Tips to Get the Most out of Intermittent Fasting
Have you been considering trying Intermittent Fasting or IMF? If so there are a few things you should know to get the best results from this dietary practice.
In this article I will cover the following
- REASONS to FAST
- The best way to transition into a fasting lifestyle
- How to structure your FAST for SUCCESSFUL FAT LOSS
- Supplements to ENHANCE the health benefits of fasting.
POPULAR REASONS FOR FASTING
Some of the reasons why people have fasted in the past as well as in modern times are as follows.
- Improved health and digestive function
- Boost immunity
- Increased Productivity
- Weight Management
IMPROVING HEALTH WITH FASTING
The health benefits of fasting are well documented. For thousands of years people have fasted to cure physical ailments as well as for religious and spiritual reasons.
After fasting 24 hours or more our body enters a state known as AUTOPHAGY. This is where our immune cells including white blood cells and other cells within the body begin to die off.
This may sound alarming, however after killing off the OLD CELLS the body creates brand new ones to replace the older ones.
This results in improved immunity and resistance to infection and disease.
DIGESTIVE PROBLEMS – IBS, COLITIS etc.
For those with IBS and other gut health issues fasting can help manage the symptoms and in conjunction with an elimination diet can help the digestive systems heal.
This is the reason that I PERSONALLY practiced FASTING for several years.
ENHANCE MENTAL CLARITY AND PRODUCTIVITY
Another benefit of FASTING that I have personally experienced is the boost in PRODUCTIVITY and mental clarity.
Have you ever experienced the MID-AFTERNOON SLUMP at work? You eat lunch and now you feel like taking a nap?
Part of the REASON FOR THIS, is that every time you eat you are releasing SERETONIN (depending on what you are eating) and at the same time stimulating the PARASYMPATHETIC BRANCH OF YOUR CENTRAL NERVOUS SYSTEM i.e. “THE REST AND DIGEST” system.
When we FAST, we keep ourselves more in line with the SYMPATHETIC branch of our NERVOUS SYSTEM.
During the day, we are PUTTIN OUT FIRES at work, driving the kids around, running errands etc.
This is the time when we want to be at our PEAK PERFORMANCE.
Eating a LARGE lunch or breakfast can tend to conflict with this putting us into a more relaxed state which is GENERALLY in opposition to the GOALS we are pursuing for the day.
This is especially apparent when we are short on sleep.
DON’T GET ME WRONG. I am not condoning our cultures glorification of SLEEP DEPRIVATION and constant activity.
BALANCE is necessary for good health. HOWEVEVER, we want to make sure that we are MAXIMIZING the benefits of each STAGE of our day.
DURING THE day our CATABOLIC systems are active. We are in a state of OUTPUT and ENERGY UTILIZATION.
At the end of the day, we should be entering an ANABOLIC STATE or one of ENERGY CONSUMPTION and relaxation.
When the two of these get mixed up by either too much consumption and too little activity during the day or working too late into the evening and exposing ourselves to stimulants and artificial lights in the evening. OUR HEALTH DECLINES.
Probably the most popular reason for FASTING is for weight loss or weight management.
HOWEVER, how you go about doing this can either MAKE or BREAK your weight loss success.
There are MANY PEOPLE who routinely SKIP MEALS. However, simply skipping meals does not guarantee you will get or stay lean and be healthy.
ALTHOUGH there are numerous HEALTH benefits to be gained from FASTING (some of which I listed above).
When it comes to WEIGHT LOSS there is nothing really magical about FASTING.
The chief benefit of FASTING is that it allows you to EASILY reduce your calories. A calorie deficit is KING when it comes to losing weight.
As I have mentioned in some of my posts on FACEBOOK the criteria for a good weight loss diet are as follows.
- Manage Hunger
- Manage Cravings
- Keep Energy Stable
All while maintaining a calorie deficit.
This is why I personally like fasting for FAT LOSS. When I first got into bodybuilding, I tracked my calories and macros and split them up evenly over 4-6 meals/day.
I had great physical energy, but I often felt drowsy during the day and I felt like my life revolved around eating.
If I skipped a meal, my focus and energy would plumet and it was beginning to affect my performance at work.
For various reasons I decided to give fasting a try. One of the benefits of fasting is that it allows your blood sugar to stabilize and your body to enter a FAT BURNING STATE.
When you are not as dependent on carbohydrates for fuel you find that your energy levels are more consistent. Your hunger and cravings diminish as well.
For me, this meant that now that my body wasn’t always digesting food, I felt more alert and my physical energy increased.
Probably my FAVORITE ASPECT of fasting was the improved sleep quality.
When eating multiple little meals throughout the day I would have trouble falling asleep at the end of the day.
Since I was only allowed so many calories, I would go to bed hungry which made it difficult to sleep especially the leaner I got.
Additionally, the multiple feedings made me feel somewhat weighed down during the day but after I stopped eating for the evening and my hunger increased my energy also increased. This made it even more difficult to get to sleep and stay asleep.
When I began fasting, I immediately noticed an increase in physical energy and mental focus throughout the day.
By working in line with my body i.e. balancing Parasympathetic and Sympathetic nervous system activity I was able to OPTIMIZE THE BENEFITS of BOTH branches of my nervous system.
It was reminiscent of my RUNNING DAYS. As a runner you know that the best time to run is when you are slightly hungry.
You know that you have enough fuel in your muscles and that the hunger means that your stomach is now empty.
