What is intermittent fasting?
Intermittent fasting is an eating style where you eat within a specific eating window of time then practice fasting for the remainder of the time in which no food is consumed. There are many ways to implement intermittent fasting into your lifestyle such as practicing a 6 hour eating window and fasting for 18 hours or practicing an 8 hour eating window and fasting for 16 hours or a 10 hour eating window and fasting for 14 hours. Depending on your weight loss goals and how well your blood sugar is balanced someone may wish to only eat 1 meal per day and fast the remainder of the time.
How to start intermittent fasting for weight loss
If you’re new to intermittent fasting it is a good idea to ease into fasting to allow your body to adjust slowly by starting with a 12 hour eating window and a 12 hour fasting window which most of us naturally do. Then start moving into longer periods of intermittent fasting such as practicing a 10 hour eating window and fasting for the remainder 14 hours. Once this feels comfortable you can extend the fasting period to 16 hours. One of the easiest ways to ease into intermittent fasting is by eating your breakfast a bit later or eating an earlier dinner.
Benefits of intermittent fasting for weight loss and how intermittent fasting is effective for weight loss
When we understand the hormones that regulate our blood sugar balance and how that relates to whether the body is getting messages to burn fat for fuel or make fat for storage it is much easier to lose weight without any calorie restriction or crazy diets. Instead you can learn how to tap into the body’s own ability to burn excess body fat for energy by allowing the body to do so through implementing a shorter eating window with longer periods of fasting so that weight loss goals can easily be achieved.
On a basic level, two primary hormones regulate blood sugar balance and essentially either tell the body to store fat or burn fat. These two hormones are insulin and glucagon, both of which are produced by the pancreas.
Insulin is the hormone that transports glucose (sugar) into the cells of the body so that is can be used for energy and its levels rise every time we eat food and is specifically responsive to sugar and refined carbohydrates. Insulin is the hormone that tells the body to not burn fat but to store it instead because there is plenty of glucose available in the bloodstream…..therefore insulin is the fat storage hormone.
When insulin is present and especially when levels rise in response to sugar, refined carbohydrates and eating the body is not tapping into body fat and glycogen stores for energy. The body is getting the message to turn excess sugar from the bloodstream into fat and glycogen (the storage form of sugar) to bring our blood sugar levels to balance again.
Glucagon is the hormone that is released during periods of fasting and in between meals to maintain and raise blood sugar balance when glucose is not available from the diet. Glucagon tells the body to burn stored glycogen and fat for fuel in periods of fasting. You can think of glucagon as our fat burning hormone that the body utilizes in periods of fasting to maintain blood sugar balance. The body is always looking to maintain balance and both hormones are critically important.
The body will also use stored forms of glucose (glycogen) for energy before tapping into stored forms of fat as it is more easily accessible, so to tap into stored body fat for fuel you can shorten the eating window. We all practice fasting naturally every single day as most of us eat in the day time and then have 12 hours during the night in which we do not eat but to lose weight you need a longer period of fasting combined with a shorter eating window.
As everybody is unique and depending on how well your blood sugar is regulated (which is directly impacted by the foods you eat) fasting is not always my first step. I like to start slow by balancing blood sugar levels through dietary changes then slowly start implementing longer periods of fasting by delaying breakfast by an hour every 3 days or eating an earlier dinner. Listen to your body and find a time frame that works for you. An example would be working your way up to only eating within an 8-10 hour eating window and fasting for the other 14-16 hours.
If you are wondering what to eat when intermittent fasting here are some tips to help balance blood sugar to make intermittent fasting an easier transition and practice.
#1 – Ditch the refined carbohydrates and sugar. These foods have the greatest impact on stimulating higher levels of insulin (the fat storage hormone) and throwing our blood sugar levels out of balance
#2 –Add sufficient amounts of healthy fats to every meal. Dietary fats have the least effect on insulin levels and slow down the absorption of sugar into the bloodstream, therefore, insulin levels will not rise too high. Fats also help to maintain steady energy levels and blood sugar balance
#3 – Slowly and only when blood sugar levels are balanced start to implement longer periods of fasting with a shortened eating window to help you achieve your weight loss goals.
#4 – If you love your morning coffee you can still have black coffee with some MCT oil added to help make intermittent fasting an easy and enjoyable practice.
To help the body utilize fat for fuel when fasting acetyl l-carnitine can be very helpful as it is needed to transport fatty acids across the cell membrane so that fatty acids can be utilized to make energy. Supplementing with both a multivitamin and L-carnitine will provide the body with the necessary nutrients to tap into stored glucose and fat for energy production. Magnesium and B vitamins are needed to utilize glucose and L-carnitine to transport fatty acids.
If your looking for intermittent fasting for weight loss books I highly recommend reading the complete guide to fasting by Dr Jason Fung and Jimmy Moore