If you’ve been keeping up to date with the latest fitness trends, you are bound to have come across Intermittent Fasting. So what’s all the fuss about? Have we just moved from worrying about what we eat to when we eat it?
The non-diet diet has been a hot research topic in recent years, with some saying it may be a solution to fighting some of modern societies self-created lifestyle diseases. Besides the potential health benefits, will its role in hormone regulation really help you lose weight and get ripped? Here’s some insight from my personal experience and research into intermittent fasting.
What Is Intermittent Fasting?
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Food for thought… Social media is really buzzing with exercise and nutritional trends – there’s good things, there’s bad things, it’s not black and white, it’s mostly grey. More than being “ALL IN” on any one training or nutritional trend, use all the hype to educate yourself on the science behind them and be willing to challenge your own beliefs and question as you investigate – as you know better – you’ll do better💪🏼
Intermittent Fasting (IF) is the planned restriction, or abstinence from consuming calories for periods of time. The theory behind this method is based on the idea that humans and animals were adapted to survive without periods of food and that our nervous system, metabolism, hormones and muscular-skeletal system can all adapt to help us perform normal bodily functions in the absence of food.
This was great for the hunter-gatherer, who went through extended periods of time before finding food. But as we evolved, food became easier to find and over-feeding has become a problem for us as humans- just look at the obesity rates globally: overeating and feeding is a real problem, and to make matters worse, we’re eating too much of the bad stuff.
A major reason for many people trying IF is weight loss. In terms of the research, there is good support for IF reducing weight in individuals with obesity and who are overweight.
The calorie deficit caused by reduced periods of eating will help you drop one or two kilos, but it’s the coupled shift “fat burning” metabolism and hormonal changes that’s key. This could be the spark needed to lean out and get ripped.
There is a powerful manipulation of hormones involved with IF, and by timing your training and eating, you won’t have to worry about supplements to boost your hormones and see the gains you’re looking for.
Research shows that there are proven increases of growth hormone with fasting, as well as an increase in testosterone. But how are these two hormones going to assist in getting you shredded? Testosterone is known to help with fat loss, is involved with the development of muscular strength and size, and can encourage tissue growth and repair. Growth hormone helps to build and repair tissue, for fast recovery.
I’ve tried it, and can testify that it certainly worked for me. Cleaning up your diet is not only good for looking great, but more importantly, feeling great. But combine all the above, with a good training regime, and you will certainly see some incredible changes to your body.
My Experience With Intermittent Fasting
My journey to better health started in 2016, so in the bigger picture, I’ve been practicing IF for just under a year. My process involved becoming a regular exerciser, cleaning up my diet, looking after my mental health, and committing to a journey of self-mastery.
In truth, I started IF on a good wicket, with an innings that included over a year of regular exercise and ‘better’ eating, before starting IF in April 2018. My last weigh in (during November 2017), tracked my weight at 83kgs with 14% body fat.
After roughly eight months of fasting and regular exercise, without my focus being on weight or body fat, I noticed I was really starting to lean out. Losing weight or body fat was never the aim of my experiment with IF. I was, and am still in it for the health benefits, and am fighting some of my genetic affinity towards chronic disease.
How I Kept Going
What kept me going with IF (when there weren’t noticeable physical changes) was the feeling that I had during fasting. More energy, mental clarity, better moods, and more productivity kept me enthusiastic.
There was surprisingly no fallout for me in terms of struggling to exercise in the fasted state, so I kept at it. In November 2018, eight months post IF, I weighed 74Kgs with 8% body fat, I also did a full blood count to have a look at my liver, blood glucose, cholesterol, and kidney function, which were all in good shape. That’s 11 kilograms and 6% of my body fat lost.
The million rand question is: do I attribute my biggest physical transformation to IF? There were several factors at play, but from firsthand experience I can say that on a solid health foundation, IF was the missing puzzle piece for me to transform my body.
There are certainly challenges that come with doing intermittent fasting. Anything worth doing is usually tricky and will require discipline. Mentally, breaking the habit of your three meal a day eating routine can be hard at first.
Socially, including intermittent fasting into your daily routine can be challenging if you’re having a late dinner, early breakfast, or travelling.
This may require some discipline in terms of delaying your fast or planning your fasting days in advance. Your occupation may also present a challenge to fasting, especially if you do night shift work: here, timing fasting to “office hour” days may need to be explored. There are several variations of IF so you can certainly overcome any obstacles you may encounter.
Starting with only one or two fasting days per week might be an easier shift instead of going cold turkey – remember, it’s a lifestyle change and not a fad-diet. There is an abundance of research relating to fasting available: interviews and expert opinion on the physiology behind fasting, to personal experiences from the likes of Georges St-Pierre, Terry Crews, and social media fitness personalities.
I strongly recommend educating yourself about IF before jumping straight in. Truly understanding the science behind getting involved makes the change easier and more sustainable.
Where To Start Intermittent Fasting
There are many different methods of doing IF, some of the commonly described are as follows:
- The 5:2 method, which is not strictly speaking fasting. This involves having calorie restrictions on 2 days of a 7 day week, and eating normally for the rest of the week. This was popularised by British journalist Michael Mosely – look it up, it’s worth a read and has made waves in the world of weight loss.
- There is alternate day fasting, which is one day fast, one day feed. This is sometimes referred to as the warrior diet.
- There is also time restricted fasting, which is often the most used version of Intermittent Fasting – famous believers of this method are Terry Crews and Hugh Jackman. It involves a certain number of hours of fasting per 24hrs, with the remaining hours used for feeding. Commonly, a 16hr fast for example, would mean eating your last meal at 19.00 in the evening and eating your first meal at 11am the next day, (my preferred fasting method).
*Nick Pereira is a health and exercise enthusiast. A MSc. Sports and Exercise Physiotherapist from the University of Cape Town, who is an advocate of healthy living, regular exercise, and educating the public regarding all things health and fitness. Follow him on social media:
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