Intermittent fasting – simple guide


Probably one of the most used approach for losing weight. Why? Because it works very well.

TL;DR:

  1. It’s a lifestyle not a diet
  2. Good tool for weight loss
  3. Can help you improve overall health
  4. Pick an intermittent fasting method (5:2, eat-stop-eat, 16/8)
  5. Stick to it for a long period of time (half a year)

 

What is intermittent fasting?

Intermittent fasting is an eating habit that involves a cycle between eating and not eating phases.

During the eating phase, there are not specific rules of what to eat, therefore, intermittent fasting is not a diet but rather a lifestyle.

The general recommendation for a healthy body is to choose healthy foods over junk food.

How it works for the weight loss

Weight loss takes place when an individual eats less calories than his body consumes on a daily basis – this is the most important idea for weight loss.

Having this in mind, a person using the intermittent fasting protocol is restricting the eating period to just few hours which forces him to eat less calories than he normally eats.

Additional to this, there is a big debate whether a big fasting period can help a person lose more fat than if he would eat every 2-3 hours, considering he eats the same amount of calories in both scenarios (obviously in a caloric deficit).

The theory is like this:

The food we eat is transferred from the gut to the blood stream and then to the cells.

The hormone responsible for transferring the nutrients from blood stream to cells is called insulin which is created by the pancreas.

If the cells do not use all the energy coming from the food, your body will store it as fat.

By applying the intermittent fasting protocol, you give a break to your pancreas from producing insulin. This will make your body use the energy stored in your fat cells.

Not eating for a prolonged period of time will make your insulin level go down and your body will be more efficient to use the fat cells for energy.

That is why you should avoid snacks! People usually eat snacks that are spiking the insulin levels. Just avoid snacks unless it’s before a workout.

The same amount of calories eaten from different food will make the pancreas create different amount of insulin. That is why not all calories are the same.

In my opinion it makes sense and my advice is to avoid highly processed foods. More researches need to be conducted in order to have a proper conclusion.

Having a sedentary life and bad eating habits can lead to weight gain which can eventually lead to type 2 diabetes.

In order to have a proper healthy intermittent fasting lifestyle you should not only rely on the fact that you lose weight and just eat whatever you want in the eating phase. You should have a nice balance between healthy whole-food protein, fats and carbohydrates and eat a good amount of vegetables and fibers.

As long as you exercise regularly and eat at least 90% of your calories from nutrient dense foods you will not have problems with the insulin levels and you will maintain your insulin sensitivity.

Types of intermittent fasting

There are different types of intermittent fasting methods:

  1. 5:2 method – For this method the cycle is 1 week of eating: 5 days of the week you eat normally and on the other 2 (must not be 2 consecutive days) you eat 500-600 calories (1 meal or throughout the day).
  2. Eat-stop-eat method – This method involves fasting once or twice per week for 24 hours.
  3. 16/8 method – This is 1 day cycle which involves fasting for 16 h followed by a 8 h eating phase.

The most common method is the 16/8 one. It is the easiest to sustain and most enjoyable.

Here is an example of the 16/8 method:

a. Have the last meal at 22:00.

b. Do not eat anything for 16 hours out of which 7-8 you are sleeping.

c. Have the first meal the next day at 14:00.

d. Eat 2-3 solid meals between 14:00-22:00.

There are also variations of the 16/8 method.

You can start with the 12/12 split, eat 12 hrs then fast for 12 hrs. Then you can make the fasting period bigger, 14/10, 16/8, 18/6.

Ultimately you can try the 20/4 split where you can eat only within 4 hrs every day and then fast for 20 hrs.

The best method is the one you can stick to!

Benefits

Intermittent fasting can have many benefits for your body.

  • Weight loss
  • Decrease chance of type 2 diabetes due to increasing the insulin sensitivity
  • Prevent cancer
  • Reduce inflammation
  • Improve hearth health by reducing the bad cholesterol

What foods break the fasting

While it is completely agreed by everyone that any solid food is breaking the fast when it comes to liquids there is a debate whether some drinks break the fast or not.

