The Rundown on Intermittent Fasting
What Is It?
Intermittent fasting is a current trend in the health and fitness world. It involves eating only during certain timeframes. This break from eating allows the body to use stored fat as energy and begins a process of cell repair, which in turn creates many health benefits including: weight loss, increased energy, improved digestion, better sleep, brain health, heart health, decreased inflammation, and more (healthline).
How Is It Done?
So how Is intermittent fasting done? There are a variety of versions, the most common of which is referred to as 16:8: 16 hours of not eating and 8 hours of eating. This timeframe has proven to produce many benefits and tends to be the most manageable for people. Some experts claim that 12-14 hours also provides benefits, and I've heard that 13 hours can be a sweet spot for women. 5:2 is another method of intermittent fasting which is 5 days of eating 3 meals a day, and 2 days of eating only one 500-600 calorie meal/day. All types of intermittent fasting also encourage limited to no snacking in between meals- also in an attempt to give the digestive tract a break. In terms of a schedule, what tends to work well for most is eating a relatively early dinner (at least 3 hours before bedtime), getting a full 7-8 hours of sleep, and then waiting another 1-2 hours after waking before eating again (give or take a few hours depending on how long of a fast you're aiming for). For those who can't go without their morning coffee, it is said that as long as you stay under 50-100 calories, you will not break your fast. So, you can drink your coffee black, or with bit of very bland creamer. I like some coconut creamers without additives.
It's No Cake Walk!
Studies have shown that people often struggle with crankiness and hunger in the first week or two, but choose to continue because of the benefits they experience and the initial struggles go away. Intermittent fasting focuses on when you eat, rather than what you eat. While this appeals to many people, it's important to emphasize that the 8 hours of eating does not open the gate for a free-for-all of junk food bonanza. Of course, eating quality, nutritious food is still important.
My personal experience.
I have definitely had my struggles with intermittent fasting. First there was the adjustment of cutting out my nighttime snacking- which I had been wanting to do anyways. After a week or so of no snacking after dinner, I found that I no longer craved food, and that it was more of a habit of eating as I relaxed than actual hunger. And I still allow myself 2-3 nights of snacking/dessert. I also found that eating adequate meals is super important, to make sure you're getting enough calories during that 8 hour window. The hardest part for me has been having my coffee without food. I find that when I drink coffee without any food, I tend to get the coffee jitters and anxiety real bad. This does not go well with trying to be patient and kind as I get my kids ready for school. And I'm still trying to figure this part out. I think my next step will be to hold off on the coffee for an hour or so after I wake up, or maybe just drink half a cup, so I'm not full of jitters.
A weird thing I've noticed is that on the nights that I do snack, I'm hungrier In the morning. And I don't know the explanation for this. I almost always challenge myself to go 12 hours without eating, and sometimes, I find that I have no problem going the full 14 hours. In fact, more often than not, once I hit 14 hours, I find that I feel okay to go longer. For me, it's super important to be flexible and gentle with myself and my expectations. I firmly believe that the benefits should outweigh the challenges, so if I'm really struggling one morning then I don't push it! And I encourage anyone interested in trying intermittent fasting to do the same. Listen to your body and be gentle.
Here are a couple of resources that I found to be super helpful on intermittent fasting.