Tag: intermittent fasting

Intermittent Fasting – 101 The Secret to Weight Loss?

Answer me this: How many diet trends have you lived through? Can you even count them?

I remember years ago when I first heard of the Atkins diet. Now, I thought it was new at the time, as did most people, but come to find out it actually started back in the 60s.

Cut to the 90s and there it was again and everybody was following it. What I remember most about that is that my friend was following it and we would have deep conversations about things like – Could she chew sugar-free gum or was that cheating? And what would the couch cushions taste like? Because she was that hungry.

I was like, ‘girrrrl…you’re probably like 25 years old. Let’s put a pin in that.’

If only we knew how skinny we were at 25, right?

Now fast-forward to, well, now, and there’s another trend out there called:

Intermittent Fasting

Ever heard of it?

Like every diet ever invented, this is not really a new thing. In fact, the idea of fasting goes way, way back and it’s something researchers have studied for a long time.

There have been a number of studies suggesting that eating less or doing some type of fasting may help you live longer.

As my husband said, “Why would I want to live longer if I’m starving all the time? I’m gonna take a hard pass on that one.”

So you may wonder, why is this a thing? Why would I want to starve myself even more just to lose weight? Well, it isn’t really about starving yourself. In fact, it’s not like traditional diets at all, diets that have you cutting out whole food groups and rearranging your meals so that you lose weight.

Intermittent fasting isn’t about what you eat (although that’s important…) it’s about when you eat, making it an interesting prospect for those of us who want to lose weight and are sick of diets that don’t work.

What IS Intermittent Fasting?

At it’s most basic, IF is a pattern of eating in which you cycle between fasting and eating. Pretty obvious, but how you do it changes from person to person. And what makes IF popular is that you don’t have to count calories or keep a food diary or weigh anything. You just have to pick a type of IF, choose your eating window and voila! You’re doing it.

Of course, it’s not quite that easy – It’s easy to choose an IF method, but following it is always the challenging part.

So, why IF? Well, there are a number of benefits, many of which are the same benefits as any diet that helps you lose weight, but there are some standouts when it comes to IF that may make it more appealing than other diets.

The Benefits of Intermittent Fasting

Just some of the benefits of IF include:

  • Fat loss – Like any diet that cuts calories, you lose fat when you follow IF because, duh, you’re cutting calories. However, what makes IF different is that, in some studies, researchers found that this method of eating actually preserves muscle mass more than other diets (in most diets you lose fat AND muscle – not something you want). Some studies also show that you may burn more fat during a 24-hour period than with other diets. It’s like free fat loss! Except, well nothing’s really free, right?
  • Improved brain functioning – With IF, researchers have found that you think more clearly and you are better able to tolerate stress. Not only that, your memory may improve and it’s easier to retain information.
  • Increased human growth hormones – Some people have actually called HGH the real fountain of youth because, as we get older, HGH declines and that contributes to things like muscle loss and weight gain. With IF, there’s an increase in HGH which means more fat loss, increase in lean muscle tissue, improved skin, increased bone density and more.
  • Improves your insulin levels – Insulin controls blood sugar so when it’s released, your body stores that energy as fat. Since insulin produces fat, the more you have floating around in the body, the more fat you store. With IF, that fasting period allows your body time to stabilize insulin levels, reversing the process of storing fat.
  • Reduces inflammation – Inflammation is your body’s natural response to harm, but chronic inflammation can contribute to a variety of conditions like diabetes, IBS, arthritis, heart disease and, of course, weight gain.
  • Reduced appetite – Some studies show that following intermittent fasting can actually suppress your appetite, so you’re less hungry and, hopefully, eat less.

Sounds good right? So, what’s the catch? Well, there’s that whole ‘fasting’ part but there are a variety of ways to fast, some extreme and others much easier to follow. Let’s get to it.

Types of Intermittent Fasting

The 5:2 Diet

Day 1Day 2 Day 3Day 4Day 5Day 6 Day 7
Regular Meals500-800 Calories Regular Meals Regular Meals500-800 CaloriesRegular MealsRegular Meals

The 5:2 diet refers to the days in the week – there are 7, just a reminder. What this ratio means is that you eat regularly for 5 days and then drastically cut your calories, eating about 25% of what you normally eat, for the other 2 days.

Obviously, this isn’t true fasting because you’re eating something during the ‘fasting’ days. But to put it in perspective, say you’re eating 2,000 calories a day. On the 2 fasting days, you would eat about 500 calories. The general recommendation is about 500-600 calories for women and 600-800 calories for men but, either way, you’re cutting calories and that’s the whole point.

Following this diet generally means you pick non-consecutive days where you cut your calories – 2 days in a row of this would not only suck, but isn’t good for your body. However, on those days you still get to eat healthy foods to keep your body going.

Why it works: By focusing on only 2 days of calorie-restriction, you put yourself in a position to lose weight and, because you get to eat something on those 2 days, you’ll feel more satisfied.

