Intermittent fasting has all the logic in the world if we look at our evolutionary history, but it is not the solution to all ills.
In this post we are going to talk about the results of the most recent studies, how to apply it to obtain the maximum benefits without falling into the typical mistakes.
What is intermittent fasting?
Intermittent fasting is a term that describes an period in which the feeding window is restricted (the hours of the day you can eat). There are different combinations of fasting and feeding time distribution. Intermittent fasting is not a diet per se, but a dietary regimen that can be used in conjunction with caloric restriction to lose weight.
The benefits of short and moderate fasting go beyond this list, but these are some of the most salient:
- Improves insulin sensitivity
- Facilitates caloric control and hunger control
- Increases metabolism
- Promotes weight loss while maintaining muscle mass
- Supports autophagy, a natural anti-aging process
- Reduces inflammation indicators
- Improves lipid profile and lowers triglycerides
- Facilitates the organization of meals with respect to the protocol of 3 meals and 2 snacks.
As always, the overall nutrition as a whole is much more important than a specific feeding strategy.
Therefore, if this protocol is based on real food you will get all these benefits. If your diet is centered on junk food, it doesn't matter the window of time in which you make the intake..
Myths and real risks
- Headache. An individual not adapted to low blood glucose levels may suffer from headache, but this sensation disappears with adhesion.
- Eat more at the next meal. This is a typical fear, but intermittent fasting is actually promotes satiety by allowing us to eat larger portions when we eat instead of spreading the intake over many small meals that hardly leave you satiated.
- Slowing of metabolism. This only happens in cases of long fasts, not with the typical fasting schedule of less than 24 hours.
- Muscle catabolization. Glycogenesis is the process in which the body uses muscle protein stores to convert them into glucose. This scenario happens when it has already finished with all the amino acids in blood and stored glycogen and does not occur in fasts of less than 24 hours.
- Decrease in sports performance. As we saw in this post about training on an empty stomach the effect on performance depends on the individual starting point (glucose level, adaptation, training intensity...)
- The intermittent fasting is a stressor which helps the body to produce positive adaptations, but when taken to the extreme it can have negative consequences. If additional external stressors are added to the stress of fasting, the level of sensitivity may increase, negatively affecting.
- Obsession for meeting certain fasting windows creating food anxiety. It is a double-edged sword. At first this tool should free us from having to be thinking about having 5/6 meals a day prepared as is currently proposed. But it can become the opposite if fasting makes you constantly think about the time and moment when you will be able to eat again.
Types of intermittent fasting
Basically, there are as many combinations as you want between fasting and eating. It is not mandatory to comply with them at the minute.
The longer the fasting window, the fewer options you have to end up ingesting everything you would do for several meals in a day.
This is undoubtedly beneficial when it is timelyThe aim is to reduce caloric intake, but taken to the extreme it increases the sensation of heaviness after the meal, bloating, gas... having eaten a very large amount of food.
It is the easiest to do if you leave some time between dinner and going to sleep, and then between waking up and having breakfast.
Although it may seem like a small window, it is enough to experience many of its benefits.
For exampledinner at 8 pm, breakfast at 8 am.
With 16 hours of fasting and 8 hours in the feeding window. This is one of the common schemes among people who practice fasting.
- early dinner: dinner at 6 pm, breakfast at 10 am.
- no breakfast: dinner at 9 pm and lunch at 1 pm.
This protocol requires a little more effort to reduce the feed window, which is quite narrow.
For example1 or 2 meals from 12 pm to 6 pm.
Warrior Fasting 20/4
Ori Hofmekler proposes in his book to make this feeding window and some workouts to get the physique of a warrior.
He proposes to have a single large meal in the evening.
OMAD (one meal a day)
In Spanish one meal a day. There is no specific time of day to do it, but all food intake is concentrated at one time.
Eat Stop Eat
It consists of one or two 24-hour fasts per week. If there are 2, they should not be consecutive, otherwise it would be 48 hours.
Example: having a meal and not eating again until the next day.
Is drinking allowed?
During the fasting we do not want to provide caloriesbut you can drink liquids such as water, herbal teas, coffee, a cup of vegetable or bone broth, or even a glass of kombucha.
The objective is to have a small intake of less than 50 kcal in order to stay in ketosis.
Adding a tablespoon of MCTs to your coffee (without milk) can help keep you in ketosis and lengthen your fast.
How to do intermittent fasting?
This is not a religion. You can do intermittent fasting when it fits naturally with your routine or you can plan some more extensive fasting because you have an interest in doing so.
Intermittent fasting has many benefits as we have seen. In addition, in many occasions fasting is much, much better than the food option you have: on airplanes for example.
Nor should we be overwhelmed by the times. The autophagy that is achieved with fasting is also enhanced with sport. Think of fasting as one more tool to play in your favor, but not against you.
Once you have banished the myths, you can fast knowing that you are not committing any crime. Y restoring a natural relationship with food and with fasting, recovering the sensations of hunger and eating when we are really hungry.
Can everyone do intermittent fasting?
Intermittent fasting may seem new to us, but it is not new to our genes. It is part of our nature. If we hunted, we ate, otherwise we had to wait a little longer.
It is also true that there is no universal rule and that not everyone feels good fasting or that due to special circumstances it is not the most efficient thing to do:
- High performance athletes who need high calorie demands. If all foods were concentrated in a smaller window the meals would be very large.
- Those who want to bulk up and often have trouble gaining weight. Reducing intake to just a few hours would further limit their situation.
- People who have had eating disorders.
Intermittent fasting is a powerful tool especially for those who want to lose weight.It facilitates caloric deficit and the sensation of satiety.
Also gives great freedom knowing that you don't need to carry your meals and snacks all day long. That you can delay a meal to when it fits better in your day without anything bad happening to you (no metabolic slowdown, no muscle catabolization...).
But is not the only way to do it. If lengthening the time between feedings makes you think about food all day and have anxiety, I do not recommend it, no matter how many benefits it may have.
Once again, it is much more important that your diet is of high quality than the way in which you distribute your intakes.