If you know how to browse the internet and are in to health and fitness, then there’s a really good chance that you’ve heard about intermittent fasting. It has been around for a very long time but only in the last few years has it gained popularity amongst the average gym nut.
Fasting really is nothing new, people have been fasting for many religious and spiritual purposes for centuries. It is also thought that fasting was practiced (involuntarily) by our ancestors during the caveman era as they spent most of the day hunting and only by night would they get to feast on their hunt (and I assume drink wine made from mammoth blood).
What is Intermittent Fasting?
Basically, intermittent fasting, or IF, is when you fast for most of the day, commonly around 16 hours and then have all your daily calories during the rest of the 8 hours. You are only allowed to have 0 calorie liquids during the fasting period or a scoop of BCAAs before your workout.
Although, it is a great tool for fat-loss, it can also be used during your bulking period (you just have to adjust your calories). It is just easier to eat this way rather than the traditional every 3-hour plan since a lot of us have a hard time eating in the morning during work anyway. It takes the stress out of eating because it really is very simple, stay hydrated during the day, get home from work, have a light meal (or BCAAs), go workout and then feast!
You’ll be sleeping 8 hours anyway (you should be) so really, your fast only lasts for 8 hours.
What are the benefits of IF?
It helps you burn fat and improves insulin sensitivity. Since you’ll be fasting, your body won’t have any ready source of fuel (glycogen) and therefore, it is more likely to dig in to your fat-stores for energy. Since your body’s glycogen stores have been depleted, the food that you do consume is more likely to be used to replenish your muscle and liver glycogen levels rather than be stored as fat. In a traditional, every 3-hour meal plan, your insulin levels rise and fall with each meal and this in turn can make your body resistant to insulin. Remember, insulin is a storage hormone and if there’s insulin being released in to your body constantly, your body won’t be very effective at using fat for energy. It will constantly be in storage mode.
It’s easy to follow. Have you ever gotten stressed because all you can think about is when and what your next meal is going to be? IF, takes that stress away. Just focus on staying hydrated during the day and come night time, have a nice large meal or two with a couple snacks.
It improves your digestive system. Think about it, if there’s no food to digest, your digestive system is given a well-deserved break. This helps to replenish your stomach acid and restore your digestive enzymes so when the next time you eat, your body is much more efficient at breaking down that food and absorbing its nutrients and since the digestive system is one of your body’s first lines of defense, your immune system is also greatly improved.
Fasting improves energy levels. Although, for the first few days you might feel a bit sluggish, soon after, you will notice that your energy levels are higher than they’ve ever been because your body is not busy digesting food all the time, in turn, making you sluggish.
Increases growth hormone (GH) levels. Some studies have shown that fasting has a positive response on the output of growth hormone, which we all know is a great thing for increased muscle growth and fat-loss.
Is IF right for me?
Although the majority will have no issues with intermittent fasting, it is always wise to check with your doctor if you have issues relating to blood sugar, blood pressure or are on any type of medication that needs to be taken with food.
Do note that if your body is used to frequent feedings, it will take some time to adjust to the fasting lifestyle. You might experience some nausea, headaches and sluggishness during the first few days but stick with it and you will notice a great improvement in your daily life.