A few tips of the trade that you should consider before embarking on a diet that can initially be hard to stick to.
IF (Intermittent Fasting) is a style of dieting which involves daily or weekly cycles of extended suffering. No food, or liquid calories, with the occasional exception of a dark coffee thrown in. It can be done for all sorts of reasons.
The classic version is a 16 hour fast done to midday, followed by an 8-hour eating window. This is my current go-to, and has helped immensely in keeping me from morning mischief.
You could also choose to go crazy and starve for 18 hours, try One Meal A Day, or eat without restriction for 5 days and the bare minimum for 2.
Here are few points worth thinking about before you consider diving into a diet that has blown up over recent years. It’s practically a cult at this point, but like any other crazy faction, there are some good reasons hidden under there.
1 . IT’S NOT JUST WEIGHT LOSS
IF is typically associated with losing weight, for good reason, but there are many more features to encourage someone to take it up. A myriad of benefits come with fasting. Not to go full paleo caveman on you, but it’s something we’ve been doing as a race since our inception. Regular breakfasts weren’t a guarantee with the mammoths dying out.
We can get more technical. Fasting can boost the hormonal profile, manage blood sugar levels, elevate insulin sensitivity, control mood, and help people gain a true appreciation of people who have to actually starve. It aids weight-loss by simply lowering the time in which you can deal damage to yourself. So you have options to pick from.
2. EASE YOUR WAY IN
It’s easy to enter the game over-confident and brimming with excessive motivation, the type of bravado that just gets you hurt. If the body’s not receptive to a sudden change of climate, IF will make for a painful experience that will swamp you with negative feedback. Hunger, lethargy, anger, hate; these don’t have to regular fixtures in your diet.
If you’re currently going to sleep with crumbs on your face and eating again at daybreak, a 16 hour fast is a huge jump. A 12 hour fast could be a better start. Then add 1 or 2 for the next week, and you’re well on your way.
3. HUNGER IS COMPLICATED
Inevitably the final few hours of a fast will prove quite tricky, but this is where we can form a better relationship with hunger. Understand the beast, and you can tame it. That irritating, tiring, sometimes downright painful feeling could be a signal from the body that the tank is empty. But often what you feel initially is limbic, or emotional hunger.
The brain is craving food, but isn’t in dire need of it. If you can learn to downgrade these pangs of mental hunger, pushing past it will see it diminish in intensity over time.
Actual physical hunger, known as somatic, is the real deal and might need a banana or two. But it’s highly unlikely you’ll be getting there within 16 hours. Unless you’re Type 1, and that’s a different kettle.
4. BREAKFAST DOESN’T HAVE TO BE THE IMPORTANT MEAL OF THE DAY
A pearl of wisdom practically everyone has been dealt with by now, and also a slogan created by John Kellogg in the mid-19th century, to sell his cereal foods. The bacon market jumped on the morning bandwagon, got 5,000 doctors to sign off on the benefits of protein in the morning, had newspapers publish it as scientific research, and that’s how we got to the myth that we have now. This was at the same time Victorians were giving their children laxatives every day to aid digestion.
Not the most sensible of times for nutritional science. If you don’t wake up with a screaming stomach, feel free to skip a meal and make it through to brunch.
5. USE AN APP TO TRACK THE FAST
One big benefit of IF, and actually what I would consider to be the greatest, is that it’s a simple routine that encourages a consistent habit. A necessity for a diet that needs to span over months. Habits keep you going even while motivation ebbs and flows.
Something like the Zero Calories app can be used to schedule and time your fasts, and keep an account of the week. This might provoke a competitive edge, as you strive to match your Monday heroics with a Tuesday massacre. For extra points, pair the IF app with a Food Log like MyFitnessPal, and receive maximum diet security.
6. CALORIE COUNTING ISN’T NECESSARY
Fasting is often an avenue for people to get away from the monotonous grind of keeping a daily log of your tuna salads. If 90% of the food invasions are healthy, reasonably, then this could well be enough to force weight change. And for those who are just in it for the healthy lifestyle, calorie counting is unnecessary. So it’s worth just focusing on the fasting to begin with, and tracking scale-weight after 3-4 weeks.
If the numbers don’t spell out victory, then the next option would be to either reduce portion sizes or start the tally. Either choice should get the ball rolling.
7. DON’T GO CARB CRAZY
While technically fasting will enable you to have bigger meals, there has to be some order to your system. Too many refined carbs in one meal will just spike and crash blood sugar levels, leaving you hungry again, and in no state of mind to continue the fast.
Empty calories should also be restricted, as the feeding window should be used to stock up on ammo to last the night. If you’re too trigger happy on doughnuts and booze, the ensuing hours of starvation will end up eating up hard-earned muscle. So base your operations around proteins, complex carbs, and healthy fats. The usual suspects.
There’s more to IF than the features I’ve plotted out, but I keep my science simple where I can. Especially for those with medical conditions, such as Type 1 Diabetes, plenty of research should be made. But this piece works well for a snap-shot of a potentially potent diet.
Thanks for reading! I’m Sama, a personal trainer at DW Wrexham, who also happens to practice a low carb intermittent fasting diet year round. To check out my other articles on fasting, head to my blog here.
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