Intermittent Fasting - what’s all the fuss about?
IF or Intermittent Fasting has been getting a lot of hype and focus in the last 5 years and there are some good reasons why - read on to find out how using IF with your training can have great potential health benefits.
If you haven’t come across Intermittent Fasting in the media before I would be surprised, but just in case you haven’t, here is a quick low down.
IF is a type of eating regime where you restrict yourself from eating or drinking any kcal within a specific time window. This window could be 12,14,16,20 hours dependant on your goals and current health status. The rest of the day outside of this fasting window is when kcal can be consumed.
** For example, if you stopped eating at 9pm on an evening and then started eating again at 1pm the following day, then this would be a 16:8 IF protocol. This ratio can be manipulated dependant on your activity and training goals, motivations and ability to control your hunger signals.
So what are the benefits of following an IF protocol?
From the body of research that has been done and our own personal experiences with clients and ourselves, here are 5 of the main benefits that come from intermittent fasting.
1. IF is a very clear and uncomplicated way of structuring your eating habits, which is great for focusing the mind and body and usually means that it will be followed more easily than say a macronutrient focused approach.
People with metabolic diseases like diabetes should not start an IF protocol unless specified by a qualified dietician due to the impact it can have on blood sugar levels and impact on medication. Always seek professional advice first.
2. It’s a very effective strategy to help reduce your kcal consumption over a week, which means less kcal for the body to store as glycogen and/or fat. This leads to weight loss in the majority of people and the research is showing that the kcal you do consume are then used more effectively and less likely to be stored as fat.
3. It can promote gut healing and improve digestion by increasing the length of time your stomach and intestines has to rest and regenerate new cells. Our stomachs can certainly get a bit of a battering from day to day when we only give them chance to recover during a relatively short sleep cycle. IF helps to increase this regeneration period and allows the cells in our stomach and intestines to replenish more effectively as a result.
4. IF can help promote the body to shift it’s over-reliance on glucose (sugar) for energy production by using lipids (fat) to produce energy instead and better utilising our fat burning metabolism in the process. This shift to lipid metabolism can have great benefits in helping to maintain a more steady blood sugar level and avoid as many peaks and troughs in blood sugar that our bodies don‘t respond well to.
5. The IF protocol can help people have better control and awareness over hunger signals sent from the stomach to the brain. For the majority of people, when we feel hungry our stomach sends out a signal to our brain to let us know we need to eat soon and we often listen to that signal intently and react by quickly eating. The funny thing is that these hunger feelings are often driven by a habitual need to eat and not an actual need to eat, because we have trained our stomachs to not stay empty for too long. This means that the stomach sends strong signals to the brain more often throughout the day than the body actually requires, which obviously increases kcal’s consumed over a day and therefore makes pure fat burning harder as a result.
The good news though is that these hunger signals can be re-trained and reduced in strength so that your stomach becomes more used to being empty for longer periods and therefore less hunger signals are sent from the stomach to the brain to tell us to eat. This results in longer, more comfortable periods of not eating that in turn helps to stimulate your fat metabolism and use your stored body fat more as the source of energy and not an immediate food source.
The 5 benefits outlined above are some of the main reasons why many people who try intermittent fasting find it very successful in changing their body shape and improving their relationship with food. IF also has the ability to help one control and often ignore hunger signals that eventually subside the longer you ignore them.
We know that fasting has always been aligned more closely to how our ancestors would have lived and survived and although our living culture has changed immensely since then with the prevalence of food everywhere, it doesn’t mean we should always eat as soon as we feel hungry.
Like the wise prominent saying goes “just because we can, doesn’t mean we should”.
There are obviously many many ways of eating to provide improved health benefits not just the IF protocol and if you need any advice on any type of eating strategy, then please get in contact. Please bear in mind we are not nutritionists or dieticians so if you seek professional advice in this area then please contact one of these specialists. Saying that we do have a very good understanding of nutrition and the body and how we function best so we can give you some general guidance on healthy eating practices.
Until next time,