Six Simple Strategies for Sustainable Intermittent Fasting
In Part 1, I briefly overview my personal experience and transformation with ‘Intermittent Fasting’. In Part 2, I go into more depth relative to the “biological behind the scenes” as to why intermittent fasting proves so effective compared to traditional “diets” and why of course, intermittent fasting proves sustainable long term where other common approaches crash and burn within two to three months.
In this final installment of the series I want to share with you a few simple guidelines that I am confident will both improve you current understanding of an effective approach to intermittent fasting while simultaneously increasing your long-term success and sustainability with its implementation as a lifestyle as opposed to a “quick fix”.
1. Choose a Fasting : Feeding Ratio that compliments your lifestyle.
There are many different “intermittent fasting schedules” that are commonly utilized by individuals who are employing an intermittent fasting structure to their lifestyle. There is certainly not a one-size-fits-all approach nor is there a right or wrong way to structure and balance your periods of feeding and fasting. The secret? Be sure to choose a structure that fits your lifestyle. So many individuals struggle to force an intermittent fasting time frame into their lives that doesn’t match the flow of their daily schedule which only results in overwhelming feelings of frustration.
Here are the three most common approaches I’ve seen employed:
· 16:8 – The 16:8 fasting time frame is easily the most popular approach taken by most individuals. The ratio represents the amount of time spent fasting to the amount of time spent feeding. In this scenario, there would be 16 hours of fasting followed by an 8-hour feeding window. It’s crucial to understand that the 16 hours of fasting INCLUDES your time spent sleeping (which is only logical since of course, you haven’t been feeding during these 6 to 8 hours). This makes it relatively simple to build off your sleep period of fasting until you reach the 16-hour mark. (i.e., if you finished your final meal / snack at 8 PM then your first meal or “BREAK-FAST” would be consumed at 12 PM the following day)!
· 12:12 – The 12:12 fasting time frame is a great bridge to the 16:8 or an excellent maintenance schedule for individuals who are simply trying to maintain a healthy balance in their lives. Eating in a 12-hour feeding window allows for equal parts fasting and is often employed by individuals who have a more intense, daily, training schedule (i.e., high intensity workouts / frequent heavy lifting).
· OMAD / Full Day / 24-Hour – although quite a bit more extreme than the 16:8 / 12:12 approaches, the OMAD (One Meal A Day) / 24 Hour Fast) is extremely popular among intermittent fasters. This usually requires a gradual approach, is rarely employed daily and if it is, rarely is it done long term. This one is self explanatory.
I personally employ a 24-hour fast 2 times per week on Mondays and Fridays as it makes sense for my lifestyle structure. I do little more than mobility work on those two days AND they also happen to be my busiest days relative to coaching so it has proven to be much easier to fast for the full day consistently.
2. Methodical Progress vs. ‘Jumping In Head First’
This guideline is CRUCIAL to long-term success with intermittent fasting. In fact, all habits that you desire to improve upon or make static in your lifestyle, should be employed gradually to avoid exhaustion and inevitable burnout allowing for time to adapt to the changes you are implementing. For example, let’s say that the 16:8 approach to intermittent fasting was the most appealing to you in your current lifestyle structure. As of yesterday, you had been eating breakfast at 6 AM. To shift your first meal to 12 PM there isn’t a need to jump immediately from ‘zero-to-hero’. Start by shifting your breakfast back to 6:30 AM until you feel comfortable and then after a few days / few weeks, bump your breakfast time back another 30 minutes to 7 AM. Remember – ‘BREAKFAST’ broken down refers to your first meal of the day – ‘BREAK / FAST’ – as in the first thing you consume that breaks your fast. There is no right or wrong time as to when this occurs, so any improvement of your fasting / feeding ratio is progressive. Over time, methodically, building confidence and consistency gradually, will increase your ability to sustain this new habit long-term.
