No IFs, Ands, or…
We spend so much of our lives questioning the choices we’ve made and even more time questioning the ones we didn’t make.
What if I applied for that other job?
What if I went to school for x instead of y?
What if I asked that person on that date?
(Okay, maybe not that last one).
Lately, I’ve been pressed with a slightly different “What if?”. Actually, very different.
As of late, I’ve been wondering “What’s IF?”
What is IF (Intermittent Fasting)?
As this section title implies, IF stands for Intermittent Fasting. That doesn’t really answer our question though, does it?
Intermittent Fasting, more or less, is the notion that we can put our bodies into intermittent (periodic, spread-out) fasts (times where we don’t eat food) for benefits to our weight and overall health.
I’m sure most of you have heard of regular fasting. A Fast is generally a diet/nutrition plan where somebody stops eating most or all foods, instead only consuming liquids, vitamins, and maybe suppositories.
I wish I was joking about that last one.
An intermittent fast differs though. In an intermittent fast, you still eat food but you are also still fasting. Sounds impossible, right?
Before we explain how to do one of these fasts, let’s talk about why you might do one.
The (Supposed) Benefits of Intermittent Fasting
Many diet-nuts and health gurus out there are making a big push on intermittent fasting. The overall claim is this: By forcing our body into believing that it is in a fast it makes arrangements within itself to prepare for the worst. This (hopefully) forces our body to optimize the way it conducts its business since it knows food may not be coming soon.
Among the list of benefits that intermittent fasting’s proponents tout are:
Weight Loss – The biggest benefit mentioned is that intermittent fasting can assist with weight loss. Note we use the word assist and not the word cause. If you do an Intermittent Fasting plan but still eat 7000 kcals a day, I don’t imagine you’ll see benefits.
Rise in HGH (Human Growth Hormone) – Some experts argue that an IF plan can lead to a rise in Human Growth Hormone production. Having more HGH has tons of health benefits, such as assisting with weight loss, muscle gain, and anti-aging.
Reduction in Inflammation and Promotion of Cell Repair – Look at me using all these big words. Science on Intermittent Fasting is still relatively young, but early case studies look positive. It has been hypothesized that Intermittent Fasting promotes your body into a period of purging old cells and generating new ones on a much more regular basis. In addition to this, there have been links found between Intermittent Fasting and overall reduction in body inflammation. Win-win!
The Two Different Ways You Can Intermittent Fast
There are various types of Intermittent Fasting plans out there, but here I’ll describe two of the most popular.
The 5-2 Rule – Best if you want to adjust your schedule as little as possible.
The 5-2 Rule, in essence, is a plan where you eat as per usual 5 days a week and fast for 2 of them.
Except it’s actually a little bit better than that:
On your 2 fasting days, you can still eat! The only catch is you eat at a heavy caloric deficit (you are aiming for roughly a 500 kcal a day diet).
The only other rule to bear in mind is that you cannot have your fasts be on consecutive days. Pick two days (with at least 1 non-fasting day in-between) and stick to the harsher diet then.
The goal is that the two fasting days will trigger your body’s “fasting plan” while also providing enough calories to keep your metabolism going.
The Daily Intermittent Fast – Best if you want to adjust your eating habits as little as possible.
If the 5-2 Rule isn’t quite your speed, maybe the daily Intermittent Fast will work for you.
The daily Intermittent Fast protocol is not where you restrict what you eat, but where you restrict when you eat. Basically, you set a number of hours wherein your eating “window” opens. After a certain number of hours, the window closes.
I have seen lots of folks following this plan, each doing it slightly differently. I’ve people who have had windows a small as 4 hours a day. This means they are (essentially) only eating dinner. I’ve also seen folks with windows of 8 hours a day, choosing to skip either breakfast or dinner.
Now again, pigging out and eating triple your usual calories won’t help your cause any. Even a restricted eating window can’ save you there.
The idea of the daily intermittent fast is that you will put your body into a “mini-fast” for about 15 hours each day. When you do eat, you’ll probably eat a bit more than usual but the hope is that the extra calories you take in are still fewer than those of a full meal.
Closing Thoughts and My Personal Intermittent Fast
I’ve been Intermittent Fasting for about two weeks now, and haven’t seen any verifiable differences. That isn’t to say that it’s not working, that just means that I haven’t had enough time to draw conclusions.
In all honesty though, I do like the intermittent fast.
I am following a daily intermittent fast, and I have noticed that I am taking in fewer calories overall than I usually would. This is still despite the extra food I am eating during my window (which I’ve set at 6 hours).
I also agree with some experts who say that the daily fast helps with decision fatigue. That is, when I wake up already knowing when I am going to eat, it’s one less choice for me to make that day.
This might sound insignificant, but honestly consider how many choices you need to make in a single day. One less choice on my mind lets me refocus that energy to more important decisions. One of which has been: Since I don’t worry about when I eat, I can now make better choices about what I eat.
As I stated though, it’s only been two weeks, so the jury is still out. I will update in a few more weeks when I feel I’ve given enough time to draw a hard conclusion.
Until then, what do you think? Does Intermittent Fasting sound like the plan for you, or is it all mumbo-jumbo? Let me know in the comments!