Intermittent Fasting (IF) has recently gained a lot of attention and popularity. I’ve recently started doing it and the more I learn about the benefits of this “eating schedule”, I’m more convinced it’s something that I will stick to for the long-run.
What Is Intermittent Fasting?
Intermittent Fasting is your eating “window” within a 24-hour period. There are three theories, or types of, IF schedules. The first, which is the most popular and the one I follow, is eating in an 8-hour window and fasting for 16 hours, also known as 16:8. I know that sounds scary, but if you think about it, it doesn’t seem all that bad. The majority of the 16 hours, you will be asleep. My 8-hour window is between 1pm and 9pm. I eat later in the day because by the time my husband gets home from work, we usually don’t eat until 8pm. I would like to eat earlier, but I also feel it’s important that we eat dinner together, so I break my fast later in the day.
What makes this type of IF appealing to me is that I don’t really eat breakfast. With my food intolerances, eating breakfast was always challenging. Whenever I made a smoothie or have oatmeal for breakfast, I would find myself starving less than two hours later. So, even before I started intermittent fasting, I was kind of already doing it. While you are fasting, you can have black coffee, tea, and broth. I don’t like black coffee, so I make sure the almond/coconut milk I add is less than 50 calories.
I also try and keep myself busy in the mornings, to take my mind off not being able to eat. I usually take the 9:30am class at The Ballet Burn, and if I can, I’ll stay for yoga. That means I’m busy until almost noon. By the time I get home and make lunch, it’s almost 1pm. On the two days a week I go into the office, it’s pretty easy to get to 1pm for lunch. I will admit, that since I had my knee surgery and I can’t do my regular routine, it has been a bit challenging to not think about breaking my fast earlier. But, I shift my focus to work or scheduling physical therapy in the morning to help get through the last few hours before breaking my fast.
The second type of IF is known as the 5:2 diet. This method means you eat normally for five days of the week and two days a week you eat between 500 and 600 calories total. That’s definitely not for me!
The last type of IF is fasting one or two days a week. The only “foods” allowed on these fasting days is black coffee, tea, and broth. Personally, that sounds awful!
The Role of IF in How Our Bodies Breaks Down the Foods We Eat
Before getting into the benefits of intermittent fasting, it’s important to first understand how our bodies break down food and how IF can help make our bodies work better.
When we eat, the food is broken down by enzymes in our gut. Once the food is completely broken down, it enters the bloodstream. Carbohydrates, especially sugars and refined grains (rice, white flour, etc.) are broken down into sugar, which becomes energy for our cells. If our cells don’t use all of the energy, it is stored as fat cells. In order for the sugar to enter the cells, insulin is required. Insulin acts as a “key” to unlock the cell, allowing the sugar to enter.
If we are constantly eating, insulin is busy unlocking the cells and welcoming in the sugar, thus making more and more fat cells. When you don’t eat, your insulin levels go down. That means that the stored energy can finally be released, and the fat cells can release the sugar for your body to use as energy. Weight loss occurs when your fat cells become depleted. When you are practicing intermittent fasting, you are allowing your insulin levels to go down enough to burn fat.
For people that have “insulin resistance”, intermittent fasting can be very beneficial. Insulin resistance is when cells don’t respond well to insulin, which leads to high blood sugar levels. Insulin resistance can lead to Type 2 diabetes and gestational diabetes. It is also commonly found in women diagnosed with Polycystic Ovary Syndrome (PCOS).
Other important things that happen during intermittent fasting include cellular repair. By having your body enter into a fasting state, your cells have time to repair, rejuvenate, and eliminate any waste that has been accumulated.
How to Start Intermittent Fasting
If this way of scheduled eating seems like something you want to try, you can ease your way into the 16:8 regime. If you normally eat breakfast, start by eating breakfast later in the day. If you are a night-time snacker, pick a time for your last snack of the night. Each week, push your breakfast later and later, until you are completely skipping it and your first meal of the day is lunch. The biggest thing about starting out with IF is sticking with it for at least a month. The first few weeks, you may feel really hungry, have brain fog, and have less energy. But this is totally normal and is your body detoxing. Just stick with it and once you are over the hump, you will start to feel the benefits of IF.