I’ve been using intermittent fasting for a couple of years on and off. In the past 4 months I’ve been a little more disciplined about it and do it 5 or 6 days a week. Let me first state that I don’t consider intermittent fasting a diet. I consider intermittent fasting to be a tool that is part of your arsenal for obtaining an optimal level of health.
So what is intermittent fasting? In its simplest form it means going without any type of food or beverage that contains calories for 16-20 hours. So a typical cycle might be eating your last meal at before 8 p.m. and then not eating again until noon 12:00 p.m. the next day, which would mean about 16 hours of fasting. The graphic below illustrates a 16:8 protocol or 16 hours of fasting and an 8 hour eating window:
There are many benefits to intermittent fasting which can be obtained by almost anyone. Even if you decide you just want to lose a few pounds or stay at a specific weight, intermittent fasting can help you achieve those goals.
Some of the benefits of intermittent fasting include:
- Promotes a release of human growth hormone (HGH), which is a hormone that declines with age. Intermittent fasting can increase HGH by as much as 1000%. HGH has an anti aging effect on the human body, so naturally producing more of it can be good for your overall health.
- It gives your body and organs a break from having to digest foods around the clock and help purify the body of toxins. This is why even doing a 24 hour fast from time to time is good for your health. So intermittent fasting helps you detoxify your body, allowing your liver to recover and rebuild and clear your colon.
- Improved muscle tone and function will most certainly be a result of intermittent fasting especially when you couple this with strength training and high intensity training (HIT) like sprinting. As mentioned above in a fasted state your body actually increases the production of good hormones like HGH and by coupling it with strength training or HIT you ramp up the production of HGH and testosterone even more.
- You are likely to lose a few pounds during your first week of intermittent fasting, and there is a high probability that you will keep the weight off as long as you continue to do intermittent fasting. Don’t mistake this for a silver bullet you still need to have a good diet and not over eat.
- Intermittent fasting can help normalize insulin sensitivity. Spiking blood sugar levels caused by eating cause insulin to increase, which has effects on storing additional fat and disrupting healthy hormone levels.
The first week or two can be difficult if you are typically eating 3 meals a day. For me I just skip breakfast and after a few days you become accustomed to not eating and the fasting becomes less difficult. Instead of eating breakfast I drink some coffee when I get up and go on with my day. I personally do not find a 16:8 or 18:6 fasting protocol to be difficult to implement and after a week or two it just becomes a habit.
I did not suffer any adverse effects from intermittent fasting; quite the opposite I feel more energetic, lost a few pounds, and improved my body composition becoming leaner and more muscular. I also changed my diet to be more Paleo like, eating fruits, vegetables, nuts, and lean protein meats and fish. You don’t need to intermittent fast every day of the week, but the more disciplined you are the greater the benefits. You will likely find times where you eat a little earlier in the day, say maybe an early lunch so maybe you only fasted for 15 hours, or you had a late dinner the night before. Give yourself a break, these minor deviations in the program will not effect the overall outcome, so be flexible.
Remember when you are fasting you should be taking in zero calories, so stick to drinking coffee, tea, or water. Don’t use creamer or sugar in your coffee or tea. If you need to sweeten it up you can try a little Stevia, but even with Stevia the jury is still out on whether that causes an insulin response in the body.
A final tip for improving your results is the longer you prolong the fasting phase the greater your results. This means if you can stop eating the night before by 7:00 p.m. and not eat your first meal until 1:00 p.m. you have been in a fasted state for 18 hours and this means HGH levels are still increasing, fat is being burned for energy, and the detoxification process is in high gear. If you really want to ramp it up, then you might consider a 24 hour fast once every week or two, which will provide even greater results.
The following video is a good primer on intermittent fasting, but you can find all kinds of great videos on YouTube that address various aspects of this type of fasting:
If you are looking for a way to increase your energy levels, detoxify your organs, increase HGH and other good hormones, or lose a few pounds, give intermittent fasting a try.