Intermittent fasting (IF) has been a buzz-worthy trend in the wellness world throughout the past year. When I first heard about it, I was very intrigued, as it is frequently referred to in a positive light and said to be results-producing. Today for our edition of WTF Wednesday, I’ll explain just exactly WTF IF is and share my personal experiences with it.
What is intermittent fasting?
Intermittent fasting is a pattern of eating, in which you cycle between periods of eating and fasting. Ancestry is said to be the inspiration for intermittent fasting. When thinking back to hunters and gatherers, carnivorous mammals hunt and eat large meals at a time, as opposed to gathering, or constant snacking. Many ancient cultures and religions also praised fasting for its natural healing powers.
How does one intermittently fast?
Intermittent fasting is pretty simple to put into action. You decide when your eating window will be, and you only eat during that time. IF does not restrict/dictate what or how much you eat, just when you eat. Also, as long as you’re consuming non-caloric beverages, you can drink at any time during IF.
There are three most popular ways to practice IF: the 16/8 method, the 5:2 method, and the Eat-Stop-Eat method. When practicing the 16/8 method, you fast for 16 hours and then consume all of your daily calories during an 8-hour eating window. This method can be practiced each day of the week. The 5:2 method contains 5 days where you eat “normally”, while you fast on the other two, non-consecutive days, only consuming 500-600 calories on those days. Lastly, the Eat-Stop-Eat method requires completely stopping eating for a period of 24 hours, once or twice per week.
What does intermittent fasting do to your body?
Simply put, when we eat, we take in more food than is immediately used for energy. This excess food is stored in the body for later. Insulin is the main hormone involved in food storage for energy, and in order to perform this function, insulin levels rise when we eat. Our bodies can only store so much energy for later, and when that capacity is reached, the rest is stored as fat. On the contrary, when we fast or do not eat, the process reverses—insulin levels decrease, signaling the body to burn the stored food (fat) for energy.
Periods of fasting also affect levels of growth hormone, cellular repair, and gene expression.
What are the benefits of intermittent fasting?
If performed correctly, boosted weight loss can be a benefit of IF, due to the process of burning stored fat described above. However, it is important to note a couple things. One, if you’re being more mindful of when you’re eating, and doing so restrictively, you could be coincidentally eating less, and also losing weight due to being in a calorie deficit. Secondly, on the contrary, if trying IF with the intention of weight loss, it is important that you’re still mindful of what you’re consuming. Meaning you can’t consume unlimited calories in your eating window and expect to lose weight. The idea here is that you’re still eating the right amount of calories for your needs/goals, just at certain times.
Below is a list of additional health benefits associated with IF:
- Spike growth hormone levels, which has benefits for fat loss and muscle gain
- When your body is in a fasted state, cells initiate cellular repair processes, such as autophagy, which is the process of consuming defective tissue to produce new parts
- Protects against various diseases
- Lowers bad cholesterol
- Protects against diabetes by lowering insulin resistance
- Increases energy
- Increases memory and brain function
IF + Me
When I decided to try intermittent fasting, my motivation was not based on tons of research, but mainly just the fact that I heard that it was good for burning fat, and I was (am) interested in changing my body composition to be leaner and more muscular. My motivation was not weight loss.
I tried IF for about a week, deciding to abandon it because my body was screaming that IF + me were not meant to be. I start my day around 5:30 AM. During the work day, I follow a very regimented eating schedule, simply due to the busy breakdown of the school day. I eat breakfast in the car on my way to work around 7:15 AM and I eat lunch at 12:00 PM each day. When I tried IF, my eating window was 12:00–8:00 PM (the 16:8 method), meaning the first time I was eating for the day, after having been up since 5:30 AM, was 6.5 hours later. This lapse did not work for me! I found myself irritable and short-tempered, which was not conducive to my productivity or happiness at work.
I also found that when I finally did get to eat, I wanted to eat everything in sight, definitely past the point of necessary nourishment, and not even intentionally. For someone who has struggled with binge eating in the past, I did not think IF would be positive for my health.
Here we are again with our good ‘ol closing message: listen to your body! Have you tried IF? Love it or hate it? If so, we’re interested in hearing about your experience!
This post is part of our WTF series—where we’ll break down some of the latest food, fitness, and health + wellness trends blowing up your Instagram feed.
One thought on “WTF: Intermittent Fasting”
I agree with you, Hope. As a registered dietitian who has worked with many people trying to improved eating behaviors and fitness, this is a strange direction to go. The research is skimpy, and muscle will get burned as well as fat when fasting. Most people overeat after restricted–I have seen this in religious fasting such as Ramadan. Not a good eating pattern for eating disorders, nor people with diabetes. It does however, help late night couch snackers curb the behavior and maybe lose weight. Gives people a reason to skip breakfast, too. And how about the nutritional quality? Yeah, tough way to treat your body that gets hungry every 4 hours.