Want to enjoy the food pyramid in its entirety? Then this diet could be for you...
So you have tried the Keto diet, the Mediterranean diet, heck you have even tried the banana diet and well frankly you would just prefer to enjoy all the layers of the food pyramid as you please. As timing would have it (pun intended) you also keep stumbling across two little words – intermittent fasting. In case you are wondering what all the rage is about, we’re here to simplify it for you.
The principle of intermittent fasting rests on consuming food during a certain window of time (eating time) and not eating anything for the other period of time (fasting time). So far it seems pretty straightforward, only that the options for how you break up these time frames are as extensive as the Happy Way protein powder range.
The eating / fasting time breakdown...
How to do intermittent fasting?
The most common intermittent fasting breakdown rests on the 12:12 fasting rule. This means that you can eat for 12 hours of the day and fast for the other 12. As a general guideline, if you stop eating at 8pm you don’t have any food until 8am. No midnight snacks, evening caps or sneaky biscuits before bedtime. Those looking to really maximise their fasting results change this up to an 8:16 rule, eating for 8 hours and fasting for 16. In such cases, it usually means skipping breakfast and not eating until midday.
While it may mean missing out on your eggs and toast in the morning, you are still able to enjoy late night dinner dates with your friends without having to skip certain food groups. A perfect option if you are on a weight loss journey and sick of ordering salad with no dressing.
Now, if eating windows are not your idea of dieting, then the 5:2 intermittent fasting rule may work for you. This means limiting your calorie intake to 500 calories a day for women and 600 calories for men, twice a week. This doesn’t need to take place on consecutive days and can be done during any day of the week. Again, for those looking to maximise their fasting results, alternate day fasting is an option in which case you limit your calorie intake to 500 calories every second day.
The method of intermittent fasting you choose depends on your lifestyle, work schedule and routine. If you aren’t a breakfast person then the 12:12 or 8:16 rule would work better for you than for someone who steps out of bed and into their fridge. A lot of people begin with the 12:12 rule and work their way up to an 8:16 fasting window or alternative fasting days.
Intermittent fasting benefits
Some of the benefits that you can expect to see from intermittent fasting include: weight loss, improved mental clarity, better sleep, increased energy, and reduced inflammation.
One of the main benefits of intermittent fasting is weight loss. While you are fasting, your body won't be getting any food so it has to burn the fat that is on your body for energy. This is why many people who do intermittent fasting will drink detox tea while they are fasting.
Not only does this burn off the bad things in your system, but it also helps because smart eating after fasting is easier. Your body won't crave the things that it usually does, which will make it a lot easier for you to eat healthy and cut out junk foods from your diet.
Increased Mental Clarity
Another great benefit of intermittent fasting is that it improves mental clarity. When you are eating all of the time, your blood sugar levels become unstable. This makes it difficult for your brain to think clearly.
When you are doing intermittent fasting, you are giving your body a chance to flush out toxins. This allows your brain to function at the highest possible level. If you need an energy boost during the day, eat some low glycemic index foods until your blood sugar levels become balanced again.
One of the best benefits of intermittent fasting is that it helps you to get a better night's sleep. When you are constantly eating, your body is constantly working to digest the food. This can keep you up at night and make it difficult for you to fall asleep.
When you are fasting, your body will have time to relax and you will be able to fall asleep more easily. You will also sleep more deeply and wake up feeling more refreshed.
One of the best benefits of intermittent fasting is that it increases your energy levels. When you are constantly eating, your blood sugar levels become unstable. This makes it difficult for you to have sustained energy throughout the day.
When you do intermittent fasting, your body becomes used to burning fat for energy instead of carbs. This will give you a steady supply of energy throughout the day so that you don't suffer from crashes as often.
Intermittent fasting is great for reducing inflammation in the body because it allows your body to rest. When your body is constantly eating, it never gets a break so it becomes stressed more easily. This can lead to chronic inflammation that will cause you all kinds of health problems over time.
When you are fasting, your body has the chance to decompress so you don't have as much inflammation. Plus, if you are drinking detox tea, you will flush out toxins that can cause inflammation and make it easier for your body to heal.
How does intermittent fasting promote weight loss?
The benefits of intermittent fasting go beyond limiting your calorie intake. Fasting allows your body to reach a ketosis state faster by lowering insulin levels. When you consume carbohydrates, your body breaks it down into glucose and in turn uses it for energy. When you don’t burn off the calories consumed, this energy is turned into fat. This process is aided by insulin, a hormone that allows your cells to take in glucose. When you fast, your insulin levels drop forcing your body to release existing glucose as energy. This means that the body taps into its own fat stores for energy and promotes fat loss in return.
A 2015 study published in the Molecular and Cellular Endocrinology Journal examined data in over 40 different intermittent fasting studies and found it led to weight loss. While the exact loss is dependent on external factors such as exercise and food choices made during eating periods, it is believed that fasting alone led to an estimated 2kg weight loss per month.
What can I eat during my eating window?
Here is the fun part - you don’t have to cut any layers out of the food pyramid, however, if you want to maximise your results you really shouldn’t be spending too much time at the top. While you don’t have to cut out certain food groups, opting for more wholesome options will see you reach your goals sooner. This means avoiding highly processed foods and refined carbohydrates and instead opting for wholesome foods such as protein, healthy fats and fibre rich options.
While this may seem straightforward, it still requires a balancing act. You should be eating enough to sustain your body and avoid hunger during your fasting periods. However this doesn’t mean making up for lost time either. If your idea of intermittent fasting is pizza and chips for 8 hours straight, then this diet is probably not for you.
What to expect
If you are used to eating every three hours and snacking in between your meals you can expect to get hungry. Or if you are a night owl like half of the creative HAPPY WAY team, quitting food at 8pm will seem easy in theory, but won’t be so fun when you’re up at 2am working on a project and a snack looks like the perfect pick me up. Give your body 2-3 days to readjust and stay disciplined. Snacking during the fasting period, no matter how small, will halt your ketosis process.
What not to forget
Like all things in life that require results, intermittent fasting will work best when you pair it with a good morning and evening routine. This means starting your day with some yoga stretches, drinking plenty of water and cutting processed foods out of your diet and replacing them with more wholesome options. Consuming thousands of empty calories during your eating period won’t lead to significant results. However, if you opt for protein, healthy fats, fibre and complex carbohydrates you can expect to reap the benefits. Adding exercise into your routine, whatever shape or form this may come in, will also help keep you on track to reaching your goals. Even a half an hour walk every day will lead to anywhere between 1000 - 1500 extra calories burnt throughout the week.
Let’s talk drinks
If you are subscribing to intermittent fasting don’t cheat yourself by consuming milk laden coffees, sugar filled drinks and empty calories. It is also important to note that while protein shakes and BCAA's mixed with water can aid in your satiety and weight loss, they should ONLY be consumed during your eating windows and not while fasting, even if mixed with water. The aim is to allow your body to well and truly fast.
This means sticking to water (and plenty of it) and if you must, black coffee during your fasting windows.