Q: What is intermittent fasting?
A: Intermittent fasting, also known as IF, is a lifestyle in which you only eat during strict windows of time. At all other times, you will fast, consuming nothing more than zero calorie drinks to stay hydrated.
Q: Where did the idea come from to start this lifestyle?
A: The intermittent fasting lifestyle of today stems from studying how, when and what various cultures consumed in the past millennia.
Fasting is a big part of numerous cultures and religions, and it has been since the beginning of time. Christianity, Buddhism, Jewish, Pagan and a host of other religions practice fasting at different times each year. While the days and methods differ slightly, the benefits sought from fasting are similar; to increase clarity of the mind and build resistance.
Intermittent fasting also has a great presence in other areas of history. In early days, people did not have access to meals whenever they felt like it. Nearly everything required careful planning and rationing to meet the needs of the household. Often, families only dined once chores were complete, and their final meal consumed well before retiring for the night.
Q: What is the science behind IF?
A: While fasting, the cells in your body are all under stress. While most people think of any stress as bad, putting your body and mind under mild stress periodically is quite beneficial.
When vigorously exercising in any environment, you put your system under stress. Namely, you stress your heart and other muscles. Between workouts, your body is given time to repair and get stronger. The same thing happens to various cells during intermittent fasting.
When you constantly eat, the body is never at rest, giving only marginal time to repair when you sleep. For most, although doctors recommend at least eight hours of sleep, they are more likely to get around six. This means that your body tries in six hours to repair the damage caused during the other 18.
There are many benefits associated with IF. Not only will you begin to see the weight fall off and muscles become more pronounced, you will also experience greater concentration, a reduction in your risk for disease, a better memory, increased energy and the ability to allow for autophagy.
Autophagy is a natural reaction in everyone that rids the body of damaged cells as well as helping to form new ones. In plain English, autophagy helps protect the brain and potentially protects against the development of some cancerous cells. During times of stress, as with fasting, autophagy spikes, helping to clean up more efficiently.
As a bonus, when you combine fasting with a diet similar to the Paleolithic diet, your body becomes less accustomed to only burning carbohydrates and other sugars. Instead, it learns to target fat stores for energy consumption, which increases healthy weight loss and encourages a more natural distribution of nutrients when you eat.
Q: What is starvation mode and will IF trigger it?
A: Since intermittent fasting is just a practice of meeting your full caloric needs on a different schedule, starvation mode is not a factor.
A lot of people believe that starvation mode triggers if they are not carefully counting calories during their weight-loss journey. Somehow, if they do not eat enough or often enough, their bodies will fight them by stopping the weight loss, and in some cases, cause a weight gain.
In truth, the common understanding many hold of starvation mode is false. If weight loss is your goal, keep that in mind when selecting a healthy diet, but there is no reason, scientific or otherwise, to worry about your body going into starvation mode.
True starvation mode takes quite a long time to trigger, and even longer to stop weight loss in its tracks.
Q: What types of people does Intermittent Fasting help?
A: There are countless studies using test subjects with many different backgrounds. Nearly everyone who commits to IF will see results when implemented correctly. Whether you are a banker, an athlete or a homemaker, you can make IF work for you.
Many actors have also turned to intermittent fasting as a healthy alternative to achieve their goals. One of the most successful in the news is Hugh Jackman, who began intermittent fasting as he worked on his image for the famed “Wolverine”.
Q: What is the recommended nutrition plan to pair with intermittent fasting?
A: There is some debate regarding what kind of diet to follow, however, it largely depends on your goals, and no two people have identical needs. For those focused more towards weight loss, the Paleolithic diet seems to be the most popular choice. For Athletes or muscle builders, a diet rich in protein may be the best.
Although your diet may differ from others, some healthy choices to consider include grass-fed meats, natural oils, such as coconut or olive oil, fish, eggs, fruits and vegetables aplenty. When choosing drinks, water will always be your best bet, but do not be afraid to treat yourself every once in a while.
When in doubt, your doctor or nutritionist is your best guide.
Q: What is the best way to incorporate IF?
A: Intermittent fasting is something that needs a gradual introduction. Most begin by restricting all eating three hours prior to going to bed. Since the first stretch of fasting includes eight hours of sleep, it ends up being relatively easy to incorporate this first step. Upon waking, get a cup of coffee or tea, but wait as long as possible before eating that first meal. Push the window a little more each day until what remains is your goal window for eating.
Q: What is a fixed window?
A: A fixed window is a set time in which you fast and eat each day. Some fixed windows to consider are 20/4, 18/6, 16/8. The times are unique to each person to fit schedules for work or other obligations.
Someone on a 16/8 plan who works second shift might choose to eat from 5 a.m.-1 p.m. and fast from 1 p.m.-5 a.m., while another person working first shift may decide on a more standard 12-8 p.m. to eat and 8-12 p.m. to fast.
Q: Are there any risks involved?
A: When IF is gradually incorporated, the majority of people will have no problems, however, everyone should check with their doctor first. In cases where your body is already experiencing high stress levels either physically or mentally, the added stress of fasting can have a damaging effect rather than a healthy one. When IF is applied properly, you should feel energized and alert.
Warning signs to watch for and talk to your doctor about include nausea, dizziness and lethargy.