The benefits of intermittent fasting and how to do it
Intermittent fasting is free, flexible and simple. It is the absence of food during a prescribed time period. You’ll be in either a fed or fasted state.
When you eat is almost as important as what you eat. Eating small meals throughout the day used to be the way to go, but research has found this can over work the pancreas and digestive system. Using a 16-hour fasting window can reduce calorie consumption by 20 to 40% as well as the other following benefits:
Increased energy and mental clarity
When you fast, your insulin levels are low which promotes the use of body fat as energy. Fat is digested slowly and sent to the liver for processing before it can be used for energy. This is a steady, consistent process, resulting in more energy and increased mental clarity.
Ensuring that your fasting window begins at least 3 hours before bed will improve your sleep quality and hence you will feel more energetic upon waking. Eating just before bed means that you will still be digesting food which will interrupt your sleep.
Lean muscle mass
Fasting increases the production of the Human Growth Hormone (HGH). HGH is one of the main fat burning hormones which also promotes the synthesis of lean muscle mass.
Autophagy is another benefit of intermittent fasting. Autophagy is the recycling of damaged and dysfunctional cells, using their components to regenerate and repair healthier cells.
Intermittent fasting has also been proven to:
- Lower blood pressure
- Improve cholesterol profile
- Reduce the risk of cancer and Alzheimer’s
- Increase HGH production
- Promote healthy cell production
- Improve sleep quality
How do I do intermittent fasting?
Everybody is different, some of you will work a nine to five, some will be shift workers and some like myself are business owners with no fixed work hours so you will have to find a fasting window that works best for you.
My process is as follows: I usually go to bed around 9pm and so as I’m going to sleep with no more food in my stomach, I stop eating 3 hours before so I stop eating at 6pm and then do not start eating till 16 hours later at 10am.
For some of you a 16 hour window may seem daunting so you might want to start with 12 hours and increase by and hour a day till you reach 16 hours.
During your fasting window, you can drink water and plain tea and coffee (no milk or sugar).
Foods to break your fast
Eat whole, real food to break your fast.
Choose the best protein you can, ie grass fed meat and healthy fats ie avocado. These are crucial for building hormones and good for satiety (feeling full).
Choose non-processed carbs, such as sweet potato and leafy green veg instead of bread and cereals. Limit your sugar intake and remember to stay hydrated.
It sounds too good to be true – where is the catch?
Intermittent fasting may not be for everyone. If you have any concerns, talk to a dietician, or a healthcare practitioner or GP. If you have not done this before your body needs to adapt and during this adaptation, at the beginning, you may experience extreme hunger, a dip in energy and even dizziness, but give it time (a week or two) and you will start to feel the benefits. Over time the production of the hormone ghrelin, which affects your satiety will decrease, making you feel less hungry and more energetic.
Intermittent fasting is NOT recommended for adolescents, diabetics, pregnant women, or anyone who has, or is, experiencing an eating disorder.