The catch: Well, you ARE cutting your calories a lot which will take some preparation and some deep breaths the first time you try it – changing our eating patterns isn’t easy, right? And, you still have to eat healthy on the other 5 days, y’all. Like, you can’t just have pizza and burgers for 5 days and then have lettuce and lemon wedges the other 2 days.

Sorry.

What to eat on fasting days: Because you want to function well and your body needs fuel, experts suggest eating 3 small meals or maybe 2 slightly bigger meals.

What you really want to focus on during the fast days are these:

  • Lean protein – chicken, fish, pork tenderloin–you know the drill
  • Lots of veggies – they’re low calorie but fill you up – think a small salad or even some zucchini or squash zoodles
  • Berries – Blackberries, blueberries, cherries – this can satisfy your cravings for sugar and you get those wonderful antioxidants
  • Soup – It’s been proven that eating (healthy) soup fills you up and helps you eat less

Breakfast Ideas:

Banana + ricotta cheese
Hardboiled egg + whole-grain toast
Yogurt with a handful of berries

Lunch Ideas:

Salad with light dressing and about 3 oz. of chicken, tofu or fish
Turkey lettuce wrap with veggies and hummus
3 oz. of grilled chicken with steamed broccoli

Dinner Ideas:

Vegetable soup
Stir-fried veggies with chicken or shrimp
Omelet with mushrooms and spinach

The 16/8 Method

Day 1 Day 2Day 3Day 4Day 5 Day 6Day 6
12 am-12 pmFASTFASTFASTFASTFASTFASTFAST
 12 pm FIRST MEAL FIRST MEAL FIRST MEAL FIRST MEAL FIRST MEAL FIRST MEAL FIRST MEAL
 8 pm LAST MEALLAST MEALLAST MEALLAST MEALLAST MEALLAST MEALLAST MEAL
 8 pm-12 am FASTFASTFASTFASTFASTFASTFAST

 

This is a popular option for IF because it’s simple to understand – You fast for 16 hours a day and eat all your calories in an 8-hour window. And? You can choose the 8-hour window that fits with your life and schedule.

Why it works: Like other IF methods, you eat fewer calories because you’re not eating all the time like we normally do. Plus that 16 hour fast includes the hours you’re sleeping, so it’s not like you’re awake for 16 hours and hungry. No, that doesn’t mean you should increase your sleep to 16 hours…good try though.

The catch: Obviously there’s the fasting part and totally changing your eating patterns – again, not always easy. Plus, this method of IF is kind of inflexible. If you have a party one night or you want to go out to dinner, that might not fall in your window of eating, which can make it confusing sometimes. Or maybe your friends want to go to lunch and you’re like – Ummm, I can’t eat until like 1? And they’re like – {side-eye}.

How it works: For the 16/8 method, you can choose any window of time you like. Some examples might be eating between:

  • 9 a.m. to 5 p.m.
  • 10 a.m. to 6 p.m.
  • 12 p.m. to 8 p.m.

Like any other diet, you want to eat healthy stuff, even within that 8-hour window.

Sample 16/8 9 to 5 Meal Plan:

9 a.m. – Egg and veggie scramble
11 a.m. – Yogurt and fruit
1 p.m. – Chicken and veggie stirfry
5 p.m. – Baked salmon with veggies

The key during the fasting times is to drink a lot of water or tea – pretty much any drink that has no calories. This helps you feel full and keeps you hydrated.

Eat Stop Eat Method

Day 1Day 2 Day 3Day 4Day 5Day 6 Day 7
Regular Meals24-Hour Fast Regular Meals Regular Meals24-Hour FastRegular MealsRegular Meals

This method, created by Brad Pilon (he has a book, too – Eat Stop Eat) during his graduate studies. He suggests that 24-hour fasting once or twice a week is one of the best ways to lose weight.

Why it works: As with the other methods, you’re definitely eating fewer calories which means losing weight.

How it works: You eat normally during 5 days of the week, but during the 1 or 2 days you fast, you can only drink stuff that has zero calories. Doing this, you build a calorie-deficit that helps you lose weight over time.

The catch: You’re fasting, y’all. ‘Nuff said.

Some people think this method, is more versatile, allowing you to, say, go out to dinner without having to skip a meal or go to a party without being the party pooper.

Still, a lot of people would have a problem fasting for 24 hours with nothing but lemon water and tea, so there’s that.

Alternate Day Intermittent Fasting

Day 1Day 2 Day 3Day 4Day 5Day 6 Day 7
Regular Meals24-Hour Fast

OR

500-800 Calories

Regular Meals24-Hour Fast

OR

500-800 Calories

Regular Meals24-Hour Fast

OR

500-800 Calories

Regular Meals

 

With this method, you fast every other day and on non-fasting days, you eat whatever you want. And you can decide if you want to completely fast every other day or if you want to modify on your fasting days and eat a low-calorie diet – like 500-800 calories, much like the 5:2 method.