This means that there is less blood being diverted to the stomach and other digestive organs to process food and more is available to transport nutrients and oxygen to the brain, muscles and other organs of activity.
During the day my body was burning fat thus blunting hunger and increasing energy.
Serotonin levels were also kept a little lower keeping me very alert. At the end of the day when I would I eat. I could eat enough to feel full and satisfied get a release of SERATONIN and would sleep like a baby.
MAKING THE SWITCH
One of the biggest problems I have with more extreme diet and exercise protocols including FASTING is that people “GO ALL IN” on them.
There is no transition period. This approach increases the likelihood of failure. It is similar to someone trying to quit smoking “COLD TURKEY” after smoking a pack a day for years.
Some succeed but the VAST MAJORITY fail.
I am of the opinion that when making lifestyle changes you want to do the MINIMUM EFFECTIVE DOSE.
What I mean by this is, make smaller changes first and maintain those changes. It may well be that once you do this you realize that you do not need to do the EXTREME protocol after all 😊
INTERMITTENT FASTING IS NO DIFFERENT. As with any other successful endeavor you want to begin with the end in mind.
As I mentioned earlier. Simply skipping meals does not make for a GOOD FAST. What you eat when you do eat is equally important.
Otherwise, you are likely to undo all of the positive benefits you are trying to achieve.
For this reason, I recommend that before an individual ADOPTS fasting into their routine, they first implement foundational principles of an overall healthy diet, such as eating WHOLE FOODS WHENEVER POSSIBLE.
Drinking water instead of juice or soda, eating balanced meals etc.
Once these principles are in place you have a solid foundation from which to EXECUTE an EFFECTIVE FAST.
Now that you are consistently eating a healthy balanced diet it is time to take the next step towards FASTING.
To do this you will want to reduce or completely eliminate the starchy carbohydrates and fruit from the meals which you ultimately plan to eliminate.
THE REASON for this is that when you are fasting your body transition more towards burning FAT for fuel.
By adopting a lower carbohydrate or even KETO sort of diet first you allow your body to adapt gradually to using FAT as it’s primary fuel source during the day.
When you do end up eliminating food altogether during this time period it will be MUCH LESS traumatic.
BREAKING THE FAST
As I alluded to earlier the KEY to an EFFECTIVE FAST lie in HOW you end the fast.
If you break your fast as many people do by eating a lot of high carb or fat foods right away you will cause a large INSULIN SPIKE, followed by a crash.
This tends to result in overeating and unwanted FAT GAIN. Additionally, you have been without food for an extended period of time. To prevent the CATABOLIC i.e. MUSCEL WASTING EFFECTS of taking in insufficient calories you will want to MAKE SURE that the FIRST THING YOU EAT is some high quality protein.
The longer you have fasted the leaner and easier to digest this protein should be.
If you are only fasting from dinner the previous day to NOON of the following day I find a moderate amount of HEALTHY FAT combined with the protein is helpful to keep blood sugar stable. If you are eating something like beef, eggs, salmon or chicken with the skin on the fat inherent in these protein sources should be sufficient.
For things like CHICKEN BREAST or CANNED TUNA adding some avocado, olive oil or walnuts should suffice.
AFTER you eat a serving of protein usually 30 grams for guys and 20 for gals. Eat a SERVING OF VEGETABLES. 1 cup cooked or two handfuls of salad.
If you are still hungry you can eat a piece of fruit or a serving of STARCHY CARBOHYDRATE such as potato, sweet potato, rice, beans, oatmeal etc.
Continue eating your food in that order PROTEIN & FAT – VEGGIES – STARCH/FRUIT until you are more THIRSTY than hungry.
I think a BMR or calorie calculator can be helpful to give you an idea of how many calories you should be eating.
HOWEVER, after years of experimentation I find that by eating your food in this ORDER I naturally eat the appropriate number of calories without having to count them.
SUPPLEMENTS FOR FASTING
Simply following the tips above will take you a long way on your health/fat loss journey.
However, if you desire to get the most out of your FASTING PRACTICE I suggest you try ONE or ALL of the following.
- Drink plenty of water. Water is essential for the proper and optimal function of your organs. If you want your body to be a high-performance machine and run as efficiently as possible water is a must. As a rule of thumb aim to drink half your bodyweight in ounces of water each day. This does not mean you always need to drink this amount but you should have that amount on hand should you need it. I find that when fasting it is much easier to drink more water. Your body uses water for many processes so if you are dehydrated your digestion, cognition and more will suffer.
- Add minerals to your water. A price that we pay for clean water is that the water is stripped of it’s natural minerals which are necessary for many chemical actions in the body. Some good minerals to add to your water include Potasium, Magnesium and Zinc. I prefer a liquid form from Dr. Caroline Dean
- Supplement with Probiotics and Digestive Enzymes
Probiotics and Digestive Enzymes help keep our gut MICORBIOME healthy, ensuring that we get the most benefit from the foods that we eat.
- Bone Broth & Glutamine
One of the reasons people may wish to fast is to help with digestive problems. If this is you Glutamine and Bone broth can be helpful in repairing the lining of your digestive track which can become irritated and perforated by CHRONIC STRESS, PROCESSED FOODS or HEALTHY FOOD THAT YOU ARE INTOLLERANT OF.
FASTING ALLOWS YOUR DIGESTIVE SYSTEM TO REST, and is a perfect time to put in nutrients to AID in it’s repair.
So, there you have it! A blueprint for EFFECTIVE FASTING.
Till next time,
Aaron Kubetz – CPT – CES
Functional Aesthetics E.C.