Intermittent fasting is not a diet; it’s a pattern of eating. It’s a way of scheduling your meals so that you get the most out of them. Intermittent fasting doesn’t change what you eat; it changes when you eat during the day.
Why is it beneficial to change the time of eating?
Most notably, it’s a great way to get lean without going on a crazy diet or cutting your calories down to nothing. In fact, most of the time you’ll try to keep your calories the same when you start intermittent fasting. Having structured times during the day to eat helps with overeating as eating multiple times in the day it’s easy to over consume.
Most importantly, intermittent fasting is one of the most straightforward strategies we have for losing some weight while maintaining lean muscle mass because it requires very little behaviour change. This scenario is fantastic because it means intermittent fasting falls into the category of, “Simple enough that you’ll do it, but meaningful enough that it will make a difference.”
How Does Intermittent Fasting Work?
To understand how intermittent fasting leads to fat loss we first need to understand the difference between the fed state and the fasted state.
Your body is in the fed state when it is digesting and absorbing food. Typically, the fed state starts when you begin eating and lasts for three to five hours as your body digests and consumes the food you just ate. When you are in the fed state, it’s difficult for your body to burn fat because your insulin levels tend to be higher.
After that time span, your body goes into what is known as the post-absorptive state, which is just a fancy way of saying that your body isn’t processing a meal. The post-absorptive state lasts until 8 to 12 hours after your last meal, which is when you enter the fasted state. It is much easier for your body to burn fat in the fasted state because your insulin levels are low.
When you’re in the fasted state, your body can burn fat that has been inaccessible during the fed state.
Because we don’t enter the fasted state until 12 hours after our last meal, it’s rare that our bodies are in this fat burning state. This situation is one of the reasons why many people who start intermittent fasting will lose fat without changing what they eat, how much they eat, or how often they exercise. Fasting puts your body in a fat burning state that you rarely make it to during a regular eating schedule.
The Benefits of Intermittent Fasting
1. Intermittent fasting makes your day simpler
Behaviour change is king, simplicity, and reducing stress. Many of us who are in a rush in the mornings would feel relieved knowing that you don’t have to rush breakfast in while running out the door.
Worrying about one less meal per day makes life a lot easier. Instead of worrying about eating 5-6 meals a day you can easily cut it down to 3-4 and have more time to complete work tasks and spend time with the family.
2. Intermittent fasting helps you live longer
Scientists have long known that restricting calories is a way of lengthening life. From a logical standpoint, this makes sense. When you’re starving, your body finds ways to extend your life.
There’s just one problem: who wants to starve themselves in the name of living longer?
I don’t know about you, but I’m interested in enjoying a long life. Starving myself doesn’t sound that appetizing.
The good news is that intermittent fasting activates many of the same mechanisms for extending life as calorie restriction. In other words, you get the benefits of a long life without the hassle of starving.
Way back in 1945 it was discovered that intermittent fasting extended life in mice. More recently, this study found that alternate day intermittent fasting led to longer lifespans.
3. Intermittent fasting may reduce the risk of cancer.
This one is up for debate because there hasn’t been a lot of research and experimentation done on the relationship between cancer and fasting. Early reports, however, look positive.
This study of 10 cancer patients suggests that the side effects of chemotherapy may be diminished by fasting before treatment. This finding is also supported by another study which used alternate day fasting with cancer patients and concluded that fasting before chemotherapy would result in better cure rates and fewer deaths.
4. Intermittent fasting is much easier than dieting.
The reason most diets fail isn’t that we switch to the wrong foods, it’s because we don’t follow the diet over the long term. It’s not a nutrition problem; it’s a behaviour change problem.
This downfall is where intermittent fasting shines because it’s remarkably easy to implement once you get over the idea that you need to eat all the time. For example, this study found that intermittent fasting was an effective strategy for weight loss in obese adults and concluded that “subjects quickly adapt” to an intermittent fasting routine.
Example Of Daily Intermittent Fasting
Most of the time, most people follow the 16/8 model of intermittent fasting, which uses a 16–hour fast followed by an 8–hour eating period. This model of intermittent daily fasting was popularized by many actors like Hugh Jackman and nutritional doctor Dr. John Beradi.
It doesn’t matter when you start your 8–hour eating period. You can start at 8am and stop at 4pm. Or you start at 2pm and stop at 10pm. Find what works for you. I tend to find that eating around 1pm and 8pm works well because those times allow me to eat lunch and dinner with friends and family. Breakfast is typically a meal that I eat on my own, so skipping it isn’t a big deal.
With the 16/8 model daily intermittent fasting is done every day it becomes straightforward to get into the habit of eating on this schedule. Right now, you’re probably eating around the same time every day without thinking about it. Well, with intermittent daily fasting it’s the same thing, you learn to not eat at certain times, which is remarkably easy.
Now, before we go any further and you decide that starting tomorrow you’ll try this way of eating, make sure you’re self-aware enough to understand this way of eating isn’t for everyone.
If you live a structured lifestyle where every day is planned, and you’re an organized individual, intermittent fasting will fit you like a glove. For people who are all over the place and eat when they can, this structured way of eating will be the worst thing for you.
Ask yourself if you are ready to take something like this on. Most of the time people will read something about intermittent fasting and feel like that’s what they need to do because everything else hasn’t worked for them. In reality, it’s most likely a behaviour change that needs to happen first before trying this way of structured eating.
The simple test is to ask yourself,
“Can I do this for the rest of my life?”
If the answer is no, intermittent fasting is probably not for you. Find what works for you, stick to it, be consistent, and you’ll see the results you’ve been looking for!