Intermittent fasting is currently one of the world’s most popular health and fitness trends, but for those who don’t know, it is a term for an eating pattern that cycles between periods of fasting and eating. If you’ve ever eaten dinner, then slept late and not eaten until lunch the next day, then you’ve probably already done a 16+ hour fast.
IS INTERMITTENT FASTING HURTING YOUR
BODY COMPOSITION AND HEALTH?
- INTERMITTENT FASTING SLOWS DOWN YOUR METABOLISM?
You have definately heard that, if you want to lose weight you need to eat 6 or more small meals per day, because it boosts your metabolism. I used to think the same way. Reality is, we have misunderstood the research on TEF (Termic Effect of Food).
You see, everytime you eat, your body burns calories in breaking down and digesting what you are eating. Therefore, the notion stated that the more often you eat, the more frequently TEF will rise, and the more calories you’ll burn. The more calories you’ll burn, the more weight you are going to loose. Makes sense? Too bad that TEF has nothing to do with the amount of meals you’re eating, but rather with total calories you are ingesting.
Let’s say that every time you have a meal, you burn 10% of calories digesting that meal.
Now let’s say that you are eating a total of 1800 kcal per day.
6 meals of 300 kcal each equals 30 kcal burned per meal. 6×30= 180 kcal burned per day.
4 meals of 450 kcal each equals 45 kcal burned per meal. 4×45=180 kcal burned per day.
2 meals of 900 kcal each equals 90 kcal burned per meal. 2×90=180 kcal burned per day.
Conclusion: no matter what calorie intake and meal frequency you choose, TEF will always depend on your total daily calorie consumption.
- WILL INTERMITTENT FASTING MAKE YOU LOSE LEAN BODY MASS?
We already know that to retain lean body mass, resistance training and high protein diet is vital. And everyone knows, that protein should be consumed every 2 to 3 hours for maximum muscle retention and growth. NO.
When we are fasted for several hours (like when we are sleeping) our bodies go through negative protein balance, after a protein rich meal it changes into a positive protein balance. And these two states changes several times through out the day. As long as you consume adequate amount of protein, daily muscle tissue remains stable.
Conclusion: consuming adequate daily protein intake is the most important factor.
- WILL INTERMITTENT FASTING MESS UP WITH YOUR HORMONES?
I have heard horror stories about women developing amenorrhea (absence of a menstrual period in a woman of reproductive age) while Intermittent Fasting. Well, reality is, that most of them tried to pair Intermittent Fasting with paleo, low carb, low fat, ketogenic diets, and what not. NO! Calories still matter, macronutrients still matter! If you are not used to Intermittent Fasting, this is not the best time approaching intuitive eating.
Another mistake, that women often make, is training like crazy. I allways suggest to use exercise to shape your body and diet to lose body fat. If you need to burn more calories do low intensity stready state exercise, like walking, which relaxes your mind. Doing HIIT, tabata and circuit style of training is not the best choice, when starting with Intermitten Fasting.
At this point you might ask, why bother?
BENEFITS OF INTERMITTENT FASTING
Many ‘experts’ suggest, that Intermittent Fasting has multiple health benefits, like improved insulin and leptin sensitivity, boosted Human Growth Hormone, cellular discharge and many others. Honestly, I don’t think there is a final answer to this yet. However, there are huge ‘real life’ benefits of Intermittent Fasting:
- Fat loss, while intermittent fasting, becomes a walk in the park. Think about it, while skipping breakfast, you are saving a lot of calories, that you can consume later that day.
- Lean body maintenence year round. If Intermittent Fasting becomes a part of your lifestyle, maintaining a low body fat percentage becomes a lot easier. Especially if you are someone who gains weight easily. You will be able to eat bigger meals, desserts and join social events, without consuming too many calories.
- Big meals.If you have a big appetite, eating fewer, but bigger meals will make you feel more satisfied.
- Desserts. Because you will be saving calories from your breakfast, fitting desserts into your diet won’t be a struggle anymore.
