How does Intermittent fasting work?
In the current society, our machine, our fat-burning system runs primarily on carbs. When you refrain from eating for a long period of time, these carb-reserves become depleted. When this happens, fats take over and become the new source of fuel for the body. This transition happens after approximately twelve hours. When you follow a normal eating pattern, your final meal is usually at around 7 or 8 in the evening. Approximately twelve hours later you will have breakfast again. With this eating pattern, you will have breakfast right around the time your body switches to using your body fat as an energy source. This means your body won’t get the chance to start using your body fat as fuel. However, if you stretch this period with five or six hours, your body will switch to burning body fat instead.
With intermittent fasting, you are saying goodbye to the typical â€˜three meals per day’ routine and instead, you follow a 16:8 pattern. This means, you only drink water for 16 hours and the other 8 you eat regularly. For example, you could skip your breakfast and eat only between lunch and dinner time. There are also benefits for well-trained or professional athletes. If you know that you perform well on burning body fat, you take away the gastrointestinal pressure in your body which promotes performance.
Losing weight with intermittent fasting
People often find themselves struggling when they first start with intermittent fasting. It takes a while for your body to get used to switching to using body fat as an energy source. Especially in the first two weeks, you can feel noticeably more tired than usual. Therefore, it is advised to take time to get used to this during those very first weeks. Drink sufficient water, exercise at a slightly lower intensity, basically just take a small step back. Once you get used to the pattern, you will feel more energetic again. Because you are burning body fat combined with spending less time on eating, it is very likely that you will lose weight as a result. An ideal strategy for losing weight.
Intermittent fasting is not a diet
Fasting causes the biological system of your body to act in times of nutrition scarcity. Unlike back in the days, where scarcity and abundance of food alternated constantly, we now have plenty of food. Therefore, we need to create fasting cycles rather than continuously fasting. Recommended is to do this in periods of two times eight weeks of fasting per year. More is not necessary. Intermittent fasting is not a diet since you are not changing what you eat. Merely when you eat.
Different fasting options
There are many different methods of intermittent fasting. The first question to ask yourself is therefore what your goal is. Do you want to lose weight? In that case, the 16:8 method would be ideal, because you increase your fat-burning relative to burning carbs. This method would mean 16 hours of fasting followed by 8 hours of eating.
Another option would be the 5:2 system. This consists of five normal days followed by two days of fasting. It is easier to sustain when these days are spread out over the course of the week. During these two days, it is recommended to eat no more than 500 kcal per day. This means you could eat a small meal of preferable vegetables.
A deficit in calories is an effect that occurs faster when you fast for longer periods of time such as with the 5:2 system. With daily fasting, it is possible that you eat exactly the same amount of calories as you normally would. There is plenty of research that states that intermittent fasting causes modifications in your metabolism. It makes your body more efficient and your body learns to burn fat better.
What does an intermittent fasting schedule look like?
- choose six to eight weeks in your agenda in which you will stick to an intermittent fasting schedule.
- decide which schedule fits you best. Could you easily skip a day of eating, the 5:2 is a good option. However, if you train a lot, or are very busy and in need of food throughout the day, then the 16:8 or even 18:6 method is advised.
- Don’t start eating before 12 in the afternoon. This means breakfast will become your lunch.
- Start with a good base. For example, yoghurt with muesli and fruits. You could add extra proteins such as fish or nuts/seeds to your first meal.
- Drink a lot of water. This is especially important since you are taking in less water via your food.
- Lots of protein, fats, and fibers for dinner. This means a healthy dose of veggies and for example fish. Since you are eating less, it is important to focus on eating functional foods that provide you with the nutrients, vitamins, and minerals to stay healthy.
- Listen to your body! Sometimes you just have to pull through when you are lacking energy, but don't overdo this.
- Make it a custom to not eat anything after dinner anymore. So, no more snacking, drinks, etc. Once you are used to this, it gets much easier.
- After 6 to 8 weeks you end the period of fasting. Be proud of yourself, think and reflect on the things that went well and the things you found difficult.
- Doing intermittent fasting twice a year is enough to achieve positive results. If you can, you could do it for longer periods of time, but try to use the 6-8 weeks as a minimum period.