When it comes to getting in shape, it’s pretty safe to say that many of us aren’t perhaps in the best possible condition we could be in, and that is probably putting things mildly for many of us. Of course, getting in shape is far from easy, but at the same time, if you know what you’re doing, and if you have a little bit of a helping hand along the way, it needn’t become a chore or a challenge either. When we think of a healthy and fit body, one of the first things we need to consider are our body fat percentages, as many of us sadly have body fat percentages which are far, far too high. When we want to lose weight, many of us find ourselves turning to fad diets that not only make us feel constantly hungry and miserable in the process, but in actual fact, many of these diets don’t actually work all that well at all. Sure, in the early stages we’ll drop a few pounds, but the same can be said for any diet or any new way of eating or living your life in general for that matter, and besides, just because the scales tell you one thing, the mirror may tell you something different.
When it comes to popular diets, the key isn’t finding a diet that various magazines and social networking sites are going crazy for, the key is finding a diet that, you enjoy, and above all else, actually works in the first place. There are many diets on the market nowadays which have proven extremely popular and beneficial, yet when it comes to consistency, intermittent fasting is, without question, one of the most popular and effective diets you could ever wish for. Contrary to popular belief, there isn’t just one form of intermittent fasting diet that applies to everybody, because, in reality there are several incarnations and versions of this diet, all of which have proved to be very effective for a number of reasons. If you’re new to intermittent fasting, or perhaps, you’ve never heard of intermittent fasting before, then by the time you’ve finished this article, you’ll know everything there is to know about this type of nutrition. Contained within, we’ll be looking at what intermittent fasting is, the different versions of the diet there are, the main benefits of intermittent fasting, and much more besides. So, if you’re sitting comfortably, let’s take a look at intermittent fasting, and help prove to you just how effective this form of eating and nutrition really is.
What exactly is intermittent fasting?
Intermittent fasting, or IF for short, is currently one of the most popular and highly sought after diet, nutrition, and fitness trends in the entire world. One of the main reasons why it is so popular is because it isn’t simply just some fad diet designed to burn body fat quickly, it is instead a form of diet and nutrition that provides countless other health and fitness benefits, and can even be utilized as part of a healthy and balanced lifestyle. As the name suggests, intermittent fasting is a form of eating in which an individual will alternate between periods of eating, and of periods of fasting. Unlike most other diets, IF isn’t about which foods you consume, it is instead based more upon when you eat these foods, and how long you go between each meal. For this reason, referring to intermittent fasting as a diet is incorrect, as there are no right or wrong foods you can consume. Instead, it would be much more accurate, to refer to intermittent fasting as an eating cycle, or, eating pattern instead. The great thing about this diet is that there are many different variations for you to try, so if one type of intermittent fasting doesn’t seem to be working out for you, no problem at all, you simply try an alternate version instead.
Is it safe?
If you were to talk to the average person on the street, and tell them that you’re following an intermittent fasting plan, they’d look at you horrified, and would be quick to tell you just how dangerous they think it is. If you were to ask them to explain to you why it was dangerous however, they wouldn’t have a clue. In reality, whilst they’re lecturing you on how “dangerous” intermittent fasting is, they are probably eating processed junk food several times per week/day anyways, not to mention the fact that they’ll be engaging in various other lifestyle choices that are also considered very unhealthy and unsafe. If you spoke to a trained professional however, they would explain to you that intermittent fasting is perfectly safe and effective, as we’ve actually been doing it for millions upon millions of years. As we’ve evolved, human beings have been fasting for as long as we can remember, as back when we were cavemen, we didn’t eat at certain times, we simply ate when we could, and consumed as much as we could, as we had no idea when and where our next meal would come and where from. Fast forwarding the clock to semi-recent times, humans have also fasted for religious reasons, as fasting is a common practice amongst Buddhist, Christians, and Muslims. As our bodies had no idea when we’d eat next, we were created to be able to function by going prolonged periods of time with no food. When you think about that, intermittent fasting is actually much more natural than eating 4 or 5 meals per day, at the same times each day.
Why should you fast?
