The latest buzzword in the nutrition world is “intermittent fasting”. Intermittent fasting has been around for quite awhile now, but it looks like it’s next up on the “must do” nutrition trend. Almost all diet trends pick up steam because “they’re so SIMPLE”. And this one is no different.
So here’s the lowdown, super cliffs notes version of intermittent fasting:
- You eat in a certain window of time, and fast in a certain window of time.
- There are varying styles (This is far from an all inclusive list, but the idea there are lots of different approaches and everyone seems to have a different “perfect” way )
- Daily: Usually involves eating two big meals in a 6-10 hour window, and fasting the other 14-18 hours
- Semi Daily: Eating normally 2 days, fasting for an 18-24 hour period on the third day
- Weekly: Eating normally 6 days a week, and fasting a 24 hour period one day a week
- Monthly: Fasting 1-2 times a month for an 18-24 hour window
- It’s not about what you eat, but when you eat, so essentially you can eat what you want when you’re not fasting.
- It’s not totally about how much you eat, the goal in most approaches is to hit your daily calorie requirements within these windows, but if you go over, the fasting gives you some flexibility to overindulge.
So, what’s appealing to most people is that there is no concern on what you eat. There’s no need to do any special shopping or food prep. There’s no need to worry about not eating your favorite foods. Really you don’t have to do anything, just don’t eat for a designated period of time and you’ll shed fat.
Seems pretty simple so far, so what could I have a problem with here?
What’s the best way to do it?
For starters, there are so many ways to do it. My list above is literally just a few of the many ways to approach this. Which is best? Based off my research, I’d say eating two meals a day in an 8 hour window and fasting the other 16 hours a day, but those seem like some tough days to me. And honestly, that’s just my best guess based off of what I know about nutritional needs and experience.
16 hours of being hungry, and 8 hours of being stuffed. The whole reason I want to lose fat is to feel good. To be able to have the energy and focus to do the things I want to do. I learned a long time ago that starving myself before Thanksgiving Dinner and then stuffing myself during leaves me dragging all day and ready for bed right after I eat. If the gym is our testing grounds, I would be failing on both ends of this spectrum. If I’m trying to PR I am not coming starving, and I’m not getting after it stuffed.
Eat whatever you want and lose weight?
We’ve heard this before, lots of times. I’ve yet to see it ever be real. Losing weight is one thing, losing fat is a whole nother thing. Muscle is hard to come by and more and more important as we age. Muscle is a more readily available energy source, and usually your body is going to start utilizing that when we’re not fueling ourselves with food. So you may lose weight, but I’m guessing a good chunk of that is going to be muscle.
It’s not about losing fat, it’s about keeping fat off
Losing 5, 10, 20lbs isn’t as hard as you think, but keeping it off is harder than you think. As I said before, changing behavior is never easy, and we want something that is going to work for the long haul. When you envision your life 10, 20, 30 years from now, does starving yourself regularly fit into that image? Is this really something you think you’ll do forever? What do you do when you reach that ideal weight? Fast less? Fast more?
If we’re going to suffer, if we’re going to put effort into making a change in our lives, let’s make changes that we can maintain. That we can teach our kids. Which would you rather have me do, force your kids into intermittent fasting or learning to eat a well balanced meal of real food?
The Final Verdict
Changing our behavior and habits is never easy. Starving and stuffing ourselves is borderline eating disorder. You really don’t want to live your life like this.
There is no “easy way” and all the people that are swearing by this are the same people that were screaming “Keto” last year, and “gluten free” the year before, and “organic” the year before that. They’ll drop 10-20lbs, put it back on, change it up, scream from the top of their lungs they “found an easy way” and then cycle through again and again.
Like I always say, keep it simple, eat real food, eat a lot of it, if the box has to tell you how healthy it is, it’s probably not healthy.