Here are Three Things to Know About Intermittent Fasting
- There’s good evidence that limiting your food intake to certain hours of the day helps you lose weight in addition to other potential health benefits.
- Start slowly with your fasting time. Start with a 10-12-hour period of no eating and build up to more.
- Eat better quality food when you do eat: Avoid sugars, processed food, and refined grains. But don’t worry about having pizza on Fridays with your friends and family!
For Some, Eating During Specific Times of the Day Might Help
When all else fails, intermittent fasting might be an effective way to shrink stubborn belly fat.
Nearly all peri- and post-menopausal women face the challenge of belly fat, as a result of reduced levels of hormones in women.
(In men, hormone changes can bring the same effect, but it’s often just drinking beer!)
However, several female clients tell me that these three aren’t enough.
Regardless of regular strength training, running, and watching what they eat, they say they still have a persistent pooch.
How Intermittent Fasting Can Help
Research that has looked at a large variety of studies that seem to show intermittent fasting (IF) – or restricting your food intake to certain times in the day – helps reduce weight.
“All 27 IF trials found weight loss of 0.8% to 13.0% of baseline weight with no serious adverse events. Twelve studies comparing IF to calorie restriction found equivalent results. The five studies that included patients with type 2 diabetes documented improved glycemic control.”
Moreover, fasting can have a host of other potential benefits.
“Simple fasting improves metabolism, lowering blood sugar; lessens inflammation, which improves a range of health issues from arthritic pain to asthma; and even helps clear out toxins and damaged cells, which lowers risk for cancer and enhances brain function.”
How Intermittent Fasting Works
In the reading for my nutrition certification, the recommendation was to keep your insulin levels steady by having healthy snacks throughout the day.
However, the research on fasting suggests that longer periods of not eating at all causes the insulin levels to drop to the point of our fat cells starting to produce energy.
“Between meals, as long as we don’t snack, our insulin levels will go down and our fat cells can then release their stored sugar, to be used as energy. We lose weight if we let our insulin levels go down. The entire idea of IF is to allow the insulin levels to go down far enough and for long enough that we burn off our fat.”
How to Do Intermittent Fasting
Most of the studies used a 12 to 16 hour window, usually at night, with 14 hours being the usual.
As a side note, when study participants did a 14-hour fast AND exercise, the benefits of both increased.
The research suggests starting with a 10 to 12 hour fast, working up to 14 or 16 hours.
Researchers also cautioned that hunger pangs were normal, but often decreased the more someone stayed with the fasting.
There is no conclusive evidence at this point that one method of fasting is better than the other.
However, the plans that encourage not eating for several days, then eating for some might encourage some unhealthy views of food with binging and starving.
Intermittent Fasting and Athletes
Fasting with endurance sports is tricky.
The idea of fasting or restricting carbohydrates is that we can use fat stores as energy.
So athletes do their workouts in a fasted state in order to “turn on” the fat burning as a fuel source.
But it just doesn’t work that easily.
The issue, then, becomes that endurance athletes don’t have enough energy to do hard workouts well while fasting 16 hours a day.
The research just isn’t there to be able to both do effective workouts AND be fasting to lose weight.
It’s far better to pay better attention to your fueling and keep doing your workouts!
We can, though, stop eating after dinner and have a good breakfast 12 hours later.
Intermittent fasting has some challenges.
It goes against our body’s natural hunger urges.
We often mistake cravings and self-soothing through eating with actual hunger.
Since dieting fads are not something we can sustain for a lifetime, intermittent fasting may also be something that is not sustainable.
What you can easily take from intermittent fasting, though, is avoiding nighttime snacking and eating well when we do eat.
Do you have questions about intermittent fasting or nutrition to fuel your cycling or running adventure?
Contact me to ask questions and talk more about making your endurance training effective.