Sunday 22 April 2018

Intermittent fasting has been all over the internet for a while now, I never clicked on any videos because I got the impression that it meant not eating for a whole day, and a girl needs her carbs.  But fear not, you can still eat all your favourite foods in moderation, just over a shorter period of time. When I actually looked into it I realised it wasn't as scary as it seems and it's a 'lifestyle/diet' plan that is actually doable and sustainable and not just a quick plan to lose weight. So what exactly is Intermittent fasting? And more importantly, does it actually work? P.S here is a shout out for tapas, I love tapas.

intermittent fasting

What is intermittent fasting?

IF is basically fasting for a certain amount of time and eating in a certain window. The most common method is 16/8 where you fast for 16 hours and eat for 8. Assuming you're sleeping for 8 hours this isn't actually as difficult as it sounds. There are other forms of IF where you fast for a whole day or only eat for 4 hours a day but these are more extreme and I know for a fact I would fail. The idea is that by restricting your eating periods, your body isn't constantly processing and digesting food which will keep your insulin levels high.

For years we have been told that 'breakfast is the most important meal of the day' and don't get me wrong, I do love some good avo toast or coco pops in the morning, but if we're constantly eating from the moment we wake up to the moment we go to bed we have all of this readily-available energy to burn. Which our bodies will choose to burn instead of attacking our fat stores. During the 'fasted' state, our bodies don't have a consumed meal to use as energy, so it is more likely to dip into the fat stored in your body. It takes 12 hours for our body to enter the 'fasted' period so if you stop eating at 9pm by the time you wake up your body will already be burning fat without you doing anything.

What are the benefits of IF?

The most obvious one is weight loss, without much effort. An important thing to remember is that you're still getting enough calories within this window, as if you eat a salad and a bowl of soup and then starve yourself for the rest of the day you're going to be hungry and end up sneaking to the fridge at midnight for anything edible. You will find however that if you're having bigger meals you won't even be hungry in that short space of time, as long as you don't consume less than 1000 calories you'll be fine. 

Other benefits include improving insulin sensitivity, increasing metabolism and regulates your eating patterns, training your body to burn fat and generally developing a better appreciation for food. Not to mention, it's one less meal to plan (or pay for) as you just need to wake up and know you're having a cup of coffee/tea. 

My intermittent fasting experience

So I've been doing IF on and off for a couple of months, but today I failed because I needed a skinny vanilla latte to keep me awake. The first couple of days are tough but you need to fight through the stomach rumbles and keep downing your cups of coffee. I usually break my fast at 1pm and finish at 9pm (so I can have my protein shake after my workout). I'll usually have 1/2 days a week where I don't IF either because I'm going out for dinner or there are other social events going on - how can I sit through a movie at the cinema without popcorn? 

What I have found, is that even if I eat a load of carbs at 7pm, I still wake up feeling quite lean and not bloated etc as my body has already got into the fasted state. In terms of weight loss, I have slowly been dropping on the scale because I only have 5lbs to lose so I'm not in an immediate rush, my body fat had gone down by 2%, however the reason I've started IF again this week is because it's probably sky rocketed during my time in Madrid this weekend! (blame the churros). I'm doing this mostly to change my body composition and not to drop lots of weight, I have found when I follow this plan strictly my stomach is a lot tighter and just generally look more toned. 

My typical schedule when doing IF looks as follows:

8am: I make a very unpleasant concoction of water, two tablespoons of apple cider vinegar, and lemon juice - the APV is meant to help suppress your appetite and has a bunch of other benefits you can read about here. 

9am: Coffee! some websites say to stick to drinks that are under 50 calories, whereas others state that any form of calories trigger your insulin levels so the best options are water, black coffee, herbal teas or zero calorie drinks.

1pm: Lunch of around 500 calories - they say it's best to break your fast with a protein and fat and to limit carbs, so if all else fails have a boiled egg and triangle cheese ready to munch on at work before having your proper lunch. 

3pm: a nice cuppa tea with 1 sugar and milk and a snackaroo

6:30pm: If I go to the gym at 7:30/8pm I aim to have an early dinner so that the prawns in my stomach aren't jumping about when I get there. Ideally I'd prefer to have my protein shake after training if I finish before 9pm if not I'll have one before going.

8:50pm: run to the cabinet to grab snacks to eat before my time is up 

9pm: sadly drink my camomile tea wishing it was a hot chocolate with marshmallows and cream

Beginners Guide for Intermittent Fasting

IF is pretty strait forward as far as following 'diet' plans go because you don't really have to change what you eat majorly (if you don't rely on junk food and empty calories) you're just changing when you eat. Here are some of the main pointers and rules for IF:

  • The most simple plan is 16/8 - so choose an 8 hour window when you want to consume your calories. The most common is 12pm - 8pm or in my case, 1pm - 9pm. 
  • When in the 'fasting' period you can drink herbal teas, black coffee and water to get you through it.
  • Following a low carb/high fat diet (also known as ketosis) whilst IF may also help improve fat adaptation, but is not a necessity.
  • The best way to break your fast is with a protein/fat 
  • You will not lose muscle whilst doing IF, it's good to have a protein source at the end and beginning of your eating period, especially if you're going to be training too. 
  • As always, one plan doesn't work for everyone so see what works for your body/schedule and go with it!

Have you heard much about intermittent fasting? Do you think this is something that would work for you?  


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