3. Drink A Ton of Water
During your fasting portion of the day, your intake is temporarily limited to water, black coffee or black tea. This of course, leads to a ‘nil insulin’ response which is the primary benefit of the fast. I’ve seen quite a few people fall victim to consuming endless amounts of coffee / tea simply because it’s more filling and pleasurable than drinking boring, old water. The two biggest issues with this of course, are that the excessive caffeine intake can very quickly affect your energy levels long-term and lead to dependency on caffeine to function. Secondly, the fact that excessive caffeine intake, when water intake is absent, can easily lead to dehydration. I personally have no more than 1 to 2 coffee / teas TOTAL on a fasting day and aim to consume 500 mL of water every 1 to 2 hours to ensure adequate hydration!
4. Keep Busy
Intermittent fasting can prove quite challenging if you have way too much free time on your hands. Although keeping busy is certainly not a necessity to an effective, intermittent fast (your body’s regulation of body fat probably doesn’t care if you’re watching Netflix or writing a blog), it contributes to distracting yourself from the psychological games of “watching the clock” and “boredom eating”. How many times have you fallen victim to eating simply because you had nothing better to do? If you’re distracted with simple projects / tasks or immersed in your work, it’s much easier to get through the fasting period without thinking of food. I personally have placed my fasting days on my busiest days of the week. This makes perfect sense since the day flies by without so much of a thought about eating!
5. Eat Until Full
When it comes to the feeding window, you’ll of course hear a multitude of opinions when it comes to the guidelines of food consumption. Some advocates of intermittent fasting encourage eating whatever your heart desires, even if that means chocolate chip cookies and cake until you slip into a sugar coma. Although this certainly seems like a great reward, it’s probably not the best plan if you’re sincerely aiming to optimize and improve your future health and fitness profile.
My advice is simple.
Start with your proteins / healthy fats to ensure that you’re consuming adequate amounts of essential macronutrients for optimal health. Also, make certain to load up on vegetables to ensure adequate intake of vitamins and minerals. I always advise people to eat until they’re full. When intermittent fasting is applied, individuals often notice that they feel the urge to eat larger meals during feeding windows. That’s okay if the foods you are eating are REAL and not “food items”. Quality proteins, fats and adequate fibre intake will allow for accurate feedback from your hunger hormones ensuring that you don’t “overeat”. Listening to your body is key! If you’re someone who works out with a high level of intensity / heavier loads it might prove progressive to consume a small amount of carbohydrates during this time! Of course, individual needs will vary so it might take a little bit of experimentation to find the right feeding window approach for YOU. To be clear; I’m almost certain that chocolate chip cookies by the case will NOT be the right approach for anyone.
6. Be Aware of Workout Intensity
If you’re new to intermittent fasting, I personally suggest that you dial down your workout intensity initially. As your body acclimates to your new lifestyle, you might otherwise notice a temporary decrease in training intensity / output and you may even feel nauseous and fatigued. This is normal. Be patient and consider taking a short training deload while your body adjusts to the new eating structure OR move your training time to one that better meshes with your feeding window!
To conclude - remember that this is a lifestyle change - NOT a quick fix. Intermittent fasting can be employed for the rest of your life, consequently eliminating the annoying hunger cravings, exasperating weight fluctuations, relative lack of energy and other, general frustrations that go hand in hand with the most traditional of approaches to weight loss.
As you venture forth with your own experimentations with this lifestyle structure to see if it’s for you (it’s not for everyone), make certain to aim for a time structure that works with your current, daily schedule. Don’t rush into it, but rather, build your confidence and consistency by slowly increasing your fasting period. Make certain to stay hydrated and be aware of excessive caffeine intake all while avoiding turning your feeding windows into junk food binges. If you truly want to optimize your health, your feeding window is when you should aim to eat as much healthy food as possible.
If you have any questions regarding losing undesirable body fat, developing incredible strength, or regaining control of your future health profile send me an e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org or connect with me on Instagram / Facebook – Links Below!