March 23, 2018

By Layla, MISSION’s Health, Wellness and Nutrition Intern

Maybe you have heard of intermittent fasting before, or maybe just fasting in general. It’s a fairly popular term in the fitness industry today. Although it is a relatively new trend, individuals have been swearing by this style of eating for many years. Although intermittent fasting is often spoke of as a means of weight loss, it is also beneficial for maintaining lean body mass and helping with digestion. How does it work? Does it work? Let’s take a look!

Simply put, intermittent fasting, also referred to as IF, is exactly as it sounds. Fasting, intermittently. What this consists of is both a fasting period and a feeding period. During the fasting period, you are to consume virtually no calories. What can typically be consumed during this time is either water, tea, or coffee (without cream or sugar). What is crucial to remember is that while intermittent fasting, you are still consuming all your normal calories and macronutrients, just in less meals. Instead of an omelet at 8 A.M. and a salad are 12 P.M., you have both the omelet and salad around 1 P.M. If weight loss is the major goal, you will find eating a decreased amount of calories is easier and more enjoyable when you are only eating in a smaller time frame.

There are different ratios of fasting time to feeding time. Some people do “days on, days off”, while most just do not consume calories for a majority of the day. This fasting time typically lasts anywhere from 12 hours to 20 hours. Don’t freak out and think there is no way you could possibly do that – remember that a good amount of these hours will be spent sleeping. The most common fasting window is 14-16 hours and individuals who find IF works well for them may up their time to 18-20 hours. There are some people out there that swear by 1 huge meal a day thus their feeding window is very minimal.

As intimidating as it sounds, this might actually sound familiar if you have ever heard the theory behind “no eating after whatever-o’clock”. As silly as it sounds to say that not eating after dinner can help you lose weight, it may be tied back to theories of how IF works with our bodies.

When you wake up, when you work at your desk, or when you are kicking ass in Mindy’s spin class, your body is giving you the energy to do that. Where does that energy come from? The nutrients you are ingesting. Typically, the first source of energy used for these task comes from your last meal and what it is burning is sugar, or better thought of as carbohydrates. This is why before you work out, a meal dense in carbohydrates helps provide you with energy to get through your workout.

Now remembering the idea behind intermittent fasting! When you get up in the morning and go on with your day until you eat, all you body has for energy is the meal you ate 12 hours ago. Once the carbohydrates run out, your body’s next move? Fat. Fat is still a great source of energy, but your body typically does not want to give it up.

This also relates to if you have ever heard about working out in the morning on an empty stomach. The reason some people find benefits from it relates to your body choosing to burn fat instead of the breakfast you just ate. For some, exercising in a fasted state can make them feel tired, dizzy, or weak. Others feel amazing and some report having more energy for their workouts. This is why no identical eating pattern works for everyone.

If you prefer large meals opposed to many small ones, have the ability to stay busy during your fasted state, and if you are looking to lose weight yet have trouble watching your calories all day, intermittent fasting may work for you. You can pack your hefty lunch and be on your way, just make sure it is still nutrient-dense and calorie sufficient. Skimping yourself on food leads to that “dieting mentality”, which can lead to binge-eating, slower metabolism/energy, and sabotaged progress.

Intermittent fasting, like any style of eating, is not one-size-fits-all. Some individuals feel foggy, have decreased focus, and feel fatigued when trying intermittent fasting. If this sounds like you, or if you have any conditions where fasting could be detrimental to your health, it may be best to skip IF. Weight loss is still very do-able without IF and some individuals will see much better results from eating throughout the day.

Content of the blog is opinion and not to be considered scientific fact. All readers should consult a medical professional for questions concerning individual medical and dietary needs.