Drinks that clearly do not break the fast are: water (sparkling or steel), black coffee, tea (apart from fruits and herbal ones) and diet sodas.

It’s a good idea to stick to the above drinks if you want to make sure you don’t break your fast.

Who can use it

This lifestyle is suitable for every healthy individual.

Intermittent fasting is not for you if you are in one of the cases mentioned below:

  1. You have eating disorders
  2. You have any health problems – you must check with your doctor before
  3. You are very young (I would say below 18 yrs old but there is not a clear threshold) – you need nutrients to develop as a human
  4. You don’t sleep well
  5. You are very stressed – even a good habit can be stressful for your body, get your life in check before starting intermittent fasting
  6. You are pregnant – pregnant women need more energy throughout the day
  7. If you are a professional athlete or train 2 times a day – You most probably cannot eat enough nutrients in the eating phase to sustain a very high activity level

Before you start anything, it’s recommended that you read before as much as possible to make sure you avoid making mistakes or putting your health in danger.

Practical recommendation

If you have not heard about intermittent fast before and you feel like this is a lifestyle that is suitable but you don’t know if you are going to like it I suggest you start with the 12/12 split.

Try delaying the first meal after you wake up as much as possible. It is way better to eat later in the day. Most people can’t even eat a lot in the morning anyway.

Eating a big meal around 1-2 pm is much better than a omelette in the morning. There are multiple studies that are confirming breakfast is not the most important meal of the day.

After one week of 12/12 split, make the eating period shorter. Try the 14/10 split for week then finally try 16/8 split.

It will take around 2-3 weeks to get used to it.

Also, one of the best tips that I learned is to start with the hardest thing of the day, before hunger kicks in.

Drinking a coffee on an empty stomach will allow your body to absorb the caffeine way faster and you will have a very nice energy boost, that is why I recommend doing the hardest activities first thing in the morning. The last 2-3 hours, maybe 4, of your fasting period will be kinda hard and you will definitely feel hungry.

Tips to suppress the hunger:

  1. Drink 500 ml of water first thing in the morning
  2. Drink 1 black coffee but try to delay it to around 2 hrs after you wake up, you can push for second coffee but not right after the first one.
  3. Drink plenty of water. Sparkling water can be very helpful. You can add a tbsp of salt to help hydrate better, you need the electrolytes.
  4. If you are craving sweets you can try diet soda.
  5. Remember why you started! There are plenty of benefits for intermittent fasting, this should be the best motivation. It takes 2-3 to get used then you can be set for life!

Self experience

I used the intermittent fasting protocol during my first weight loss period.

It was kinda new in the fitness industry and not many people were talking about it.

There was not much information about it so I had to learn with trial and error what works and what doesn’t, especially tips for suppressing the hunger.

I started with drastic changes in my diet because I was eating a lot of junk food before starting the intermittent fasting.

I changed the majority of the junk food with healthy food and with the intermittent fasting I managed to actually struggle to finish my calories for the day even though I did not have many since I was cutting.
I started with 14/10 split, it was very hard at the beginning but as soon as I got used to it I changed it to 16/8 and I was stuck with it until I achieved my goal.

I was not drinking coffee at all before this so I only needed 1 coffee to suppress the hunger at the beginning. BUT! As I advanced more into the cut I found myself drinking up to 3 coffees before breaking my fast which I don’t consider healthy because I was finishing the day with 5-6.

After I got used to it I still had some days when I felt like I was gonna die of hunger.

It’s not really as you read on the internet, you will feel hungry, sometimes veeery hungry, you will feel down, you will have cravings, you will fail. The important thing is to not give up and the next day start again. That’s what I did and I had big success with this lifestyle.

This experience has helped me understand more the human body as well as push to the new limits.

At the moment I am not using the intermittent fasting because during a bulk it’s not really recommended because I would have to eat very large quantity of food in a short period of time and I would pretty much need to eat every hour to reach my goal for the day.

 

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