If done right, intermittent fasting is the best way to lose stubborn body fat and restore your health quickly and safely. If the word “fasting” conjures up images of starvation and misery, realize that’s far from the case when you do IF correctly.
Quite simply, intermittent fasting will dramatically improve your health and enhance your body’s ability to burn fat and it’s nowhere near as difficult or painful as it sounds.
In addition to helping you lose a lot of body fat in a short amount of time, Intermittent fasting also normalizes your Ghrelin levels. Ghrelin is known as the “hunger hormone” and is involved in appetite regulation.
IF also lowers your triglyceride levels and boosts your body’s production of HGH (human growth hormone). HGH is known as the “youth hormone” because it plays an important function in the longevity process and your overall health and vitality. HGH is also a fat burning hormone.
In a nutshell, intermittent fasting involves:
1. Restricting your food intake to a specific time window (6-8 hours is ideal)
2. Skipping breakfast and eating the majority of your food and calories in the afternoon and evening
3. Fasting for at least 15-16 hours 4-5 days a week.
Below, I will go into further detail about each of the 3 aspects above so that you can decide if intermittent fasting is right for you and your specific goals.
Note: although the title of this article states 20 pounds, you can certainly do intermittent fasting if you have more or less than twenty pounds to lose.
Let’s start with number one; restricting your calories to a specific time window. Recent studies on participants who restricted their food intake each day to a 6-8 hour period demonstrated dramatic reductions in fasting blood sugar and insulin levels.
Low fasting blood sugar and low insulin levels play a huge role in the fat burning process. Insulin is a fat storing hormone, so reducing your insulin levels is critical to losing body fat. Reducing your blood sugar levels is also very important for burning fat.
By lowering your insulin levels, you will burn a lot more body fat throughout the day and during your workouts. Low insulin means your body’s fat stores are being used as the primary energy source. This is exactly what you want when fat loss is your goal.
Number two: skipping breakfast and eating the majority of your calories later in the day. You’ve probably heard it many times before from so called “Experts”. “Breakfast is the important meal of the day. Eat breakfast to kick start your metabolism. Never skip breakfast etc…”
Intermittent fasting breaks the “golden rule” of fat loss because it does not involve eating the traditional “Breakfast”. The word “breakfast” simply means to break your fast. You certainly do not have to break your overnight fast as soon as you get up in the morning and can choose to break it at any time of the day.
Eating breakfast foods such as bagels, toast, orange juice and muffins, stops fat burning dead in its tracks as these foods raise your insulin and blood sugar levels, which means no fat will be burned.
A very low or no carbohydrate breakfast will also increase your insulin levels (but not your blood sugar) as protein foods such as bacon, eggs, sausage and cheese increase your insulin (although not as much as carbohydrate foods).
With intermittent fasting, you delay eating until at least 12 pm or lunch time. At 12 pm, the 6-8 hour eating window begins and you can choose to have as many meals or snacks as you’d like during this time.
That being said, to lose fat quickly you should still limit your calorie intake while doing intermittent fasting, especially if you have a lot of body fat to lose.
Once you’ve reached your weight loss goal, you can increase your calorie intake while continuing to do intermittent fasting and you will have no problems maintaining a healthy weight as long as you choose the right foods.
Always choose whole foods such as nuts, sweet potatoes, brown rice, extra virgin olive oil, grass fed butter, coconut oil, eggs, avocado, fish, organic chicken, oatmeal, broccoli and other green veggies and fruits such as apples, kiwis, berries and oranges.
Avoid processed foods such as bread, high fructose corn syrup, sugar and grains. Also avoid foods such as candy, chocolate, pizza, soda, white potatoes, chips and pasta.
Ideally, you want to workout in a fasted state before you put any food into your system (around 10 or 11 am). However, if you cannot workout before your first meal or not until the evening, you can still reap all the benefits of IF.
If you cannot workout until the evening, eat one light meal consisting of either fish or chicken breast with mixed steamed veggies and if desired, a small piece of fruit. Small meals like this are digested quickly and will not interfere with fat burning during your workouts.
A word of caution, intermittent fasting is not to be done if you are diabetic, pregnant or breastfeeding. You should also avoid intermittent fasting if you are very stress reactive and live an overly stressful lifestyle. Always be sure to pay attention to your energy levels and how you feel both physically and mentally while doing intermittent fasting.
Here are some more important points to take into account before you try intermittent fasting:
• When you are just starting out IF (first week or two) you can ease your body into fasting by starting off with a 12 hour fast and working your way up to 16 hours of fasting. This is especially helpful if you are currently eating several meals and snacks every few hours throughout the day.
• Intermittent fasting is not a form of severe calorie restriction or starvation. You should consume ample calories from the right foods to provide your body with enough nutrients and energy to function optimally.
• Zero calorie beverages are OK to consume during your fasting period. Although you should avoid diet sodas and drinks with artificial sweeteners. Coffee without sugar or creamer is fine if you’re a coffee drinker.
• You do not have to do intermittent fasting every day. As long as the fat is coming off consistently, you can eat breakfast foods and other foods off the menu once or twice a week.
Author: Adi Crnalic, C.P.T