So you’re ready to take the plunge and get started on a diet and workout plan. Well, maybe tomorrow. You’re ready to start tomorrow. Today, there’s that fresh batch of brownies, and how are you going to eat just one?
If that sounds like you, and tomorrow never really comes, a great way to kick-start a diet and exercise program might be an intermittent fast. And that, you can start today. Even if you’ve already eaten the whole pan of brownies.
As kids, we’re trained to eat every meal and clean our plates. We learn as youngsters – and have this reinforced as adults – that skipping meals is never a good idea, and that we should really be eating several smaller meals throughout the day to keep our metabolism revved up and not put our bodies into starvation mode.
But if you ate a day’s worth of calories at lunch when you hit the drive-through for a salad and ended up with two double cheeseburgers, fries and a shake, there’s really no need to eat dinner. In fact, eating dinner will easily lead to excess pounds since almost everything you consume after you eat the calories you need to keep your body running for the day will automatically be stored as fat.
Also, skipping dinner is likely to erase the shame of lunch and make you feel more virtuous, and less likely to overeat at breakfast the next day, because the skipped meal – and the overindulging reason why you skipped it – will help make you more mindful of food in general.
In that regard, fasting can be a great tool to help you revise your relationship with food, setting you on a more cognizant path for lifelong health and well-being.
So why does it work?
The intermittent fast as a diet plan is really born from our own biology. Back in the early days of civilization, when we were all cavemen, most of us spent the entire day hunting and gathering, and then gorged on the day’s finds at night around the fire with our fellow cave dwellers. The next day, the process started all over again, except for some days, there was no food, so our bodies learned how to burn fat as fuel and get by on nothing.
These days, even though we now have access to food 24-7, for the most part, our bodies have not adapted to the changes. Fasting mimics the way we used to eat, and serves as a better match for the way our bodies continue to respond to the food we eat. So, regardless of our abundant and reality available food supplies, our bodies are still in caveman mode – able to provide us the nutrients and sustenance we need during fasts.
If our bodies weren’t able to make do during periods without food, then the human race wouldn’t be here today. Our ancestors would have died off a very long time ago if it weren’t for our bodies ability to access stored fat and burn it as fuel.
So, what kind of fast?
Many celebrities go on juice fasts before a big awards show so they can be red-carpet ready come time for the Oscars or Grammys.
But intermittent fasting is a bit different from that, and a bit healthier as well, although there a few different ways to go about it.
Fasts to try:
- A test run. If you are interested in intermittent fasting but aren’t sure where to start, a trial fast can give you an idea of how your body will tolerate fasting. Set aside a 16-hour period that won’t include food. Just be sure to drink water or green tea to stay hydrated.
- Add a fast to the diet arsenal. If the test run went well and didn’t end with a raid on the fridge during which you gorged on everything in sight, fasting might be a great way for you to keep a diet on track. Try to include a 16-hour fast weekly or monthly to maintain a mindfulness of the foods you eat.
- Daily fasting. This is the most drastic of the fasting styles, but is also the one that some proponents of intermittent fasting say is the quickest way to build muscle and drop fat. The key is to allow the intake of food for only a four to eight-hour time period a day, fasting for the rest of the time and ending the fast with a workout.
If planning a trial fast, the best time to start is in the morning after you have slept a solid 8 hours and your body has already begun fasting to a degree and is kicked into fat-burning mode. Yes, not eating breakfast goes against everything you think you know about dieting. But so, too, does fasting. And in this case, changing things up can be a great way to kick a diet plan into high gear.
Here is an example of what exactly that would look like.
- Last meal of the night at 8PM
- In bed asleep by 10PM
- Wake up at 7AM
- Drink a tall glass of water or unsweetened green tea
- Carry on with your day and have your first meal at Noon.
The key, though, it to make sure that you’re eating good food when you’re not fasting, not gorging on junk. That will ensure that the periods when you do eat provide the energy you’ll need for the periods of time that you don’t. Prepare a meal ahead of time that is ready for you when you break your fast.
The benefits of fasting
So what are the benefits of such a plan?
One of the biggest benefits of intermittent fasting is the same as those experienced by low-carb dieters. The process of fasting ultimately leads to ketosis, or the transition from burning glucose for fuel to the burning of fat stores for fuel, a transformation that is similar to the fat-burning portion of a long workout, which often is seen as breaking through the wall.
That means you’re melting away excess fat, and it will show.
In addition, other benefits of fasting include:
- The increased metabolism of glucose, which essentially sends blood glucose and insulin levels plummeting
- Increased fatty acid oxidation
- Preserved muscle tissue, since the body uses stored fat for fuel, not muscle
- Lower blood pressure
- Better HDL cholesterol, which lowers the risk of heart disease
- A lessened risk of diabetes thanks to that improved relationship with insulin
- A stronger, revved up metabolism
Everything has its drawbacks. So, you might be wondering what are the cons when it comes to intermittent fasting.
A very mild con is a result of ketosis, which we discussed earlier. Ketosis can lead to really rank breath as the body digests fat as fuel. Drinking plenty of water to prevent dry mouth can help alleviate the problem. Adding carbs to your diet on non-fast days can also help.
And while for some people, a fast can quiet hunger pains, making it easier to stick to a diet and a great way to jump-start a plan, for others, skipping meals or going a day without food can leave them feeling completely famished, so much so that they clean out the fridge when they finally wake up. If that turns out to be you, fasting is not your friend.
Those who are really active, like pro athletes or runners training hard for a marathon, are also not great candidates for fasting, since they naturally require a lot of calories, and will be less likely to have the strength to power themselves through training sessions after a fast.
Persons under high levels of stress should also be cautious of fasting. Intermittent fasts are a natural stressors and should be avoided if you already have a lot of that in your life.
A few more words about fasting
Fasting has been around since the beginning of time. When done right, the benefits of fasting are immense and go a long way to promoting health. The pros are much more than weight or fat loss, however many people discover fasting for those purposes.
If you’re really interested in fasting for fat or weight loss, then there’s an often overlooked benefit fasting provides those who master it – discipline.
Self-control is the cornerstone to a healthier and fitter you. Think about it. If you could just program yourself and your body to only eat the best and healthiest foods, exercise, and stick with it all, then you’d likely never have to worry about you health and fitness again. Intermittent fasting is an excellent gateway to improved self-control.
When you can successfully deny yourself specific foods or restrict foods to certain times of day or weeks, then you’re in control. Being in control of what you eat, how much you eat, and your physical activity or fitness will place you among the healthier and fitter people on the globe. Intermittent fasting is powerful.
Last, but not least, many people also experience a significant improvement in their self-esteem and mindset. This comes from having decided a course of action (fasting) and successfully stuck with it. In addition, people tend to experience significant mental clarity and optimism when their bodies are running at a higher level due to fasting.
I’ll have a follow-up post on this next week. We’ll get a little more into the science , proper was to conduct intermittent fasting, and some tips and tricks. I felt like this needed a two poster. There is a lot of information that goes against conventional wisdom here and a brief intro I thought necessary.
Here are some more great resources for you on intermittent fasting
Anyone out there tried an intermittent fast? Was it awesome? Did it suck? Share thoughts. So far so good with me.
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