Let’s face it, virtually none of us enjoy dieting, and although we enjoy the results that it provides us with, when we’re actually in the midst of a boring, bland, low calorie diet, our energy levels and motivational levels couldn’t be lower, and we truthfully find ourselves wondering why we bothered, and asking ourselves whether it was worth it or not. If you can relate to any of the above, it may be worth your while, trying IF for yourself. There’s nothing worse than being in the middle of a diet, having no energy, constantly feeling hungry and craving junk food, and finding yourself not actually losing that much fat or making very much progress. With IF however, rather than finding yourself feeling hungry for weeks upon weeks at a time, you only actually have to stick to your diet for certain periods of time during each day. Because of this, knowing that in a matter of hours, that we’ll be able to eat and drink delicious foods that actually have some taste, is going to make our struggle that much bearable and will help us to power through and prevent us from falling off the wagon and breaking our diets. Of course, the downside is that you have to go for long amounts of time on virtually no food at all, so if you don’t do well with hunger, perhaps this isn’t the right way of eating for you. As you may go from as much as 16 to 24 hours with virtually no food, it can get tough, but studies have found that fasting is actually one of the most effective ways of losing weight and maintaining muscle mass, if you do it correctly and structure your meal plans and eating windows accordingly.
What is the basic premise behind IF?
Put very simply, the basic premise behind intermittent fasting, is that you create a calorie deficit and therefore lose body fat safely and effectively, all the while maintaining and possibly even building, lean muscle mass, and keeping energy levels through the roof. As mentioned, there are many different variations of IF, which we’ll look at in just a moment. Before we do that however, it’s worth pointing out that, with virtually all of the different IF variations that are available, during the initial stages, an individual will undergo a severe calorie restrictive phase, which will last between 16 and 24 hours, and will only allow them to 0-25% of their usual daily intake of calories. So, for example, if a person usually consumed 2000 calories per day, during this initial period, they would only consume an absolute maximum of 500 calories. After this period, the individual will then follow one of the five possible types of IF eating plan, which we’ll look at now.
Different types of IF and which is right for you?
Now we’ll look at the five different types of intermittent fasting and will help you to determine which of the five may be best suited for you and your needs. When choosing which plan to follow, although they may seem a little complex, and possibly even overwhelming, if you take your time and figure out exactly what you’re hoping to get from your plan, everything will become much more clearer and much more straightforward as a result. Here’s a look at the different plans and protocols that you can choose from:
The Warrior Diet – First off, we’ll begin by looking at the warrior diet. There are many reasons why people choose this diet protocol, and it isn’t just because of the super-cool name either. Created by Ori Hofmekler, this diet is ideal for people who are good at sticking to plans and following instructions down to a tee. This diet basically requires followers, or “warriors” to fast for 20 hours per day, and get their food intake during a 4 hour feeding window. The basic idea behind the warrior diet, is that you increase the functionality of the sympathetic nervous system with the fasting window, which is responsible for your fight or flight mechanism. This is important because it helps to stimulate the metabolism and helps allow the body to burn off more body fat as an emergency energy source. With the feeding window, the goal however, is to increase the functionality of your parasympathetic nervous system, which is basically your resting and digestive nervous system. This plays a key role with the absorption of glucose and glycogen, which can then help to assist with post-exercise recovery.
Eat, stop, eat – With eat, stop, eat, followers of the diet will fast for an entire 24 hours, once or twice each week. This plan was created by Brad Pilon, and he calls these fasting windows “24 hour breaks from eating”, which is essentially, exactly what it is. During these 24 hour fasting periods, no food will be consumed, though calorie-free beverages can be consumed, along with plenty of water. The great thing about this type of fasting, is that, once you’ve gone 24 hours with no food, the next day you simply return back to your normal eating ways, and possibly repeat the process again a few days later. That means it doesn’t matter whether you finish with a large meal in the evening, or even just a light afternoon snack, because as long as you go an entire 24 hours with no food, the results will quickly become apparent. This way of fasting is great for people looking to lose a little weight, without having to undergo a drastic change of diet or lifestyle. However, the catch is that, in order for the plan to become successful, you will have to ensure that you’re doing plenty of exercise as those extra calories you burn off in the gym, alongside those which you don’t consume when fasting, will help yield the most impressive results.
