Following my recent posts on fasting, I have had a number of questions I want to address in one post to help you guys better understand fasting and how you can effectively utilise it within your own day to day schedules. It’s also worth noting that most of the research and clinical findings on intermittent fasting has been done on animals and measuring their hormone responses. There are some studies I’ve been made aware of happening soon so that we can finally see it all replicated in humans and track over a year or more – fingers crossed that’s available soon. A lot of the fasting principles are based on physiology and metabolic pathways.
1. I fast the majority of days from 8pm to midday the next day (8 hour eating window). If I have to skip a day here or there I am not fussed – life throws curve-balls and can be incredibly unpredictable so don’t beat yourself up over missing a few days here and there. Find a window that suits your lifestyle, but I would recommend a 6-8 hour eating window to begin with. This means you eat within those hours only.
2. Yes, at the start when I first read about the huge benefits of intermittent fasting I, too, thought “I cannot do that, I won’t function without ‘breakfast’”. With the benefits in mind I stuck to it and I can honestly say it’s not hard and gets easier with practice. So I felt the same way most of you do now and that’s normal.
3. I eat roughly the same calories (although I don’t count these day it would sit around 2,900-3,400) in the 8 hour window as I would if I was eating for 16 hours a day. I eat to maintain my body weight at a healthy weight where it is and that’s it…I can do that easily in 8 hours and if I opened up the window I would probably over consume food which is one of the largest contributors to obesity in the modern world (too many meals and portions too big). I do not use fasting as a mechanism to then binge eat on unhealthy foods. I eat a healthy, balanced, plant-based diet – the meals and recipes I post is how I eat.
4. This understanding of fasting has redefined to me what the word “breakfast” actually means. Look at this literally …’break’ and ‘fast’. This meal is designed to break a fasting window – Unfortunately, in a world where we designed a 9-5 work day combined with billions of advertising dollars to make us believe ‘7-9am breakfast’ is the most important meal of the day (by milk and cereal companies who profit hugely from such consumption behaviors) our window of fasting has become compromised. We have become robotic in the way we feed ourselves and wake up and habitually feel hungry and throw some more food inside the tank…unaware of the huge benefits associated with just allowing your system to be ‘food free’ for a bit longer.
5. When do I train around fasting? Well truth be told – I don’t give this too much consideration as I am not trying to put on heaps of muscle or get bulky so to speak. So I train when I want to. I often train early in the morning in a fasted state and I have tonnes of energy, and then afterwards I drink water (with lemon usually) and keep hydrated. I don’t need to eat until midday and during that post workout process, my body is more than likely moving to fat metabolism, whereas if I ate immediately after then I would be metabolising carbohydrates and perhaps amino acids – but fat would be 3rd in line in terms of being oxidised for energy (a separate post on metabolism will be coming this week to explain this further). I will put a disclaimer here – If you are looking to bulk up and add size (particularly fellas) I would say that after the workout you should probably eat in the first 45 minutes to avoid excess fat metabolism. However, if lean muscle is your goal then don’t be stressed about your protein shake the minute you walk out the door of the gym. If you are the type of person that literally cannot train in a fasted state, then adjust your fasting window so that your training is within the 8 hour period where you are eating. My window is from 8pm to midday the next day, but yours can be adjusted to suit your schedule best.
6. During fasting you should typically try and avoid any real calories that will break your fast. Herbal tea, black coffee and lots of water are all fine (no sugar, no milk in those drinks!).
7. As you get used to this form of intermittent fasting you can then explore 24-60 hour fasting windows as the next step, but this is not recommended for anyone who has not properly done their research. During an extended fast like this you should never do vigorous exercise or strength training and should be super hydrated (6-8L water per day).
8. Women and fasting – this is a common question and one that really deserves more than a short Instagram post, so I will endeavor to do a blog on this. However, I will say do not fast while pregnant, ill or breastfeeding. If you are not one of those three 3 things then I would recommend you only fast on alternate days (not consecutive) which is just a bit gentler and with women being slightly more sensitive to hormonal fluctuations during periods of no caloric intake, it’s a nice way to dip your toes in the water and learn how your body tolerates it.
9. Finally, don’t beat yourself up over this. If you have a day where you break your fast because you forget or your schedule changed then so be it. Fasting is a lifestyle change, a different way of thinking about the timing of your meals, and is something you can use ongoing as a technique for bettering your overall health for the rest of your life.
As per my previous posts on fasting, the main benefits of a controlled fast are:
1 – Healing and potentially an increase in Telomere length which is linked to longevity (slow down ageing)
2 – Detoxification (house cleaning) through metabolism of fat and elimination of toxins encapsulated within the fat stores.
3 – Fat Loss (by not giving the body carbohydrates or amino acids to metabolise you move into fat metabolism for energy)
4 – Metabolism/Elimination of cysts, cancerous cells, etc.
5 – Prevention of various diseases
Some studies to have a look at:
And a great podcast to listen to that touches on why it’s beneficial to have sustained periods between meals rather than regular small meals across the entire day.
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