A nutrition post by Cambridge personal trainer Callie Durbrow
I wanted to share with you something that has been working well in my lifestyle for several months. Intermittent fasting. It’s just what the title says about, eat, stop, eat. Okay I’m done.
You probably want to know how it works, right? There are several ways to integrate intermittent fasting into your life. The first thing you’ll want to know though is why you would do it.
What about keeping my metabolism up by eating every 3-4 hours?
Here’s the thing about this. If you are fasting for 12-16 hours, 2 days per week, your metabolism is not going to go all hay-wire because you NEED to make sure that your calorie intake is regulated and high enough during the times that you are eating. Intermittent fasting will back fire and totally suck if you do your fasting and then you restrict your calories like crazy when you actually eat.
So, on your regular eating days you want to go about your every 3-4 hours like we always talk about.
The thing about intermittent fasting (IF) is that you can integrate it several different ways. There is no one RIGHT way to do it and you want to start out slow. I typically do 2-3 days of IF for about 15 hours at a time. And YES you can count the hours that you are sleeping. So what I’ll do is stop eating at 6 or 7pm on a Tuesday night for example and then eat again around 10am on Thursday morning. Then I’ll do the same for Saturday night into Sunday. If I stop eating later on a Saturday night then I just extend my fasting time on Sunday.
Okay so here’s the low-down:
What is Intermittent Fasting?
For those that may not be familiar to the term, intermittent fasting is just taking “intermittent” times of fasting (no food) and working them into your lifestyle. This can be either daily or a couple times a week (will get into that more below).
- Reducing blood glucose and insulin levels (improving the state of the overall glucose metabolism)
- Increasing fatty acid oxidation with increased FFAs (through increasing lipolysis hormones GH, glucagon and adrenaline)
- Sparing and preserving muscle tissue (lean mass)
- Increasing various health factors (lower inflammation, lower blood pressure, reduced oxidative stress, increased protection against neuro-degenerative diseases, and more)
- Keeping the metabolism strong/healthy
How do I start this IF thing?
Is there only one set way in which to do intermittent fasting? No. I could easily come up with 10 different intermittent fasting protocols based on 10 people’s individual’s needs, lifestyle, exercise, goal, macronutrient ratios, and so forth. But I’ll keep it simple and give the 2 most frequent and basic options.
- Daily Fasting: Typically done every day and only giving the person a smaller eating window in which to get their calories. (for example, a 18hr daily fast would mean someone would only eat every day between the hours of Noon and 6pm). This is a bit more difficult for beginners.
- Fasting 1-3x a week:This could also be called alternate day fasting/calorie restriction (for those doing it every other day). This is just fasting of usually longer periods 18-24 hours but only 1-3x a week. Many variations to play with here like the Eat Stop Eat method (24 hr fasts 1-2x a week).
- Or you can do a mixed approach and fast every other day for a small eating window. For example eat all day Mon, only 12-6pm on Tues, all day Wed, 12-6pm on Thurs, etc. Start with bigger eating windows and make them smaller as you get used to fasting. This approach may work for people who have a lot of weight to lose and can not (I should really say “will not” as everything is a choice!) eat 100% healthy for the moment. This approach may not work for more advanced people who have a high activity level unless you are getting a ton of health calories in that fasting window.
Here’s the major take-away on this…..just try it out and realize that you WILL be hungry. You will not die and you will actually feel pretty good after you get through that 3 hour hump in the beginning. No matter how many times I fast I always think, I can’t do this it sucks too much. Then you get over the hump and you have tons of energy and you feel great. It’s kinda weird.
The other thing to mention briefly is that this fasting style works great if you are doing a cheat meal or two per week. When you elevate the leptin levels in your body with a cheat meal and then go into your fast you will really dip into those fat stores and see some serious fat loss. Typically I’ll do a cheat day per week or I’ll do 1-2 cheat meals per week depending on if I’m going out to dinner or something. I just go week-by-week on that.
WARNING: If you have more than 20 pounds to lose, do NOT do a cheat day. Stick to a cheat meal each week. The leaner you are, the more you can cheat. I’m not trying to be harsh but you need to earn the cheat days. When you have a lot of weight to lose, the excess calories will only be detrimental to you so give yourself that 1 cheat meal per week and stick to the plan. That’s another post for another day but I want to make sure you’re not sabotaging your results.
Let me know what you think about intermittent fasting by leaving a comment. Have you tried it? What were your experiences? If you have questions just hit me up here in the comment section and I’ll get back to you.