The health and fitness world has long been populated with new trends and fads – whether that’s eating strict paleo, being raw ‘till 4 or swearing by the no cardio club. Lately, Intermittent Fasting has become the latest buzz phrase floating around the wellness-sphere, particularly on social media. Breakfast meetings are being pushed to brunch or lunch and fasted workouts have become the norm. But what actually is intermittent fasting, what are the supposed benefits, and is there any science behind it? We’re here to give you the lowdown…
What is Intermittent Fasting and What Are the Benefits?
Intermittent Fasting is essentially extending the length of time you’re not eating. There are many different ways to do this, but most commonly, this involves skipping breakfast or dinner, pushing your classic three meals a day into a smaller eating window, or doing a 24 hour fast once a week.
Despite previous thought, that eating little and often (about 5-6 times a day) sped up your metabolism, now IF supporters believe that fasting re-trains your body and makes it fat adapted – meaning you burn body fat rather than simply the energy you’re getting from food. It takes around 12 hours after you eat to reach this fasted state - which is why a fast of about 16-24 hours is recommended. When you’re in your eating window, most IF protocols suggest focusing on a diet full of ‘wholefoods’, meaning plenty or healthy fats, proteins and nourishing veggies.
So, what are the benefits of Intermittent Fasting? Of course, as with any lifestyle change, it’s important to discuss these with a healthcare professional and do your own research beforehand, however, here are some of the benefits research has found can be gained from fasting:
- Stabilised blood sugar levels
- Growth hormone increase which can preserve muscle mass and help to break down stored body fat
- Increased insulin sensitivity
- Increased mental alertness – thanks to an increase in the hormone Norepinephrine
- Normalised levels of your “hunger hormone” – Ghrelin
- Increased gene and cell repair
- Increased longevity
- Reset your body’s ability to burn fat for energy rather than sugar
- Improved cardiovascular health
- Eased digestive discomfort
- Less stress and time spent thinking about food – no need to worry about breakfast or panic about when and where you can your next snack on-the-go
Can It Work For You?
If you have any history of disordered eating, suffer from any health issues or if your training is extremely intense, it's probably not going to be for you, and you should at least consult with your doctor first.
The important thing to remember is that everyone is individual, and what works for one person might not work for another! If Intermittent Fasting is something you’d like to try, adjust your eating window gradually to make the process a little easier. One of the best ways to do this is to simply push your breakfast back a little over time, for example, from 7 till 8:30, then 9:30, until you’ve reached a 16 hour fast. It’ll take time for your body to adjust to this new way of eating, but soon your body will react to real hunger, and you’ll be able to listen to your body and eat simply when you really feel hungry.
See how it makes you feel for a couple of weeks, and if you suffer from any adverse symptoms, accept that it might not be suited to your body and simply go back to starting your day with a big bowl of breakfast!
Want to find out more? Here are some helpful resources to get you started: