As someone who finds it difficult to stick to a strict diet, I’d constantly try out new diets and fall off the bandwagon as quickly as I got on it. No diet is a quick fix, but committing to one for a few months is no easy task. When I was in the process of figuring out what worked best for me, Intermittent Fasting (or IF for short) piqued my interest. While there are several variations of IF, the one I found works best for me is the 16/8 method, where I fast for 16 hours and eat within an 8-hour window. This has proven to be the most straightforward and effective way of incorporating it into my life—I practically didn’t have to change my schedule! Here are a few things I’ve learned on my IF journey.
1. It’s easy to maintain
If you quit a diet because you can’t seem to keep up with it, then IF may be the solution you’re looking for. Not managing to fast one day doesn’t render all your progress obsolete, and your eating window can be manipulated to work around your schedule for the day. If you know you’re heading out for a night of partying, end your fast later. Likewise, if you have an early day, you should plan to start your fast earlier.
For example, most days all I have to do is push my first meal to late morning, and make sure I finish dinner before 6 – it was as simple as that.
Another plus point would be that the hours you choose to fast can also be tweaked. While I choose to keep my eating window to 8 hours, the recommended hours for fasting lie between 12 and 16 hours, which gives you an eating window of between 8 and 12 hours.
2. Fasted cardio is the best thing ever
Waking up for a 7 AM spin class is already a challenge, but I found it an even tougher challenge to drag myself to workout while both sleepy and hungry. However, I’ve found that working out while fasting does have its benefits. While some argue that it actually weakens performance, I find that it gives me more energy, I feel lighter and have a much quicker reflex response. It also helps dull my hunger post-workout, allowing me to hold my fast until lunch. While the claims that fasted cardio is more effective than normal cardio are debatable, countless studies have shown that it’s one of the best ways to target stubborn fat stores.
3. You don’t have to completely change your diet to lose weight
It’s simple—intermittent fasting is designed in a way that helps you naturally consume fewer calories. While I wasn’t consistent during my birthday month and didn’t see any changes, my boyfriend managed to drop almost 2% body fat just by maintaining his IF routine, even with the constant indulgence. This was likely the result of changes in hormones brought about by fasting, increasing his metabolic rate, with studies showing it can increase anywhere by 3.6% to 14%. Thus, while it’s recommended to maintain clean eating alongside IF, it’s not absolutely necessary to in order to lose weight. So rejoice, because you can still enjoy your favourite “dirty” foods—in moderation, of course.
4. It’s great for people who like structure
I work best when I have a fixed routine, and intermittent fasting gives me a great structure to plan my day around. It makes me mindful of when I have to start and finish eating, and forces me to schedule my time around it. Not sticking to that structure means that it would throw my eating times off, resulting in an inefficient fast. It’s also hard to maintain this lifestyle with erratic sleeping patterns, so it inadvertently helps me maintain a healthy, balanced, sleep schedule as well.
5. The brainpower benefits are incredible!
One unexpected bonus of IF was increased focus, which I was putting down to my sudden improved sleep and overall better mood. I found my days to be exponentially more productive, especially the mornings as the idea of planning breakfast didn’t hold a place in my schedule. Turns out there’s some strong scientific reason behind it—intermittent fasting boosts mitochondrial biogenesis, which powers your cells and increases overall brain power. IF also has other benefits, such as reducing inflammation, increasing brain cell growth, boosting human growth hormone (HGH), as well as burning fat for fuel instead of sugar. The last point is really interesting—IF actually puts your body in ketosis without actually having to follow the keto diet. Benefits of being in a ketogenic state include increased fat burn, reduced hunger, and stabilised blood sugar.
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