Fasting Fit! Let’s ditch the stigma of intermittent fasting (IF) and learn the facts.
Basically, our body is always in one of two states:
- Fed (insulin is increased due to consumption of food and our body is in storage mode)
- Fasting (insulin is reduced and our body has an opportunity to burn stored body fat)
We have evolved through feast and famine. Unfortunately, in the modern developed world, there is a lot more feast than famine! Our median eating time in a 24-hour period is close to 15 hours, with almost 40 per cent of our daily food being consumed after 6.00pm. You can’t swing a cat these days without hitting someone who’s trying to lose weight, yet the global obesity epidemic continues to escalate.
So how did we get here?
The low-fat phenomenon of past decades not only increased the ratio of carbohydrates in our diet, it also reduced satiety, causing us to feel hungry more frequently. This increased frequency of meals and snacks has had a significant negative impact on our weight and health.
There is much debate about reduced carb diets and fasting, arguing that the body requires 130-150g of carbohydrates a day to feed your brain and function. While this is true, the source of these carbohydrates does not have to be eaten. Your body stored fat for a reserve source of fuel. When called upon, your body will release stored fat and convert this into glucose and ketones to fuel your body’s (and your brains) requirements as needed. The average ‘healthy weight’ person has over 200,000 calories of stored fat to burn, so you won’t be running out of fuel any time soon!
Debunking some other common IF myths:
1. “I’ll risk losing muscle if I fast”
On the contrary, you have an extra boost of growth hormone during fasting, so your body conserves muscle really efficiently. Your body is not silly enough to burn through valuable lean muscle tissue whilst you still have an excess of stored body fat to burn. Many who have not yet experienced intermittent fasting assume that they’ll curl up on the floor and feel like rubbish. The fact is that you will actually feel metal clarity and a surge of energy. Your body wants to encourage you to ‘hunt & gather’, otherwise humans would no longer be in existence!
2. “It will speed up my metabolism to eat every 2-3 hours”
The only thing that frequent eating will speed up is fat gain. Every time you eat, you elicit an insulin spike. Insulin stores fat. Humans have evolved through times of feast and famine and functions optimally in this pattern. Unfortunately, the ‘famine’ side of things rarely exists in this day and age!
3. “Consuming dietary fat will make me gain weight”
Of the three dietary macronutrients: protein, carbohydrates and fats, the only one that doesn’t elicit an insulin response is dietary fat, so it’s clear to see how the low fat era has only perpetuated our weight gain issues. As long as dietary fat is not processed, its consumption is encouraged.
4. “I can’t afford to feel sluggish or vague when fasting”
You won’t! You’ll gain mental clarity and terrific energy levels… as long as you stay well hydrated.
5. “But I’ll feel so hungry!”
Ahhh, but you won’t! Every kilogram of stored body fat provides 7,700 calories of fuel, so if you weigh 80kgs and are 30% body fat, you have 184,800 calories in storage, ready to burn! If you run for an hour, you’ll burn around 1,000 calories. As soon as your body manages to tap into your ‘reserve fuel tank’ (aka fat stores), you’ll actually struggle to eat the scheduled meals due to lack of hunger.
6. “I’ve heard that women shouldn’t fast”
There are hundreds of studies spanning over 100 years and clinical experience spanning 5,000 years that point to the fact that women and men respond equally to fasting, with the exception of cases where the individual is underweight. Religions have been fasting (men and women) for many thousands of years without ever having reason to exempt women. Intermittent fasting can be particularly beneficial for post-menopausal women to reduce visceral/abdominal fat stores and reduce inflammation and risk of metabolic syndrome. If you have a specific medical issue and you are concerned about fasting (male or female), please consult your medical practitioner.