Everything you need to know about Intermittent Fasting!
Updated: Jan 3
What is it? How to do it? My opinion & experience. Pros y cons? Tips… & more!
If I must say something very sincerely, I think intermittent fasting is one of those things that you love or hate. It may sound like something extreme or crazy, but that's why I want to explain what intermittent fasting refers to, the benefits, my experience, how to carry it out, tips and the experience that I have seen and heard from other people.
What is intermittent fasting?
First of all, I want to clarify that it is NOT a diet or a meal plan. The fundamental principle is not to eat / drink anything with calories for a certain period of time longer than normal or to which we are accustomed. Fasting time starts counting at the last bite you get (for example, at dinner) and ends with the first bite (the next day). You can eat the same amount of food that you have always eaten, the only difference is that it should be in a shorter period of time.
I want to make it clear that in women it is not recommended to do very long periods of fasting due to the hormonal part. Women are made to procreate, and our hormones play a very important role in our lives. Intermittent fasting can backfire for various reasons. Our body does not know what we are trying to do, so it can go into a period of stress and this can impact our hormones. I wouldn’t recommend longer periods of 16 to 18 hours of fasting for women. Women should keep an eye if there are changes in the menstrual cycle or other changes that indicate our body is not adapting satisfactorily.
Nor is it advisable to do this type of protocol in pregnant or lactating women, people with high blood pressure, or diabetes. In any case, you should consult your doctor first..
There are several ways of doing IF, the most common are the following:
Method 16-8.- the most common one, where you fast for 16 hours, including hours of sleep, and eat for 8 hours typically skipping breakfast.
Method 5:2.- reducing caloric intake two days a week to a maximum of 500~600 kcal. The rest of the days you eat normally. Those two days should preferably not be consecutive.
24-7.- in this method you alternate a day of eating, with a day of “not eating”. And I use commas, because you do eat every day, but you’re leaving a 24-hours’ time between one meal and the next. You fast for 24 hours (for example, one day you eat normally, and your last meal is at 7 pm, so your next meal would be at 7 pm the next day). In other words, this method alternates a day of eating all your meals, with a day of eating just one meal.
Which are the benefits and why is it so popular now?
- One of the main benefits is delaying aging through a process called autophagy. This process is generated by allowing the body to rest so that the cells regenerate during this time. This process helps the body clean, remove dead or damaged cells, and gets rid of everything it doesn't need, repairing itself while generating new cells.
- Helps reduce inflammation, which is the origin of many problems; from stomach disorders such as gastritis, colitis, etc., to reducing the possibility of cancer and other chronic diseases.
- Due to the short period of time in which you eat and the use of fat reserves, many people use it as a method to lose weight. By having less time to eat, it’s easier to control the calories you consume and reduce them to obtain results when being a fat loss plan. It's also easier to avoid snacking between meals or overeating as less time passes from one meal to the next.
- Helps improve insulin resistance. When we feed our body very often (especially with sugar), we are constantly having to use insulin to eliminate blood sugar. When this process is very often, the body loses the ability to do it properly, generating more insulin and storing more fat, or what we commonly call insulin resistance. That is why, if done correctly, it is a very effective approach to prevent type 2 diabetes.
- Growth hormone is increased. Protein synthesis is greatly increased, both in men and women, being even more effective in men. This also makes fat available as an energy source, which means that the body becomes more efficient at burning fat and building muscle.
- Another great benefit is clear mind and concentration. I have clearly seen this benefit in my own experience and people around me who do IF. During my fasting periods, my mind is much clearer, I focus better, and I can do things more efficiently.
Hay muchas personas que no pueden o no les gusta comer cada 3 horas ya que se requiere mucha más organización y tiempo. Ya sea por tus actividades diarias, trabajo, etc., este plan es también muy beneficioso ya que haces 2 ó 3 comidas y te olvidas del tema hasta el día siguiente.
My Personal Experience
I’ve been practicing intermittent fasting for more than 3 years. I do the protocol 16-8 and sometimes I extend it up to 18 hours. Being a woman, I do not do it any longer because of the hormonal issues I mentioned earlier. On a normal day, I start my meals between 12 and 1 in the afternoon. My last meal is around 7 and I finish around 8. I confess that when I’m traveling, I relax and try to do between 12 to 14 hours.
In my experience, I think that the best thing that has happened to me is that I can finally see my flat stomach, which, despite being thin, was very difficult for me before. I would always wake up inflamed and go to bed inflamed. I used to have gastritis and colitis problems that now have disappeared since I started IF.
Other benefits I have experienced have been that I no longer feel that tiredness after breakfast or lunch. I feel much more energetic, my mind is clearer, I can do more things by not having to be doing so many meals. And, the best of all, during the time I'm fasting, I don't feel hungry at all. The hunger hits me when I start eating. This is because while you’re fasting, your blood sugar and insulin levels are low, suppressing the feeling of hunger. My body composition has improved by performing intermittent fasting while combining it with a good nutrition and exercise.
I must also say that I love it since I can make bigger meals. By just eating 2 to 3 meals a day, I can eat a lot more than eating small portions throughout the day. This, in my case, is perfect since I’m a person who can eat a lot and it’s hard for me to feel full.
How to do IF correctly?
Don’t make your life harder, simplicity will be your ally. Just remember this: during the fasting period, you cannot consume anything with calories, nothing sweet or flavored. This means that you should not consume products such as diet sodas, artificial sweeteners, coffee creamers, etc.
