I have been doing intermittent fasting (IF) on and off for the past few years – I started IF on the 5:2 diet which I really enjoyed; but when I got pregnant I stopped the diet and just ate regularly, but I am ready to start again now.
The research on IF is amazing and I hope that when more clinical trials are done, there becomes a bigger following as this is NOT a fad diet, this is a lifestyle choice/eating pattern with some amazing potential. So here are some of the benefits that could be realised if IF is done properly*:
- It might help extend life
- Regulate blood glucose
- Reducing risk of getting diabetes
- Control blood lipids (fats) – reducing chances of heart related diseases
- Manage body weight
- Gain/Lean muscle mass
- Reduce depression
So how does IF work in practice?
Well the name is a little deceiving – we all technically fast every day (unless you eat 24/7) as most of us stop eating in the evening and then don’t eat again until the morning – but the schedule of IF that I use (based on the LeanGains guidelines) just extends that period of not eating so that I have 16 hours of fasting and 8 hours of eating.
Did you know that after 12 hours of not eating your body moves into the ‘fasting state’ where your body starts burning fat as your insulin levels are low…
In practice this means I don’t eat after about 8/9pm and then I break my fast at 12pm; the research suggests that for women the optimum amount of time you should spend fasting is between 14-16 hours so this is perfect for me. Remember that you can drink as much water and herbal teas as you like in this time – just nothing with calories in it! Some research says that if you eat 50 calories or less then your body will stay in the fasted state – but I think that if you can, hold off eating anything until you break your fast otherwise that line may start to get blurry!
Don’t get carried away though – the benefits of fasting apparently cease over 20 hours of fasting…
What are some tips for you when starting this regime?
(These are based on the Kinobody principles)
- Eat 4-7 hours after you wake: this normally gets you to the 14-18 hours fasting period. However, just listen to your body and keep it simple
- Use caffeine strategically: this is actually more powerful when in a fasted state, but this should be drunk without any sweeteners, or milk etc…
- Workout intelligently: don’t go crazy! Listen to your body and don’t overtrain when you are in your fasted state. Kinobody’s guidelines suggest that you leave your high intensity training to when you have eaten
- Eating volume: This is very dependent on what your goals are – but I would suggest that you stick to your macros (macronutrients based on recommended fats, proteins and carbohydrates – I will do a blog post on this soon!) regardless of how much you are eating. Do not skimp on your protein intake, this is really essential to ensure that you don’t lose muscle mass
- Don’t focus on the time! Keep yourself busy, don’t clock watch and keep away from the food!
What about if you are pregnant?
My suggestion (and I am not a doctor, so this is just based on my own experience) is that you shouldn’t fast when you are pregnant. I personally believe that when you are pregnant it is much easier to cope when your blood sugar is stable and you listen to what your body needs. I don’t think it is worth the risk to anything happening to you and your baby by fasting – and for someone who suffered with bad morning sickness and low iron – it definitely wouldn’t have been a wise idea.
What about if you are breastfeeding?
My suggestion (and I will reiterate the point above, I am not a doctor) is that you don’t fast when you are breastfeeding. Your baby obviously takes nutrients from the food that you eat, and although you are going to be eating the same amount of calories within the day (approx 500 calories a day extra than your pre-breastfeeding amount), I think that it is more beneficial for your baby to get consistently nutritious milk throughout the day
*This research is taken from the following sources: https://kinobody.com/diet-and-nutrition/intermittent-fasting-guide/, http://www.leangains.com/2010/04/leangains-guide.html, Experiments with Intermittent Fasting by Dr John Barardi