An Ultimate guide on how to Intermittent Fast for beginners
Updated: Jun 29, 2020
What is Intermittent Fasting?
How does one do it? Is it sustainable? More importantly is it safe?
Let me begin with describing Intermittent fasting(IF). It is the practice of fasting or to put it plainly, not eating any food for specific periods of gain benefits for your health.
History of intermittent fasting
Intermittent fasting has a long evolutionary history. Our hunter-gatherer ancestors survived in a world of relative food scarcity, meaning that they went through regular feast and famine cycles and their digestive systems grew accustomed to processing big meals at an intermittent time.
We have fasted for most of our history, whether it's during the typical overnight period, during more extended periods of food scarcity, or for religious reasons. What is new is that clinical research on IF's benefits for health and longevity is beginning to catch up.
One of the most important aspects of IF is that it is not a diet, it is a way of life, focused on the timing eating , and how along you abstain from food, while there are dietary aspects that would help you get better results from intermittent fasting, by itself it is not a diet. The idea here is not how or what you eat, but rather when you eat and for how long you go without eating.
What this means in practical terms - let's say you have your dinner around 8 pm every day. you relax after dinner, watch some tv, read a book and then go to sleep. When you wake up the next day, your first meal should not be taken before 8 am i.e. 12 hours from the time you had dinner the night before. so between 8 pm on the previous day and 8 am the next day, you are fasting. An interesting fact is that since we don't eat while we are sleeping, it is usually the longest period in a day when we go without eating. this is the reason that the first meal of the day is called breakfast i.e. breaking the fast. The hours you eat is known as the feeding window and the hours you refrain as the fasting window, while in your fasting window, you must keep your body hydrated with water( lots of it ). Black coffee, green tea, earl grey are also great for hydration and keeping the hunger at bay, these also enhance your bodies capability of staying in the fasted state.
While an intermittent fast can be a minimum of 12 hours every day, but in order to reap its benefits one must subscribe to forms which have a longer fasting window, as most researches would suggest that body starts to go into a fasting state ( depending upon the overall health of an individual ) anywhere between 12 to 24hrs in most people.
Some other common and popular methods are 16:12 ( 16 hours fasting and 12 hour feeding window ),18:4, 20:4 and 23 hours or more or OMAD ( One meal a day ) and so forth in a 24 hour cycle. This might sound excruciating for some people and it perhaps would be in the beginning, but it is totally achievable with time and discipline.
Is this a Fad?
If you are concerned that this way of fasting and eating is the new way of eating, you should know that research now indicates that this may be the most natural method of eating, based upon the eating patterns of our ancestors and most compatible with our genetic makeup.You see before the discovery of agriculture, our ancestors, who were hunter gatherers, ate when food was available and went long periods without food when it was not. This was essentially a high fat, moderate protein and low carb diet. but once man learnt how to grow grains and rice, it-enabled mankind to have food surplus for the first time. this then allowed man to travel far and wide to do other important things and not worry about food, which was local and seasonal before the agricultural revolution. This was the period when we as a civilisation lost touch with some of our most natural patterns of food consumption.
Dr. David Perlmutter, ( Board - Certified Neurologist and four- time New York Times bestselling author), suggests, “if you cannot control your hunger and appetite, good luck managing your blood chemistry, metabolism, waistline, and, in the bigger picture, the prospect of crippling your brain.”―David Perlmutter' Grain Brain: The Surprising Truth about Wheat, Carbs, and Sugar--Your Brain's Silent Killers If you would like to get a good understanding of the effect grain has on our brain and genes, i would highly recommend reading this book.
Is Intermittent fasting sustainable?
Intermittent fasting can be sustainable if you are to have the energy to go through your day.
Foe that reason it is important to understand how the body stores and uses energy.
our body's primary energy source is a sugar called glucose, which usually comes from carbohydrates, including grains, dairy products, fruits, certain vegetables, beans, and even sweets. The pancreas releases a hormone called Insulin, which stores the glucose in our liver and muscles and releases it into the bloodstream whenever the body needs it for energy.
So what happens when we fast, how does our body cope with it ?
After about 8 hours of fasting,( this window is different for different people, depending upon diet, general health, and levels of exercise and various other biomarkers ) the liver will use the last of its glucose reserves. at this point, the body enters into a state called Gluconeogenesis, making the body's transition into fasting mode.
this state of Gluconeogenesis increases the number of calories the body burns. with no carbohydrates coming in, the body creates its glucose using mainly fat, this state is called Ketosis. The body with a deficit of carbohydrates coming in can now concentrate on using fat deposits for fuel, and the body can now use its mechanism to convert from a sugar burner as it traditionally is into the modern-day to a fat-burning machine we all are so desperately praying for, and this need I reiterate leads to : fat loss, increased and better metabolic health, improved gut health, cholesterol, and blood sugar improvement and thus increased longevity. intermittent fasting is therefore an effective way to create this deficit periodically so that the body uses fat deposits, thus avoiding build-up of fat.
Several important biomarkers improve due to it:-
Insulin levels: blood levels of insulin drop significantly, which facilitates fat burning.
Human growth hormone: the blood levels of growth hormone may increase as much as 5-fold higher levels of this hormone facilitates fat burning and muscle gain and has numerous other benefits.
Cellular repair: The body induces important cellular repair processes, such as removing waste material from cells if brings down the levels of inflammation in your body.
If we combine Intermittent fasting with Resistance training, healthy eating practices a predominantly anti inflammatory diet, IF can be one of the most powerful tools for optimal health, fat loss and better biomarkers.
So in summary , fasting is a voluntary action of abstaining from food, which results in calorific restriction, not malnutrition, as Jimmy Moore, the self-styled Keto guru, and author, The complete guide to Fasting: Heal your body Through Intermittent, Alternate - day, Extended fasting is an excellent book to set you on the path of the safe and effective fasting lifestyle. It is more than just caloric restriction, its a mind and life training tool, it is transformative in every possible way.
Happy fasting everybody :)
You can listen to a more in depth episode on Intermittent fasting on my Podcast - Fitter, Faster, Stronger
Intermittent Fasting . Fast your way to the health and longevity.