A Beginner's Guide to Intermittent Fasting

October 08, 2018

A Beginner's Guide to Intermittent Fasting

Intermittent fasting isn’t a new diet plan created to restrict what you eat. Intermittent fasting is a change in your eating pattern. You can do it as an add-on to your existing diet plan or you can opt to do on its own.

Think of it as something similar to Facebook and Instagram where you can use both apps at the same time for the same purposes but they don’t necessarily have to be used together in order for them to work.  

It’s pretty easy to start compared to starting a diet plan that shifts the entirety of your routine and food options but doing it wrong can actually make you gain more weight instead of losing them.

What is Intermittent Fasting?

Intermittent fasting is the shifting of your eating patterns. You don’t drastically change what you eat; you still get eat the food you need and want to eat, you stay within your daily calorie limits but you can only do so during a fasting window that usually lasts for about 8 hours. This would mean that you would be on fasting for about 16 hours in a day and this is the part that entails planning your day and deciding which meal you’re going to skip.

Intermittent fasting works by burning through the food that’s stored in your body because the energy that can be derived from the food that you have eaten has already been used up. The internal workings of your body is in a perpetual motion whether you’re awake or asleep, and giving your body time to lower down your insulin levels gives it time to use up the fat that it has decided to store for when you’re in the fasted mode.

Stomach Growls Do Not Equate to Hunger

A lot of people associate the grumbling of their stomach to mean that they are ready to eat again. That’s not often true. Your stomach can and will growl for a number of reasons such as:

  • Your stomach is digesting the food that you have consumed

  • You have a problem with indigestion

  • You have an influx of stomach gas due

  • Underlying medical issues

Your body has ways of letting you know when you need to eat food and when it’s okay to do without it for a while. Hunger comes in waves, and true hunger is only felt when your body realizes that it does not have the fuel to work its normal functions. It leaves you feeling dizzy and lightheaded, and leaves a dry feeling in the throat.

Practicing intermittent fasting will make you more aware of your body’s own signals. As you move further into the practice, you will realize that you feel less hungry and that you are able to work through your fast with no problem because you have accustomed to moving with your own body’s rhythm at a pace that it is truly comfortable with.

What is Insulin and How Does It Make Me Fat

Insulin is the fat storage hormone that sends signals to your body when it should save fat from the food you eat or when it should release the reserves to be turned into energy because you’re low on fuel. Insulin levels rise whatever kind of food you eat but it rises the most when you eat food that are rich in carbohydrates because these are the types of food that are digested and turned into glucose in the body the fastest.

Compared to when you’re eating high fat content or protein-rich food which are harder to digest and therefore leaves you fuller and has a relatively milder effect on your insulin level, carbohydrates are burned faster and raises your insulin levels higher. Insulin on its own does not necessarily make you fat. But high insulin levels dictate to your body that it needs to store fat from the food you have just digested hence creating more fat cells which in turn makes you gain more weight. You can read up more on insulin and what it does to your body here.

Intermittent fasting allows your body to go through a prolonged state of low insulin levels so that the body can have time to use the excess fat cells that are stored in the liver and in other more unlimited fat storage areas in the body. Eating continuously throughout the day gives the body little to no time to digest your food properly and turn them into the energy that you need. Weight is gained when the excess fat that insulin has instructed the body to store is not used up before the next mealA

Source: https://cdn2.omidoo.com/sites/default/files/imagecache/full_width/images/bydate/201602/foodcuttingboard.jpg

Things to Note Before Doing Intermittent Fasting

Before embarking on this new eating pattern, you need to first decide when your fasting begins and ends. One of the most popular schedules in intermittent fasting was developed by Martin Berkhan which is called the Leangains method, named after his own website. This method follows a 16:8 fasting schedule whereby you fast for 16 hours a day with an 8 hour window for you to eat your meals. Typically, those who do intermittent fasting eat three meals in the 8 hour window that they are allowed to eat. Berkhan suggests that the first meal after you break your fast be the heaviest, and then allocate the rest of your meals throughout your day. Berkhan discusses this method in detail and also discusses other alternative schedules that also includes workouts here.

Another thing to consider is planning how the rest of your day will go. One of the challenges of intermittent fasting is waiting for your fast to come to and end. It gets easier as you progress with further into this new eating pattern and you also realize that you get to do more as you try to refocus your energies on getting things done instead of thinking about food.

