Intermittent fasting. What is it, and why do I love it?
I will start off by throwing out there that I love to eat. I think enjoying food is one of the best things about life. There are so many wonderful things to taste and experience, and I definitely don’t want to limit myself from indulging in them. But I also don’t want to over-indulge, either. The percentage of obesity in America is more than 35% right now, and the way food is presented to us and marketed makes it easy to bite off more than we can chew. Now that I’ve over the age of 25, I actually have to work to stay thin and healthy because my metabolism has seemingly slowed down. Everyone always warned me about it but I was NOT prepared haha.
I was also always obsessed with eating breakfast. Breakfast food is my favorite kind of food. I love eggs, waffles, pancakes, bacon, cinnamon rolls, French toast (yes, give me all of the carbs). I will eat breakfast all day every day. And we’ve always been told that breakfast is the most important meal of the day, right? We have to jump start our metabolism to keep it going throughout the day! But what if I told you there’s no actual scientific evidence to back that up?
As much as I love my breakfast food (and I totally still eat it), I heard about something that changed the way I looked at meal times and how to slow (or reverse) any extra weight I had put on since my metabolism slowed down.
I combat gaining weight a few ways, and I wanted to go in depth about one of them with you today: Intermittent Fasting (IF). First off, it is not a diet. It is a pattern of eating. You don’t even necessarily need to limit what you eat, just WHEN you eat it. There are a few ways to do IF, and I’ll discuss them all briefly while covering my style in a bit more detail.
I also want to point out I’m obviously not a professional at this and recommend consulting a doctor if you’re thinking about making a big lifestyle change. This is just what has worked for myself and my fiancé and I wanted to share it with you guys!
First off, what are the benefits of IF?
Research suggests there are multiple benefits associated with the style of eating. Some of the ones I think are most impressive are obviously you can lose weight (eating in a shorter window of time can mean less calories), improved blood sugar levels, decreased risk of heart disease and cancer, and one study shows it can help your brain ward off neurogenerative diseases like Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s while also improving your memory and mood. How awesome is that, just from changing the hours when you eat?
How does it work?
The two main ways to go about this are: 1) eating 500 calories every other day, and on off days you eat like you normally would, or 2) you restrict yourself to only eating in an 8 hour window. This is called the 16/8 protocol. AKA eating within the 8 hour window and fasting for 16 hours. I use the second approach and eat between the hours of 12 pm and 8 pm. This works best for me and my schedule, but you can always try either approach to see what’s better for you. This is the average, but some people do more or less. It’s about finding what works for YOU. And neither of them may resonate with you, and that’s ok! IF is not for everyone, and it doesn’t have to be.
The way it works is when you go a few hours without eating, your body goes into “survival mode” and starts to burn excess fat as energy because it has no food left to digest. By going longer, you burn more fat. HOWEVER, this is something you definitely want to work up to. Don’t just try to not eat for 24 hours. You’ll be extremely fatigued, probably irritable, and you may feel sick when you do eat again. IF works best with gradual introduction.
Start out not eating for 12 hours. I know that sounds like a LOT, but really it’s not at all. You’ve probably done it before accidentally. Sleep IS counted in this, and most people sleep 8 hours a night. So all that means is you don’t eat for 2 hours before you go to bed, and wait 2 hours after waking up. That’s pretty easy. You can also have something under 50 calories if needed, like a cup of coffee or a bottle of water to help you feel more full in the morning.
From there, you can gradually work your way up to 14, 16, and even 18 hours. I’m most comfortable at the 16 mark because I don’t really need to lose weight, I just want to maintain and the hours I’ve set work great for my lifestyle. You can set whatever hours you want. If you need to eat right when you wake up but don’t mind not eating at night, try an 8am-4pm window. You can always adjust it as you go, too.
Can I just eat whatever I want and lose weight?!
No. I wish! I’d live off donuts if I could, I swear. BUT the main reason this works so well for us is because we also maintain a healthy diet while doing it. We stick to a meal plan that ensures we’re eating healthy, covering all of the food vitamins, minerals, and food groups, and we also take a multivitamin on top of that.
If you want the best results, you have to work out, too. You still want to consume the same amount of calories per day, just in less time. Most people have a moderate sized lunch and a big dinner while doing IF. You can still eat desert and enjoy indulgences, I’m just saying this isn’t an excuse to not eat well and think you can lose weight. If you aren’t giving your body what it needs, you won’t be feeling good anyway.
How is this different from a diet?
Diets are typically restricting the things you eat in some way. You either have things to avoid, calories or points to count, or a list of dos and don’ts to follow closely along with. IF simply limits the TIME in which you consume your food, not what you’re eating. You don’t have to miss out on things with this plan. If you have a brunch date coming up, just stop eating sooner the night before, or stop eating sooner that day to try and get in the 12-18 hour window. It’s completely manageable and flexible to fit your lifestyle.
Can I still exercise on an empty stomach?
If you’re a morning exercise person, first off, I salute you. Second, you can definitely exercise on an empty stomach. It typically gives people MORE of a drive, surprisingly. It’s best to eat something with a good amount of protein afterward, though, to help your body out. I can’t recommend this green smoothieenough for you guys. I’m OBSESSED. Tastes good, has pretty much all colors of the rainbow fruit and veggie wise, and is packed with a ton of healthy goodies to energize you.
What can I expect?
In the beginning, this takes some getting used to! But it’s all about discipline. I will typically feel some hunger pangs between 10am-11am, but I’ll make some coffee, drink some water, and power through. It will typically subside within 30 minutes. You just have to try not to think about it. If you’re sitting there focused on how hungry you are, obviously you’ll feel it more. Resist your cravings and it will pay off!
For the best results, set some goals to work toward. If you’re not working toward something tangible, it’s much easier for the hunger fairy to coax you into binge eating your hunger pains away. Do you want to lose weight, body fat, be more disciplined with your diet, exercise more? Figure out what the point of trying IF is and write down your goals. Hold yourself accountable.
Do I need to exercise for this to work?
Technically, no. But if you’re working this hard, you might as well go all out in my opinion. Working out while fasting will help you burn more fat faster. That’s typically the goal, isn’t it? Plus, exercise is good for a plethora of other reasons. I exercise because I want to age gracefully and I know I need to take care of myself now in order to still be up and mobile when I’m 70. And I need to eat well in order to feel good and MAKE it to 70 (and beyond hopefully!).
My exercise routine is pretty simple and really only involves 3 25 minute workouts a week that are “intense” and 2 relatively easy cardio workouts. Read more about my workout routine with BodyBoss here. I highly recommend looking into it! Those exercises and the meal plan they offer have made a huge difference for me (and Jake follows the meal plan with me). It’s a very simple program catered toward busy women in terms of both workout and meals.
Should you have any more specific questions about IF, feel free to check out this article that I learned from initially when I was looking into IF, or this one or this one. They’re all full of information and go much more in depth than I did here, depending on what kinda info you’re looking for.
And as always, feel free to reach out to me if you have any questions for me personally! I’m always happy to help and love to hear from you guys.