00 eating was permitted. Nowadays, I don’t give a ***. If it doesn’t work out that way, or eating in this timeframe would mean rolling into the gym while trying to digest 1kg of broccoli, I fit the schedule to my life. Not the other way round.
As previously said, my biggest benefit from all of this is the flexibility it provides. If I get no breakfast – I don’t mind. If I don’t have to prepare breakfast for each day, I only have to prep 2 meals per day (and lots of snacks in between – thank god for chocolate!). And these two main meals are big. Life is awesome, isn’t it? 😀
To sum everything up
I don’t wanna inflate this post, even more – my advice would be to give it a try if you are curious and in good general health. There isn’t much to lose, despite maybe feeling a bit of hunger for the first week.
I hope you could get much out of it and the post saved you from buying into some of the vague promises out there about IF. Likewise many topics, there are a lot of opinions out there, some basic and scientific, others emotional and extreme, or even straight out stupid.
What are your experiences in terms of fasting so far? Did you try out Intermittent Fasting before or are you just curious about it?
Shoot me a comment with your thoughts about that broad topic. I would be happy to hear of you!
Sources and further reading:
Leangains is an online community around 16/8 fasting by Martin Berkhan. He invented this scheme back a few years ago and his page is a gigantic pool of knowledge on this topic. It was also my starting point for intermittent fasting. Just consider some talked of benefits cautiously. IF is no magic!
James Clear’s, the author of Atomic Habits*wrote a guide on Intermittent Fasting and I found it useful, without all the nonsense these ‘the only guide you need‘-posts are normally filled with.
as the Simpsons have rightly foreseen 10 years ago…
Or lunch if you are one of the insane persons who wanna skip lunch.
Drink your PWO-Shake while you are still within the anabolic window. If you miss drinking protein within 30 minutes after a workout all your gains will burn eternally in hell! Right beside your lost gains, by not eating 6 portions a day.
Especially for fitness enthusiasts, fasting longer than a day might not be optimal, considering the amount of calories one has to catch up to gain some muscles or just provide your body with all the energy it needs to function properly.
Intermittent Fasting might beneficial for some. But as with anything it is widely unclear. Diabetes and even cancers might get one right hook by fasting. But this decision is entirely up to you and should be discussed with your trusted health care professional, too. Not my job – sorry.