What you can consume is: water, natural and carbonated. Also, coffee, preferably organic, checking that it has nothing added. Coffee in its purest expression, without milk, without creamers, without sweeteners. You can drink tea except for its sweet or floral versions. Opt for green tea or black tea.
You will see that, if you don’t consume anything sweet or with calories, you will feel better, it will be easier, and you will be able to hold the fasting for longer. This is because light products and artificial sweeteners make our bodies think that we are giving them something to eat. This raises our glucose, causing us to feel hungry and making us want to eat something. So, the cleaner you do it, the easier it will be to do.
It’s normal that the first days you’ll feel hungry, so I recommend increasing it 1 hour every one or two weeks as you get used to it. Take it easy, after this period, it is incredible how hunger goes away, and fasting is super simple. Either way, if you get hungry, you can drink green tea, coffee, or sparkling water. Do not abuse these as we do not want you to have gastritis problems later, hahaha
At first it may seem like a super difficult thing to do and we think we are going to be starving. The reality is that the first few days may be so, that's why these tips may be useful:
Start on a day when you are busy. Keeping your mind busy will make you think less of hunger. Seek to keep your mind occupied with other things. For example, one option is a weekday when you have several meetings, or a day where you can go for a morning walk, exercise, or do something that distracts you.
Take advantage of the fasting time to drink water. This helps you not to starve, and many of us do not drink the necessary during the day.
Don't abuse coffee. It is true that coffee has multiple benefits, it accelerates your metabolism, it is an antioxidant, suppresses hunger, etc.; But it is also true that an excess can be counterproductive. Coffee has a stimulating effect on the brain and produces a slight contraction of the blood vessels, which increases blood pressure, generating anxiety, nervousness, etc. Also, an excess can produce stomach problems such as heartburn, gastritis, etc.
Don't use calorie-free sweeteners! As mentioned before, the only thing you will achieve is that your body thinks that it is receiving food, which raises blood glucose and makes feel hungry.
The cleaner you fast, the easier it will be. That’s it.
Some people start drinking Bullet Proof coffee or something with healthy fats while they get used to. This is because fats don’t generate an increase in insulin, which is exactly what we want to avoid with fasting. If you think it can help you, you can start with this option. I recommend doing a total and pure fast. Remember that these types of drinks are high in calories, so you must be careful, especially if your intention is to lose fat.
Set time goals at the beginning, after you get used to it, it will no longer be necessary to be so strict, your body will get used to it and you can do it naturally. If there are days that your fast is shorter or longer, don’t worry. In fact, it’s convenient that not every day is exactly the same because you’ll keep your body "guessing", not letting it get used to, which helps increase your metabolism.
How to use IF to lose fat??
As I previously explained, this method by itself is already an effective way to lose fat. Additionally, you can consider doing the following:
Strength and cardiorespiratory exercises: the best way to combine it is by exercising on an empty stomach. You can include strength and cardio sessions. Many people believe that it’s necessary to eat before doing any type of activity, especially strength training. The reality is that it’s not. You may even feel much more energy doing your workout without eating before. This is because your body is not taking energy to process the food, therefore, all the energy is focused on your training.
Increase protein intake: increase your protein intake so that it is at least 25% of your total caloric intake to maintain muscle mass. After training, make the biggest meal of your day, prioritizing carbohydrates and protein, minimizing your fat intake.
Decrease carbohydrate consumption: and this applies to any type of nutrition program where the goal is to lose fat. The first thing we must STOP consuming is SUGAR. Decrease the consumption of bread, cereals, processed foods, and starchy carbohydrates such as pasta, rice, etc.
How to do IF without affecting your social life?
Remember that any type of nutrition plan should not reduce your comfort in other areas of your life or isolate you. In my opinion there is a positive and a not so positive part of this method when it comes to talking about social life.
On one side, eating fewer meals in a day means you can eat more in the meals you make! So, if you go out to eat with friends and family, it will be easier for you to eat a good meal and not stress about counting calories.
On the other hand, there will be occasions when you have commitments and find it difficult to keep your fasting hours. In this case I recommend two things. First, if you know in advance that you have plans and you will have to break your fast earlier that day, for example, you can try to close your window a little bit earlier the day before, so you can continue to have your regular fasting hours and still so enjoy your time out with friends/family. The other option is to have more flexible days. In my case for example, I relax more on the weekends and my fasting periods are from 12 to 14 hours. The rest of the week I try not to break my fast for at least 16 hours every day.
General opinions and conclusion
The truth is that most of the opinions of IF are good. There are very few people I have heard who don’t like it or who simply have not tried it because they think it is something very extreme or unnecessary.
What is true is that intermittent fasting is not for everyone. Some people don’t want to do it because what they do now has given them good results, and it’s totally valid. Many people either don't have the willpower to do it or just don't want to. Others want to try and do not dare to or don’t see the benefits that could be obtained.
Another point that I would like to remember is that, if you decide to do it, the best thing is to increase 1 hour to what you are currently doing. For example, if currently your last meal at night is at 8 and your first meal in the morning is at 7 am, you can start by deferring breakfast time at 8 am, then at 9, and so on until you achieve your objective. It is recommended that you add 1 hour every 1 or 2 weeks and see how your body reacts.
Remember to watch what you eat, just because you can eat more during your window, doesn’t mean that you can eat sweets and junk food. Remember that your body is the most important thing you have and you must put in it the best quality of food. Remember everything in this life is about BALANCE, so you must follow a healthy and appropriate nutrition plan.
Any questions you have about this and other health issues, do not hesitate to contact me or leave your comment and I will be happy to clarify everything I can.