Why it works: Like the other methods, you’re reducing your calories (even more than the 5:2 method), but you’re still getting enough food on the ‘fasting’ days to feel like you’re somewhat satisfied.

The catch: You have 3 days where you eating much less, or nothing at all, which can be challenging to follow.

If you decide on this method and you want to eat on the fasting days, you can follow the general ideas from the 5:2 method above as to what to eat and how much.

The Warrior Diet

Day 1 Day 2Day 3Day 4Day 5 Day 6Day 7
8 pm-WakeupFASTFASTFASTFASTFASTFASTFAST
 Wakeup-4 pmSmall amounts of fruits and veggies Small amounts of fruits and veggies Small amounts of fruits and veggies Small amounts of fruits and veggiesSmall amounts of fruits and veggies Small amounts of fruits and veggies Small amounts of fruits and veggies
 4 pm – 8 pm LARGE MEALLARGE MEALLARGE MEALLARGE MEALLARGE MEALLARGE MEALLARGE MEAL

The Warrior Diet was popularized by Ori Hofmekler who wrote the book, The Warrior Diet: Switch on Your Biological Powerhouse For High Energy, Explosive Strength, and a Leaner, Harder Body.

His approach is to go back to our primal habits and is based on ‘survival science.’ I’m not really familiar with that, but the general idea is this: He used studies and historical data and learned that hunter-gatherers would usually eat sparingly during the day and then chow down at night.

How it works: You pretty much just each fruit and veggies all day and then eat a large meal in a 4 hour period, like between 4 and 8 pm.

Why it works: You’re cutting calories, of course

The catch: This is a tough one for many people because you’re kind of grazing on veggies all day and then, whammo, you’re putting a big meal in there that takes time to digest. This one would definitely be a challenge to follow.

Skipped Meals

Day 1Day 2 Day 3Day 4Day 5Day 6 Day 7
BreakfastSkip Meal Breakfast BreakfastBreakfastBreakfastBreakfast
LunchLunchLunchSkip MealLunchLunchLunch
DinnerDinnerDinnerDinnerDinnerSkip MealDinner

Finally, we have skipping meals, which is a spontaneous way to do IF, but it may feel a little more natural. The idea is that, when you’re not hungry or you’re too busy to eat, you skip those meals (1 to 3), thus reducing calories and helping you lose weight.

Why it works: This might feel more natural to people than something more regimented like the methods listed above. The weight loss might be slower in this case, but because you’re choosing which meals you want to skip, you’re in control.

The catch: This really requires you to be more intuitive about your eating and making a conscious decision to skip a meal. That can be hard for many of us because most of us eat automatically at certain times of the day.

The Bottom Line

If you’re looking for a way to lose weight without counting calories or following complicated meal plans, intermittent fasting might be for. There are enough options that most people could probably find a comfortable version of IF, whether you want something more extreme (24-hour fasting) or something more flexible (say just skipping meals when you feel like it).

The key here is to, first, choose the method(s) that fit with your lifestyle and, second, feel free to change up your methods as needed to match what’s going on in our life.

Intermittent Fasting: Small Meal Recipes for Breakfast, Lunch, and Dinner!

Are you into intermittent fasting? Leave a comment and tell us about it!

 

 

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Intermittent Fasting – Does it Work?

There are all kinds of diet trends out there – Low carb, the Keto diet, the Mediterranean diet – but the latest trend?

Intermittent Fasting

Now, this has been around for awhile, but like everything, it’s experienced a resurgence and there are some studies showing that it can actually help you lose weight.

I want to talk about a study that was published in the Journal of Nutrition and Healthy Aging. In this study, they had 23 obese women change their diets so that they were only eating between 10 a.m. and 6 p.m.

In that time, they could eat anything they wanted – although they could only drink water or calorie-free drinks.

After 12 weeks, the group had lost about 3 percent body fat and were eating about 350 fewer calories, which is surprising. They weren’t restricting anything, yet because they didn’t eat after 6 p.m., they naturally ate less.

Keep in mind, this is a tiny study, but interesting. And it kind of leads into another tidbit I found related to restricting your eating to certain hours.

Stress

They found that the time of day had a big impact on hunger levels and that we have a stronger perceived appetite at night. They found that stress can increase hunger hormones in the evening, which is one reason some of us end up bingeing at night.

The takeaway here is this: Creating a window of time for when you eat may help you naturally reduce the calories you eat. So, perhaps cutting off your eating at 6 p.m. or 7 p.m. would be one way to test this theory out.

One more thing – If you’re interested in intermittent fasting, there a number of ways to do this. You can fast on alternate days, fast for certain hours, skip meals…it gets confusing. But this article, Intermittent Fasting: A Primer offers some great information about the different ways this can work.

So, what do you think? Have you tried it? Would you try it? Leave a comment and tell us about it!

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