“I fast for greater physical and mental efficiency.”
What Intermittent Fasting Is
Let’s begin with what intermittent fasting (IF) is not. It’s not about starving yourself.
You can still drink low-calorie liquids such as coffee or tea. Water is definitely my favorite choice of beverage with zero calories.
Intermittent fasting can range anywhere from 10 to 18 hours before consuming any food. Don’t worry, starvation mode doesn’t start until you have fasted for about three days.
Fasting for more than ten hours is extremely challenging if you’re used to eating breakfast in the morning.
You might argue skipping breakfast is unhealthy because you believe that it’s the most important meal of the day. The word “breakfast” literally means to break the fasting period of the prior night. But it doesn’t have to be necessarily in the morning as you’re free to choose when to break your fast.
You’re usually hungry in the morning because you have conditioned your brain for years to expect food after you wake up. Breakfast is more of a cultural artifact than a survival necessity. You should eat when you truly feel hungry, not depicted by social norm.
Why You Should Try Intermittent Fasting
You can think of intermittent fasting as a way to detox the body. When you don’t eat food for a long time (10 to 18 hours), you’re giving your digestive system a break and time for recovery.
It’s equal to letting your body rest and recover after a workout.
During the fasting period, your body still has to look for energy to metabolize for its various bodily functions. The most readily available energy source is glycogen stored in the liver and fat storage in the body.
When you fast, you’re essentially training your body to burn on fat. The more adapted your body becomes at utilizing fat, the easier it’s for you to lose fat, especially if you’re on a ketogenic diet (high fat, adequate protein, and low carb diet).
After your mid-twenties, you stop producing human growth hormones. However, intermittent fasting promotes human growth hormone production. By having more growth hormones in the body, you can:
- Burn body fat to maintain lean body mass.
- Build muscle by muscle recovery and repair.
- Slow down the aging process.
- Stimulate nail and healthy hair growth.
- Improve bone strength.
In addition, intermittent fasting can also:
- Reduce inflammation and damages from free radicals.
- Regulate ghrelin level, the hunger hormone in the body.
- Prevent cancer and chronic diseases such as heart disease and diabetes because it normalizes insulin sensitivity.
- Improve immune function.
How You Can Get Started
The best time to try intermittent fasting is on your day off.
Prepare by having a huge meal for dinner the night before will help you feel satiated longer after you wake up. It will also help you sleep better at night with “food coma” if you eat plenty of healthy (complex and low GI) carbohydrates.
By completing dinner at 8 PM and not eating until 12 PM the next day results in 16 hours of fasting. Not to mention you will be sleeping most of that time.
If the idea of skipping breakfast in the morning is daunting to you, I understand. I had the same feeling when I first heard of it, but everything starts with small steps.
First, try delaying your breakfast one hour later than usual to slowly train your brain and stomach to not expect food in the morning. Make steady progress over time as you aim to not eat before 12 PM the next day to reach the 16-hour mark.
It will be a stretch especially if you’re trying it for the first time. But here are some tips to help you break through some of those challenges.
- Drink some water when you first feel hungry, then wait 10 to 15 minutes to see if the hunger urge subsides. Most of the time when you feel hungry, you’re actually thirsty. If the hunger comes back, then you should end your fast by eating some food.
- Go for a walk outside and remove yourself from a food-rich environment. By not seeing food around you, you’re less tempted to think about food and feel hungry.
- Fully immerse yourself in your work so your mind is too occupied to think about anything else.
If you’re feeling adventurous, you can try performing fasted cardio or weightlifting. This will cause the body to burn on existing glycogen and fat storage instead of on food that you may have otherwise consumed before the workout.
By performing high-intensity interval training (HIIT) in a fasted state, you can cause a huge spike in growth hormone production in your body. These workouts are short bursts of intense anaerobic exercise with less extreme recovery periods.
Fasted Training Doesn’t Have to Make You Lose Muscle
If you’re worried about muscle loss during intermittent fasting, I understand as that was one of my first concerns. But what I have discovered is that the body will not break down muscle tissue until it has depleted all the glycogen in the liver.
However, working out in a fasted state does promote muscle breakdown serving as a double-edged sword. But with the help of using slow-burning forms of protein like casein or egg which are still available few hours after eating, you can further prevent muscle loss during fasted training.
Intermittent Fasting Might Not Be For You
Although intermittent fasting has many health benefits, you should not do intermittent fasting if you:
- Are recovering or have an eating disorder – first, develop a healthy relationship with food before you deprive yourself to achieve your health goals.
- Experience adrenal fatigue since it can affect the way your body metabolizes food.
You shouldn’t do fasted training if you experience mental and/or physical fatigue during your workouts.
Intermittent fasting has many benefits but it’s not practical if you enjoy eating smaller meals throughout the day. I enjoy eating only two meals a day so I have more time during the day to focus on efficient productivity. By not having to think about food all the time, my mind can focus on the important tasks at hand.
The sense of mental clarity running on an empty stomach, in addition to meditation in the morning, helps me become present and productive throughout the day.
I don’t recommend performing intermittent fasting every day. At most three days a week, I do intermittent fasting for 16 hours followed by high-intensity interval training with running, cycling, or swimming.
As a result, my appetite gets suppressed with exercise and stomach shrinkage caused by intermittent fasting.
I don’t enjoy performing heavy weightlifting workouts in a fasted state because my workouts tend to suffer from early fatigue. However, I encourage you to test it out and see what kind of results you get.
Intermittent fasting combined with fasted training is an excellent way to drop fat quickly if you enjoyed too much food from a recent trip or special occasion.
Try it out and let me know how you like intermittent fasting!
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