This video shows the typical routine when doing intermittent fasting. The important thing to note here is that while you are allowed to eat during the 8 hour period if you do decide to follow the Leangains method, you still need to be mindful of what you eat. It’s okay to cave in to your cravings once in a while but the best practice is to start your meal with your fiber-rich food, your proteins, your food high in fat, and then finally, with the dessert that you’ve probably been thinking of getting but was hesitant to have because of your fast. Avoiding carbs is also highly recommended for when you do intermittent fasting because carbs can make you hungry faster, and loading up on meals that are rich in fat and protein will help you feel fuller longer.

Keep in mind that when your food eating window arrives, it is not an excuse for you to binge on all the food that you want to eat. Eating the right kinds of food is still crucial in order for your fast to give you the results that you want. Being mindful of the food that you eat is part of your newly adapted eating pattern.

How Long Should Your Fast Be?

There are many ways to do your fasting other than the Leangains method. Some methods suggest shortening the window when you can eat to extend your fasted period and therefore increase the benefits of fasting.

Determining how long your fast should be depends on the schedule that you have plotted for yourself. Of course, you can rearrange your schedule around your fast but the best way to jumpstart intermittent fasting is to make it work for you and not the other way around. You can start with the 16:8 schedule, and work your way to the 20:4 schedule where your window for eating is limited to four hours, and then finally extend it to a 24 hour fast and so on. You can see the different lengths of fasting here.

Benefits of Fasting

Fasting has long been a practice done by people all over the world. It’s meant to enhance your physical, emotional, and psychological state of wellbeing by allowing you to have time to reflect on things and focusing your energies on doing things that need more of your attention. Digestion takes up a lot of our body’s energy and focus so much so that when we are sick, our body’s natural response is to throw out the food that you have consumed because it intends to focus on healing your body as its top priority instead of digesting the food that you just consumed.

Source: https://i2.wp.com/scienceandfitness.in/wp-content/uploads/2018/02/Intermittent-fasting-weight-loss-results.png

Of course, one of the main reasons why intermittent fasting became so popular is because of the weightloss that it can provide. Fasting allows your body to use up all your energy reserves by turning it your fat cells into glucose and therefore, turning it into energy which your body can use. This is also the reason why it’s best to workout before having your breakfast because your body would still be in a fasted state and would therefore be using your reserved energy stores.

Fasting also induces your body to go into what is called autophagy which is a process by which your body can detoxify itself from damaged cells. During extended periods of fasting, it also allows the body to have time to feel itself and use up nerve energy to send the proper signals to the different organs of the body.

You can read more extensive discussions of intermittent fasting here, and the benefits of extending your fast here.

Ready to Start?

Reading up on intermittent fasting is the best way to prepare for it because you will be able to ready yourself psychologically about what you are about to go through. To maximize the results, start with a daily planner of when your fast starts and ends. Preparing your meals beforehand also assures you that you won’t grab the next thing you lay your set your eyes on especially on the first few days of your fast. This infographic is helpful in showing you how a typical day looks like when you’re doing intermittent fasting.

To help you plan for your intermittent fasting, you can check how much calories you need in a day here, and you can plan on your workouts and also your meals for when you’re allowed to eat here.

There are also mobile apps that can help you in tracking your fasting schedule, your milestones, and fasting plans. You only need to register, update with your personal information, the fasting plan that you have decided on, and you’re good to go.

Most of these apps has a premium account option which will allow you to do cover more bases using the app. The most highly recommended ones are:

1. Vora, available on ios and android.

  • It has extensive stats and analytics which is helpful when you’re still trying to get used to your new diet. It also features a social network where you can follow other users in their own ketogenic journeys.

2. BodyFast, available on ios and android.

  • This app allows you to update the entire history of your fast, and helps calculate your fasting intervals. It has a premium account called coach which will guide your fasting for a week. This app is highly recommended for beginners.

3. Zero, only available on ios.

  • Developed by Kevin Rose, an applications developer who has been keen on developing apps that targets the body and mind for positive reinforcements and habits. He also developed a meditation app called Oaks which is really useful when you’re in the early stretch of your intermittent fasting because meditation can help keep your mind off of food. Both Zero and Oaks are absolutely free of charge.

Intermittent fasting can give you all the benefits that you have read about it as long as you remember two things: eat right and eat only when allowed. Keep your zen and you’ll soon be on your way to enjoying the healthier lifestyle that you have always wanted.






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