- No more constant thinking about food. Since you will be able to eat big meals and desserts, you will be satisfied for long hours. This is extremelly beneficial for those who are stuck in the restricting-binging cycle (I am not talking about the Binge Eating disorder, just about women, that can’t stick to a caloric deficit, if you suffer from disordered eating, you should seek for help).
- No more constant prepping and cleaning. If you think about it, we spend so much time and energy in prepping those small meals, cooking and cleaning afterwards. Well, Intermittent Fasting is a life saviour in this, you’ll have to care only about your lunch and dinner. Now you will be able to spend your time elsewhere.
- Lifestyle friendly. You won’t have to worry about your next meal anymore. This is huge when travelling, you will be able to visit restourants and actually enjoy a variaty of different meals, rather then just ordering the same old chicken salad.
MY EXPERIENCE WITH INTERMITTENT FASTING
Since I was a child, untill my late teens, I never ate breakfast. And I was feeling and looking perfectly fine! But then I got into whole fitness thing. I was told, that I have to eat 5 to 6 small meals per day, that breakfast is the most important meal of the day, and all that jazz, you know the story.
I did everything ‘the right way’. But I felt sad and unsatified the whole time. My meals where so small, I was constantly hungry, regardless daily caloric intake. Most of my meals consisted of vegetables, lean protein and rice cakes (a normal serving of rice contains about 300 calories, this amount was way to much for one meal for me!). I never enjoyed eating out, because I was so hesitant about serving sizes. I allways refused invitations to dinners at friends houses. The worst situation was when my fiancè and I went on a vacation in Greece, all I was thinking about was how much dressing they put on your salad at the restaurant (haven’t even atempted to try Greek cuisine awesomeness) and that I would looove to have a beer. All my thoughts went into this bodybuilding eating style nonsense.
After some time I discovered Intermittent Fasting, and that it is used to actually improve your body composition! I started to research more about it. It didn’t took long for me to get convinced that I have to try it for myself. It’s been 4 years now, and I never felt better.
There are a lot of Intermitten Fasting protocols out there, but in my opinion no one got it better than Greg O’Gallagher from kinobody.com, read his article about his Intermittent Fasting approach The Best Intermittent Fasting Meals For Losing Fat.
HOW TO DO INTERMITTENT FASTING
Drink coffee. Everyone loves coffee. If you are sensitive to caffeine you can substitute for any kind of tea or matcha. Greg would reccomend to drink it plain, but if you hate the taste, you can add sweetener and/or a splash of almond milk. Remember, the point is to save as many calories as possible, for later.
Don’t obsess on the eating window. Intermitten Fasting is a strategy to eat less in a enjoyable way. So push your first meal later into the day, but if you feel hungry 3 hours upon waking, then eat!
Keep your first meal healthy. Eat foods packed with nutrients. These are examples of what I usually eat:
- Salad topped with chicken or fish and healthy fats (avocado, nuts, olive oil and lemon dressing). And a piece of fruit, for a little dessert.
- Chicken or beef and veggie stir fry, cooked in coconut oil, toped with sesamee seeds. And, again, a piece of fruit.
- If I wake up very early and can’t make it ’till lunch time, I make a yogurt ”parfait”: protein powder mixed in yogurt (greek yogurt, skyr, traditional probiotic yogurt, alpro vegan yogurt, whatever you fancy), add a sliced banana and almonds in it.
- Sometimes I make a protein shake with almond milk, banana and cashew, peanut or almond butter.
Treat yo self. As a mid day snack you can satisfy your cravings! For me it’s ussually Italian gelato, but you do you 😉
At dinner eat BIG. My favorite dinner meal is steak with potato wedges or french fries. And, of course, a glass of wine. And a piece of dark chocolate!
FOR BREAKFAST LOVERS
Intermittent Fasting has been the best diet hack I’ve came across, hands down. However, one of the biggest reasons why so many women fail to reach their goals is that the dietary plan doesn’t suit their schedule and meal preference. There is no reason to skip breakfast if you are most hungry in the morning, or if it is your favorite part of the day. In fact, a lot of women don’t mind eating a lighter lunch or dinner.
If you like to feast at dinner time or have a dessert before bed, Intermittent Fasting might be the best option for you.
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