Lean gains – When you search for intermittent fasting online, the lean gains program is one of the first programs you are likely to find, and for good reason. Created by Martin Berkhan, lean gains requires men to fast for periods of 16 hours, and women for 14 hours, and to then eat for the remaining 8 – 10 hours per day. Obviously, during the fasting windows, you don’t consume any food at all, and keep calories to an absolute minimum. It also doesn’t matter when you fast, which is why most people will fast through the night and then continue the fast during the day, until they reach their 14 – 16 hour target. The key to succeeding here is being consistent, as you have to ensure that your fasting and feasting windows remain consistent throughout the week. Exercise is also important, and this will influence what you can and cannot eat as well. On exercise days, you should be consuming more carbs than fat, and vice versa on non-workout days. During each day however, protein consumption should be relatively high as protein is vital for muscle growth and repair, and it helps to increase the metabolism as well, which means you will lose more weight. As for which foods go, you need to consume fresh, healthy, balanced and natural foods, staying clear of processed junk. Supplements can also be used when/if you can’t eat for whatever reason.
Fat loss forever – Not surprisingly, this diet protocol is based largely upon, shock horror, losing body fat. The great thing about this diet protocol, is that it takes elements from all of the three plans listed above, and incorporates them all into one, creating the ultimate protocol to suit your every need. As if that wasn’t enough, it also allows you a cheat day, yes, you did read that right, that’s a cheat day instead of just a cheat meal, every single week. The downside to this however, is that after your cheat day, you do have to fast for a whopping 36 hours, and then after that, what’s left of your week, is split into the different protocols listed above. Experts recommend saving your longest lasting fasts for days in which you know that you will be at your busiest as this will help keep you busy and keep your mind off of the inevitable hunger. This plan can be difficult to follow if your schedule is all over the place, plus, your cheat days should not involve binge eating just for the sake of binge eating.
Alternate-day-fasting – Sometimes known as the alternate-day diet, or the up day, down day, diet, this diet plan requires individuals to alternate and cycle their calories during 24 hour windows. So, for example, on one of these windows, calories may be moderate, whereas on the next day, calorie consumptions should be low. The idea here is that you activate a gene known as the SIRT1 gene, which has been found to inhibit fat storage within the body, whilst increasing fat metabolism in the process, thus increasing fat loss. Just remember however, that on moderate calorie days, that you ensure that calories remain moderate, and that you don’t just use it as an excuse to binge eat and eat as much as possible. On low calorie days, calories should only come in at a fifth of regular calorie intakes, so if you normally used to consume 2000 calories per day, you would only be consuming 400 calories per day on low days. If fat loss is your goal, this diet protocol is ideal, the only issue is ensuring that you don’t binge eat on moderate calorie days, as calories should still remain relatively low.
What are the benefits of intermittent fasting?
So, as you can see, there are a number of different types of intermittent fasting diet plans for you to try, but what exactly are the main benefits of IF? Well, let’s take a more detailed look, shall we?
Great for fat loss – One of the biggest benefits associated with IF, is the fact that it has proven to be one of the most effective methods of burning body fat, for many reasons. To begin with, as you know, in order to lose weight, the body has to be in a calorie deficit for a prolonged period of time, which is obviously a given when it comes to IF. As well as keeping the body in prolonged stages of calorie deficit however, IF also helps stimulate hormones and genes which boost the metabolism and increase fat loss and fat metabolism, whilst increasing energy production in the process. The increases in energy are also very important, as they allow us to do more exercise, which helps to burn off even more calories.
Increased HGH levels – HGH, or Human Growth Hormone, is a naturally occurring hormone produced internally, that plays a number of key roles within the body. When you fast, the body actually produces more HGH, which speeds up fat loss and enhances muscle growth and repair. Studies have found that, after just 24 hours of fasting, HGH levels can increase by as much as 2000%, meaning that burning fat and building lean muscle, will become easier than ever before.
Increased testosterone production – If you’ve ever wondered why so many bodybuilders rave about the benefits of intermittent fasting, it’s because of the fact that, as well as increased fat loss and HGH production, IF also helps to increase the production of testosterone. You see, testosterone always rises in correlation with HGH, as the two are like best buddies, meaning that where you find one, the other will not be far away. When we fast, our insulin levels also reduce, and as insulin is testosterone’s arch nemesis, the less insulin there is, the more testosterone there will be. Again, testosterone helps burn fat and build muscle, which is one of the reasons why more and more bodybuilders are currently utilizing intermittent fasting to their advantage.
It’s great for the brain – Finally, the last benefit we’ll be looking at today, will be one related to the brain. IF has been found to actually increase the amount of brain cells in the brain, as well as improving cognitive skills and being helping to protect neurones in the process. As if that wasn’t all, as IF also helps produce various hormones including ketones, which are very brain beneficial, it’s no wonder why IF is considered to be so beneficial for the brain.