Posted on December 16 2019
Time to Read: 8 Minutes
I have been hearing about intermediate fasting for quite sometime now and had to give it a try.
Firstly, intermittent fasting (IF) is a very popular “diet/ lifestyle” concept, where you spend periods of time lasting from 14-20 hours not eating. Now this may sound very restrictive, but actually it really is not. My problem was really not the fasting part. I did the 16/8 hour fasting/ eating window for my trial. I was fasting from 6pm to 10am (sleeping most of it really).
Why must you give this a try.
The science behind this is simple. During the eating window, glucose is absorbed and used as a source of energy. During your fasting period, the blood glucose level in the body decreases and fat cells are oxidised as a source of energy.
Intermittent fasting also puts you in a state of ketosis (just like in keto diets where fat cells are used to fuel the bodily functions) without all the side effects that come from dropping fibre and carbs on a keto diet. If you have been contemplating going on a Keto diet for fat loss, I suggest you watch this first:
There are other benefits to an intermittent fast too, read this to know more:
Is fasting medically suggested though?
Undoubtedly, any form of fasting is good for you. Look at almost any religion of the world and they practice some form of fasting. Be it during Ramazan in Islam or during Lent for Christians.
He talks about the benefits of water only fasting as a comprehensive tool to heal the body. Dr. Goldhamer has a residential clinic where medically supervised long term fasts are often used as a form of treatment for clients with terminal illnesses. Here is a great podcast to know more about him:
What should an ideal fasting window be?
I suggest to start with a 14/12 window where you are eating for 12 hours and fast for 14 hours. Most than the actual eating window, the time of your fast matters.
Though intermittent fasting by itself works great in terms of reducing weight, dropping cholesterol and boosting insulin sensitivity, following an early eating window works even better.
This study (and multiple such studies) showed that even when accounting for eating the exact same number of calories and the same food, individuals who consumed the calories earlier on in the day experienced more benefits in terms of fat loss than those who consumed the same later on.
The first though that probably comes to your mind on why this happens is because you are more active during the day and burn up the calories better than at night. But this is not true by itself.
Even with people who work night shifts, the glucose tolerance in the body declines as it gets darker. It is more to do with the circadian cycle of the body than anything else.
How much fat loss can I expect from Intermittent Fasting?
In this research study, without changing the calories input or increasing the exercise output, the average fat loss in overweight individuals with a restricted eating window was about 7 pounds in just a few months. In fact, this was one of the few weight loss studies where participants voluntarily chose to continue this pattern of eating even after the study was completed and sustained their fat loss.
Can Fasting increase my lifespan?
The longest living population in the world, the Seventh day Advantist, who live about a decade longer than the general population tends also to follow a similar eating pattern. With a heavy breakfast or lunch and prolonged fast, front loading calories and IF might also hint towards longevity.
Having a fasting window for some people could also mean skipping a meal and consuming lesser calories. Multiple studies talk about the benefits of reducing calories and the positive effects it has on the body (apart from just fat loss). Reduced calorie diets have shown to increase life span in lab animals and also delay onset of predisposed age related genetic diseases.
Reduced calories is associated with metabolic slowing and reduced oxidative stress on your cell which increases longevity. This study even goes on to show that just a 20% caloric restriction starting from age 25 and going upto age 52 could add upto five years more to your lifespan!
Reduced calories of course means lower abdominal fat, lower cholesterol and triglyceride level, better insulin sensitivity and lower visceral fat. All of these also translate to longevity.
Now when I say “reduced calories”, I by no means am talking about a very restricted 1200 calories kind of diet. I am just talking about a 200-500 caloric deficit per day based on my activity level and BMR combined.
How many calories was I consuming on my IF diet?
As per my activity level and BMR, I should be consuming 2100 calories per day to maintain a caloric surplus. Since I was following an IF pattern, I was automatically consuming 1600- 1800 calories without getting too hangry.
What was my experience?
My expectations when I started IF were simple, to lose fat (not muscle mass), not crave in to eating late night snacks, improve overall digestive health and help clear up my skin and stomach.
But I got so much more than that. The biggest benefit for me was not feeling 'hangry' any longer. I would exercise in the morning around 9 am and did not break my fast till noon and was still fine.
It took me a week to get used to this pattern but once my body adapted, it was great. I did not wake up feeling hungry or tired. We do not need as many calories as we think we do.
This was the easiest plan to follow since it did not require me to spend a lot of time in the kitchen cooking and thinking about food. I had more time to work and focus on other things.
Besides this, almost every day of my first week of trying IF was a family movie night. Meaning, late night nachos- guac and popcorns (pizza sometimes too). Since I was committed to IF, I did not taste even a bite of any of this.
Having an eating window stopped me from junk late-night- mindless- empty- calorie eating.
Also, inspite of my water intake being very high, I woke up every morning to a flat belly, this was probably because I ate a few hours before sleeping and giving my body enough time to digest. Read this article talking about how the same calories consumed in the evening adds to body fat 50% more than when consumed in the morning.
I also got rid of a bloated belly and about 2 kg weight in a month.
My recovery was marginally better. This was because I went to bed empty stomach and my digestive system was resting and my body could better focus on recovering muscle fibres.
I did not see any much difference in my strength gains (lifting almost similar weights). But cardio endurance got a little better. Could sustain longer without feeling fatigue.
So this was exactly how I did IF:
I started my meal with a cup of fruits. This was followed by a bowl of salad with lots of greens. Then I have any grain of my choice (wheat/ rice/ barley/ quinoa) with beans or lentils and more veggies (sabzi). I occasionally also added vegan curds or buttermilk.
7 pm- Dinner:
Similar to brunch with two types of beans and soup instead of salad.
Here is a sample plan I suggest you to follow:
For someone looking to build muscle mass and stay in a caloric surplus, this might not be the best option. Although, some research does also point to the fact that fasting boosts testosterone and may aid in building muscle mass.
So in conclusion,
Since eating window is so small, you will still feel like you are eating so much but are actually not. This lifestyle change would be perfect for people who are not very good with portion control type of diet. With a smaller eating window, you end up automatically missing one meal and eating less.
Who is this type of diet for?
If you are glucose sensitive- this is not suggested without proper guidance. Ironically, fasting does improve glucose sensitivity though.
If you have a habit of mindless eating, I highly suggest yu try this to dicipline yourself. I would suggest trying it for four weeks atleast and then listening to your body signals.
What will break my fast and what won't?
If you are someone who is looking for Intermittent Fasting customised meal and workout plan as per your body type, fill this form below.