As someone who trains regularly, working out in my studio on weekdays and running bleachers on the weekends, I find implementing intermittent fasting to be incredibly beneficial and natural to how I live. While many people often find it easiest to fast in the mornings, after they’ve been asleep for 8-12 hours, and thus only need to refrain from food for another 4-8 hours, I fast in the evenings.
From 6am to around 2pm, I fill my body with the nutrients it needs to get me through the day and keep me fueled for my workouts. Doing so, allows me to optimize my exercise performance and recovery time. Though most importantly, it allows for me to consume a sufficient amount of protein needed to retain lean body mass.
I rarely feel the need to eat past then, though if I do, it’s not a big deal – it is intermittent fasting after all, and therefore it’s important to remember that your body does require the right kind of nutrients to keep it working efficiently.
Now you’re probably wondering how intermittent fasting works – after all, haven’t you already heard me discuss the importance and necessity of a balanced Paleo diet for fitness in the past?
Well first, I must point out that fasting is not a new fad. In fact, in the past, the practice of fasting was usually associated with religious or spiritual customs and traditions. Almost every major religion today includes some kind of dietary restriction as a spiritual practice: Christian Lent, Jewish Yom Kippur, and Muslim Ramadan. But now, a growing number of fitness enthusiasts are beginning to include intermittent fasts in their lives, depending on goals and circumstances, as a way to lose fat and improve overall health and longevity.
Though, the origin of fasting goes even further back than our earliest spiritual practices; it begins with our ancestors.
Intermittent fasting (IF) makes perfect sense from an evolutionary point of view. Our paleolithic ancestors went through regular cycles where food was either readily abundant or extremely scarce. So we evolved with episodes of caloric deprivation.
During times of scarcity, the body turns on “repair and maintenance” genes. These genes increase the production of key chemicals, such as glutathione, which promote the repair of tissues that would not otherwise be repaired during times of surplus. It is this adaptation that allows cells to live longer.
As a result, some of the health benefits of IF include: increased insulin sensitivity, better blood sugar levels, carbohydrate tolerance, and reduced blood pressure and cholesterol.
How can you incorporate IF into your life?
Intermittent fasting involves a period of fasting alternated with a period of eating and may be done in a number of ways. An alternate-day fast generally involves a feast day where you eat all you want one day and then fast the next. A single twenty-four hour fast can be done once a week, once a month or whenever you decide, on a less planned schedule. You can also skip a meal on a planned or unplanned basis.
Other popular methods include the “within-day” fast, in which you only eat during an 8 hour period – a variation of the fast I prefer – or the weekly fast, in which you eat for five days and fast for two.
IF is simple, and it doesn’t require much effort – you just don’t eat for a few hours here and there. In doing so, IF helps you to reduce your body fat, build and retain lean body mass, and ultimately achieve your fitness goals!