What You Should Know About Intermittent Fasting

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When people hear the word fasting, their first response may be to imagine depriving oneself of food for a religious purpose, social cause, or to achieve a higher level of self-discipline. These reasons to engage in a fast all have noble motivations, but periodically engaging in fasting can also be an efficient way for the body to digest and absorb the nutrients that we’ve already fed it. We live in a society that is blessed with an abundance of food and easy access to it, which makes overeating and grazing come naturally (too natural actually). Fads that push the notion that more frequent meals throughout the day is the body’s most effective means to metabolize food further promotes non-stopping eating throughout the day. The problem is, that by continuously eating the body never has a chance to absorb the food and fully metabolize it.

What is Intermittent Fasting?

Intermittent fasting is the cycle between periods when the body is in a complete fasting state and a window of time where food can be consumed. The change between states is important because when we eat and are in a fed state, we are digesting and absorbing our food.

During this time, we are not burning fat. It’s only when we’re done eating and allow a good amount of time to pass that our body can begin to burn off stored fat as fuel. So when we are in a never-ending state of being fed, we are hijacking our body’s natural rhythm of metabolizing nutrients. This has a negative effect on a person’s insulin sensitivity and being fat adaptive.

What are the Benefits?

Fasting also aids in managing hunger and helping us to respond to physical cues of hunger as opposed to mental cues. When we have quick access to food it’s easy to engage in a lifestyle of non-stopping grazing. Therefore, we never reach a true state of satiety. We never feel completely fed, so we respond to psychological triggers telling us it’s time to eat again.

This can easily lead to over-eating, thus leading to an over consumption of calories and weight gain. By blocking out periods of time for feeding and fasting, it ensures that during the periods of feeding that a person makes sure to fuel up on quality foods so that during the periods of fast they are well nourished and in a state of satiety so they are able to discern when their body is in a true state of hunger as opposed to a mental trigger.

How Should I Incorporate This?

Intermittent fasting can be done daily, weekly, or monthly. The two most popular methods of intermittent fasting are a periodic 24-hour fast (done no more than once a week) or a daily fast (an 8 hour window of eating followed by a 16 hour period of fasting, for example).

If a person were to choose to incorporate the occasional 24-hour fasting into their lifestyle, it would be important to schedule their training bouts around that 24-hour period so that during the fast they would not be working out, instead treating this period as an “off day.”

A person choosing to incorporate a daily fast into their lifestyle should make certain that during their eating window that they are consuming all their necessary nutrients and in that short time period as well as maintaining a regular training regimen. Regardless of they type of fasting a person chooses, it is highly important not to neglect drinking water throughout their fasting period.

Keep in Mind

When a person becomes accustomed to grabbing a bite to eat whenever they want to (regardless if they are truly hungry), it could be intimidating to reshape their life to go for relatively long periods of time without eating. Yet, this may be exactly what the body needs to burn excess energy and how it was designed to function.

Our abundance of food choices may very well have convinced us that if we were to stop eating we would perish, which is not the case. It benefits a person to be able to effectively burn fat throughout the day as a fuel source, not just for the sake of body composition but to also keep other sources of energy available for their physical activity of choice.

A person choosing to incorporate occasional fasting into their lifestyle should not think of it as radical measures to shed unwanted weight but as a means to be in natural states of being genuinely hunger and being fed and satisfied, not needing further nourishment. Much like any decisions being made on diet and nourishment, a person should further consult with a nutritionist or dietician to plan out their schedule and food choices to ensure proper nourishment is achieved.