This post is not meant to replace the advice of your personal health care provider, but to give information and personal experiences. Always consult your health care provider if you’re not sure about a health decision being right for you.
Kristy here at Real As A M*ther! We like to give you straight-talkin info on #RealLife. A lot of people are talking about different diet options – especially this time of year – and Intermittent Fasting is one that is currently buzzing. However, turns out many people have no idea what it means. We are here to give an overview!
Okay, so there isn’t a huge surprise here. We’re talking about a lifestyle that changes you. We’re not saying it’s a “miracle diet” or even saying that it works for everyone, but my husband and I (and Margo) are just really excited to share with you what type of eating lifestyle has helped us reach our ideal mind-body goals: It’s called Intermittent Fasting and here is why we think it’s frickin’ amazing.
What is it?
Intermittent Fasting is a pattern of eating, where you eat within a specific period of time through your day, and fast for the rest. Essentially, you have a feeding window, when you’ll get your calories in, and a fasting window, when you don’t eat anything. Pretty self explanatory, right? The most common eating/fasting ratio is 8 hours of eating and a 16 hours of fasting. There are also those who go a whole 24 hours on/24 off, sometimes longer.
Why does the timing matter? How does your body do different things as a result of not eating for an extended period of time? Well, we don’t claim to be registered nutritionists, (But folks like Thomas DeLauer do, and he shows in this video that he knows his crap.) but it’s like this: when you eat, your body throws everything it’s got at breaking down food, taking the contents of what you ate, all the nutrients and calories and carbs, and doing what it needs to with them. And after that, what it’s SUPPOSED to be doing (if you fast) is to spend some time cleaning house, recycling cells, building tissue, eliminating bacteria… Seem too simple to be true? Keep reading…
The Deets (getting sciency here, so skip if you want)
To understand the physiology component of the lifestyle, we must first understand a term called autophagy. This, according to Japan’s Dr. Yoshinori Ohsumi (who won a Nobel Prize in 2016 for studying this stuff), is when the body goes into self-cleaning mode. When we allow ourselves to go into a state of “starvation” (aka fasting), damaged cells, proteins and toxins are recycled and removed. All of this burns calories and your metabolism also picks up! It starts burning fat into the glucose your brain and muscles need while you’re not taking any in (aka gluconeogenesis). This results in – yep, you guessed it – body fat loss.
But this can only happen when you allow your body to do it. By not forcing it to constantly process meals and spend all of it’s energy in the digestion process, it can start taking care of itself and mending and repairing. Eating constantly is a little like trying to clean your house while also hosting a play-date with 6 kids under 6… Not efficient to say the least.
What’s it like?
So what should you expect if you decide to try it? Well, for starters, you’ll probably be hungry. But only for a little while, until your body gets used to the lowered insulin levels. The first 8 hours of your fast is after dinner/sleep, so that’s a freebie! If you’re done eating at 8pm, you’ll be fasting till noon.
I personally was never a big breakfast eater, because of 6am workouts and early work days. So I kinda skipped the hunger phase adjustment. But yeah, you’ll probably be hungry. Does that mean you take in nothing?? No, you can have black coffee (has to be black. NO calories. NO creamers). Or, you can drink some unflavored seltzer water to make your gut feel full. And always drink lots of water during your fast. Your daily aim is to take 1/2 your weight in pounds and drink that many ounces daily. You should have half of that by noon.
Water intake: If you weight 140 lbs, aim to drink at least 70 ounces water daily, 35 ounces by lunch.
You’ll be trying to make it till noon, or 1. Or 2! Then, eat. And eat well. Aim for lots of protein, fibrous veggies, and plenty of healthy fat! You’ll have 8 hours – noon to 8pm (if you’re doing the typical 16/8 I.F. method) to get in your calories for the day in this “feeding window”. You should not try to ‘cut calories’ during this time, you won’t have enough fuel for fasting time. You’ll notice once you’re used to it that during your fasting window, you’re sharp as a tack, and awake, and alert, and focused. If you remain hungry in your fast, it means you’re not eating enough fat, protein and fiber during your feed and this will. not. work.
Is this just another fad?
Admittedly, it’s certainly got the looks of one, considering that it’s the new hot thing to do. But think about the religious significance around fasting that dates back millennia. And then consider that, in the wild, animals fast. All of them do. Watch National Geographic and tell me when the lion takes a break from it’s day to eat easily prepared meal #3. Animals often go days without eating.
And I’m not saying that this is a cure for cancer (although during autophagy, induced by fasting, cancer cells can be found and eliminated according to this Oxford Academic Article), but we don’t see many animals in the wild with tumors. True, we don’t see many animals in the wild eating GMOs and processed food, but consider the connection between the natural process of autophagy and animals being in the wild.
I’d argue that the “breakfast is the most important meal of the day” thing was a fad at one point. One based on not a whole lot of science. “Three square meals a day” is a Western cultural construction. It’s an old one, yes. But at one time, humans ate when they found food, when they got their kill, or maybe when they found a fruit bearing tree. Feeding the body lots of times through the day, including forcing yourself to eat in the morning even when you don’t want to, is a brand new fad when you look at the grand timeline of our existence. Pssst…… so are most of the diseases we deal with that relate directly to obesity, which is a direct result of calorie mismanagement.
So let’s sum up the potential benefits:
- Weight Loss, usually quite efficiently, combined with an increase in lean muscle mass integrity
- Anti-Aging properties due to the autophagy process.
- Potential disease prevention, currently being investigated for cancers, Alzheimer’s Disease, and diabetes
- Increase in and stabilization of energy for the day
- Improved mental sharpness – losing that afternoon sugar-craving-sleepy-slump
- Decrease insulin spikes from calorie intake, which increases insulin sensitivity
I’ve seen the results in myself and my friends to prove it can be wonderful. What questions do you have? We would love to help!
Brandon Wright assisted as guest co-writer. He is a passionate advocate for food as fuel, woodworker, and husband of Kristy in Virginia.