What if having a healthy diet is not just about what you eat, but as much about when and how you eat.
The popular belief is that breakfast is the most important meal of the day and we need to eat every few hours to keep your metabolism operating at its maximum capacity all day long.
However, what if there was science and research showing that skipping breakfast can help the body perform optimally, both mentally and physically as well as helping retain muscle and reduce body fat?
This is where intermittent fasting comes into play. When I first heard of the term intermittent fasting, I thought it was another fad type of diet or approach to lose weight. I asked myself, “Is it for me, I’m hungry all the time!”.
I was skeptical. Then I realised that everyone already fasts for at least 8 hours when they sleep. Fasting is just about slightly increasing that duration. Also, I believe in science (so long as it’s carried out in an ethical way) and try to be open minded to new things so I thought I would give it a try and see what all the fuss is about.
Why Intermittent Fast?
Scientific studies suggest that intermittent fasting has many health benefits such as;
- Increasing fat loss by using fat for fuel
- Enhancing metabolism and preserving muscle
- Increases Human Growth Hormone (HGH) by as much as 5x more wich has been shown to be anti-aging
- Improves Insulin sensitivity which is key to fat loss
- Activating cellular repair so it tends to heal quicker as it is no longer spending energy on digesting food
- Helping unfold your genes in the way that can help with longevity and certain diseases and protect against dementia
In a nutshell, fasting appears to be nature’s way off allowing the body to carry out important work and heal itself.
Even though intermittent fasting is typically talked about for its effect on weight loss, it’s evident that there are many health benefits. It’s not a fad just to lose weight or gain muscle: it’s about improving your health. And my vision and this site is all about improving your health!
How to intermittent fast?
First of all, It’s important to note that you should not fast if any of the following conditions apply:
- You have any medical condition, eating disorder or illness.
- You are pregnant.
- You are engaged in physically demanding and/or stressful work.
- You are low in energy for unknown reasons.
- If you have any concerns in which case it is advisable to speak to your doctor.
If you want to try intermittent fasting, the three main methods are;
- The 16/8 Method: You restrict your daily eating period to around 8 hours. For example, if you finish eating at 8pm all you would do is skip breakfast first thing the morning and wait until about mid day before eating again.
- Eat-Stop-Eat: This involves fasting for a 24-hour period at least once a week.
- The 5:2 Diet: On two non-consecutive days of the week, only eat about 25% of your normal calorie intake i.e. 500-600 calories. The rest if the days you can eat normally.
A big problem with Intermittent Fasting is knowing how to make it work for your
lifestyle. Personally, options 2 and 3 don’t appeal to me. I’m not hungry when I wake up and tend to be hungrier in the evening. Therefore, I find it fairly easy to go without breakfast.
However, the key is to be open minded and flexible: you don’t have to stick to a strict regimen or eat within exactly 8 hours on the dot all of the time and every day. Just try to incorporate some kind of fasting period that works within your lifestyle.
I recommend starting small. Going from eating all the time to fasting is a big change. Remember, everyone fasts for at least 8 hours when they sleep. If you can extend this to 10 or preferably 12 hours to begin with, that’s a great start.
My experience with intermittent fasting
Like with everything nowadays, if you do a google search on intermittent fasting you’ll likely find conflicting information. There are certain people who claim fasting isn’t as effective as a lot of what the science says. However, I believe this is because you can’t make money from fasting.
The food industry wants us to eat all the time. We have been brainwashed with clever (but not intelligent) marketing to think that breakfast is the most important meal of the day and if we don’t eat often we’ll run out of energy. Hence, there will always be people with vested interests who will come up with some kind of reasoning why it’s not good for you.
From my experience, the key aspects to incorporate when fasting are;
- Start small, be open minded and give yourself time to adapt
- Ensure you drink plenty of water and herbal tea during your fast
- Don’t break the fast with a heavy meal – start light and small such as with fruit/salad
- It’s important to still eat a whole foods plant based diet when fasting
- Preferable to do exercise when your fast ends as this further increases human growth hormone (HGH) and forces your body to use fat for fuel
- Be flexible and don’t be too strict with a fasting regimen all the time
Additionally, the top three benefits I have personally had since fasting are;
- Improved mental clarity in the mornings to get things done
- More energy for exercise
- Simplifies my day by not having to plan and rush breakfast and also worry about snacks every 2-3 hours
Moreover, if you are still concerned that you should be eating frequently and you will waste away if you fast, a recent study highlights that there is no effect on meal frequency and weight loss so long as sufficient quality calories are consumed.
There is a significant body of science to support several important health benefits of intermittent fasting. In particular, increased fat loss, increasing human growth hormone and other physiological effects can lead to better health and longevity.
I have personally noticed some immediate benefits such as increased mental clarity and more energy for exercise.
Therefore, I would recommend you to try it and see how you get on. Then decide if it’s something that works for you and can fit with your lifestyle.
Ultimately, how you go about trying intermittent fasting and whether to do it at all is completely up to you. The most important things are trying to incorporate more whole plant based foods into your diet and being open minded to try and incorporate more healthy lifestyle habits that work for you.