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Intermittent fasting (IF) is currently the hottest nutritional theory in the world. Learn how to effectively use IF to get maximum benefits.

Before we get into the why and the how, let’s first discuss the basics of the IF.

What is intermittent fasting?

Intermittent fasting is not a diet. It is an eating pattern. It is a way of scheduling your meals so that you get the most out of them. It does not say anything about which foods you should eat, but rather when you should eat them.

How to get started with intermittent fasting?

There are several different methods which have been used for IF. I will talk about the most common intermittent fasting method which is known as "Leangains" method.

Leangains method protocols:

- Fast for 16 hours a day (14 for women).
- No food allowed but water and low-calorie foods like coffee, tea, and protein supplements are fine.
- You have an 8-hour daily feeding window (10-hour for women).
How to do it?
We already “fast” every day, while we sleep. Intermittent fasting can be as simple as extending that fast a little longer. You can do this by skipping breakfast, eating your first meal at noon.

Example-1:

Your last meal was at 9 pm. Skip breakfast. Eat your first meal in the noon at 1pm. You are technically fasting for 16 hours (9pm to 1pm) in this method and restricting your eating to an 8-hour (1pm to 9pm) eating window. You can have water, tea, coffee and supplements during fasting (9pm to 1pm). You eat protein rich nutritious diet during the 8-hour eating window.

Example-2:

Your last meal was at 6 pm. Eat your first meal in the morning at 10am. You are technically fasting for 16 hours (6pm to 10am) in this method and restricting your eating to an 8-hour (10am to 6pm) eating window. You can have water, tea, coffee and supplements during fasting (10am to 6pm). You eat protein rich nutritious diet during the 8-hour (10am-6pm) eating window.

Why hunger is usually not that big of an issue in IF?

Although it can be a problem in the beginning, while your body is getting used to not eating for extended periods of time. No food is allowed during the fasting period, but you can drink water, coffee, tea and supplements which are low in calories.

Benefits:

- Decreased body fat percentage
- Increased muscle mass
- Increased HGH production (human growth hormone)
- Delayed aging process
- Disease prevention

The science behind intermittent fasting:

Your body is in the feeding state when it is digesting and absorbing food. Typically, the feeding state starts when you begin eating and lasts for three to five hours as your body digests and absorbs the food you just ate. When you are in the feeding state, it’s very hard for your body to burn fat because your insulin levels are high.

After that timespan, your body goes into the state what is known as the post–absorptive state. It is much easier for your body to burn fat in the fasted state because your insulin levels are low.

When our body is in fasted state, we get significant reductions in blood sugar and insulin levels, as well as a drastic increase in human growth hormone. Our body starts burning fat in a fasted state. So this is how intermittent fasting puts your body in a fat burning state.

When we sleep, our body goes into fasted state and our body starts burning fat. This is the reason why at least 8 hours of sleep is very important for fat loss.

Can you build muscles while intermittent fasting?

Absolutely. Taking supplements is allowed while fasting, as long as they are low in calories. Make sure you eat enough protein (as per your body's requirement) from your food during the 8-hour eating window. The "Leangains" method was built specifically for weightlifters, and for people that care about their body composition.

Who should do it?

Dedicated gym-goers who want to lose body fat and build muscle.

How many times a week?

You need to experiment and find what suits your body and works best for you.

Conclusion:

Always remember:  It is far more important WHAT you eat and HOW MUCH you eat than WHEN you eat it. As long as you stick to nutrition rich foods, restricting your eating window and fasting from time to time can have some very impressive health benefits. Give it a shot. If you are getting good results from it then keep using it!

Disclaimer:

Consult your physician before starting any fast, diet, exercise or supplementation program.

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Written by Sapna Vyas Patel , PhD in Nutrition Science and Dietetics
Sapna writes simple, easy to understand articles that are based on pure scientific evidence. She is one of the most popular fitness professionals in India and is followed on social media by fitness enthusiasts, nutritionists, dieticians, doctors, trainers, and professionals.

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