Three years ago and many broken keyboards later I started my blogging career covering health and fitness.
Since then I have written about bitcoin, elections, Kanye, TikTok, Harvard corruption and the age of consent in Japan. A real eclectic mix.
However, I never stopped caring about good healthy habits. On the contrary, I’ve gone deeper into the subject and will run the New York City Marathon in November — and, it is all because I believe in the power of intermittent fasting.
What you eat and when you eat are the most important decisions you make every day.
Food fuels your mood, your writing, your energy, your conversations, your dreams. Tell me what you eat and I will tell you what you are
More on that later.
So much has changed since I wrote about this topic in 2020 and this is why I wanted to create a comprehensive guide to intermittent fasting for the new year and five costly mistakes to avoid. IMF will not only help you drop a few pounds, but it will also help you become more productive and get better sleep.
Here we go:
1. Don’t be too ambitious when fasting
Let’s get some terms straightened out.
Intermittent fasting is not a fad diet. It is an eating pattern that cycles between periods of fasting and eating. Every day you fast when you sleep and break it in the morning. It’s called “breakfast:”
From a genetic standpoint, our ancestors would go hours, even days without eating. There was no such thing as a 24/7 Taco Bell, or an all-you-can-eat Country Kitchen Buffet.
That said fasting isn’t starving yourself into an eating disorder, but instead limiting your eating window to 1 p.m. and 8 p.m. which leads to less caloric intake and less caloric intake leads to fat loss. This is why intermittent fasting works: it’s an effective weight-loss technique without extreme restriction or hours of cardio.
Other benefits of IMF include the following:
- Reduced Inflammation: Many studies have come out in recent years that link fasting to reduced inflammation. A 2014 study concluded that intermittent fasting reduces inflammation, improves cardiovascular health and decreases risk for type-2 diabetes.
- Insulin Sensitivity Improvements: Insulin Sensitivity regulates your blood sugar levels and fasting makes your body more effective at doing this
- Brain Survival Mode: Your brain conserves neurons, so you become hyper-focused and stress-resistant.
Keep in mind it takes 21 days to form a habit.
Other studies have suggested it takes 18 to 254 days to form a habit depending on the person and their lifestyle. Don’t think you can jump into intermittent fasting without easing into it with meal planning and tempering your expectations.
Once you get the hang of it, however, you will reduce caloric intake, reap the fasting benefits, and turn your body into a fat-burning machine.
2. Choosing the correct type of fasting
When I first started fasting three years ago there were two main methods:
- 16 hours of no eating/8 hours eating
- One meal a day… the warrior diet.
Everything has changed.
There is a third primary method now.
New research published by the National Library of Medicine shows early time-restricted feeding — meaning eating your biggest meal in the morning and nothing in the evening — is just as effective, if not more, than the other two methods. Early morning fasting improves insulin sensitivity, blood pressure, and oxidative stress.
“Eating breakfast like a king, lunch like a prince, and dinner like a pauper,” as the old saying goes.
Conversely, the goal here is to choose a period of the day that works best for you. I’ve experimented with both early-day and later-day fasting and it all depends on your schedule, lifestyle, and preference.
3. Not moving during a fast
Evolutionarily speaking our ancestors hunted and gathered during a fast; they didn’t sit in a desk chair or on a couch bingeing “Wednesday.”
Exercising — something as simple as a walk; though preferably weight training — will put you into a deeper fast. Yes, it’s not easy to work out on an empty stomach but studies show the first thing your body targets for energy is stored fat so you rev up the fat-burning process.
You also trigger something called “autophagy:” a process where your body repairs cells and recycles old damaged proteins. Unfortunately, new studies have proven autophagy mostly happens in longer-term fasts, though exercise does help a bit.
Added tip: if you find exercise and fasting difficult remember you can drink several beverages during a fast.
- Water: Preferably from higher quality sources like Pellegrino, Waiākea and other filtered sources.
- Apple Cider Vinegar: Curbs hunger and puts you into a deeper fast
- Green tea or black tea
- Black coffee (no creamer)
4.’There is No Benefit to Fasting’
The New York Times rocked the fasting world in 2022 when they published “Scientists Find No Benefit to Time-Restricted Eating” and the New York Post followed up with a story: “Does intermittent fasting work? New study says it’s all hype.”
The study referenced found that caloric restriction pretty much gave the same benefits as intermittent fasting.
Fasting was moot. Except, it is not.
Here is what that study missed and why the NYT title is crap.
Everyone agrees that “calories in calories out” is the baseline for weight loss, however, the study didn’t consider the psychological aspects of hunger. Caloric restriction, or dieting, in a three-meals-a-day style takes a lot of willpower and tends to cause hunger, which leads to overeating.
But when you time-restrict your eating window your body finds it easier to manage a hormone called “ghrelin.” Ghrelin is your hunger hormone and time-restricted feeding helps regulate it. Plus, when you eat within a certain window of time you can be more flexible with your diet as you are already eating fewer calories.
The bottom line: Fasting is not a miracle but it certainly helps people restrict calories.
5. Fasting too much
Fasting can be addicting.
A few years back I'd go out to lunch with friends and sit at the table with an empty plate. They would ask why I wasn't eating and I'd respond with: "I'm fasting." It was freaking awkward as hell.
I lost friends.
I was the “fitness dweeb.”
You don't have to let fasting consume your life; it's a tool, not a lifestyle.
Moreover, fasting too much is not beneficial for your health and can lead to injuries at the gym and mental burnout.
When starting out try to keep your fasts between 14-16 hours and do it for a few days a week. This is a sprint, not a marathon.
Strike that. Reverse it.
Methods of Fasting
Fasting is so popular today that all these cool people do it: Chris Pratt, Joe Rogan, Beyoncé, Hugh Jackman, Kourtney Kardashian, Halle Berry, Jack Dorsey, and Jennifer Aniston all fast.
Especially in a day an age
Now that you know the basics of IMF, here are five popular methods of fasting:
- 12-Hour Intermittent Fasting: An excellent option for beginners, and much of the fasting occurs during sleep. By the end of the 12-hour fast, the body will turn from carbs to fat-burning.
- 16-Hour Intermittent Fasting: One step beyond 12 hours, also known as the 16:8 method. Ideal for people who don’t see benefits during the 12-hour fasting period.
- Early Morning Fasting: “Eating breakfast like a king, lunch like a prince, and dinner like a pauper.” Research shows that early morning fasting may have the best health benefits, though this method isn’t easily sustained.
- A Weekly 24-Hour Fast: Long-term fasting (24 hours or more) has more benefits such as increased stem cell production and gut healing.
- Meal Skipping: Another good approach if you’re starting out. Skip a meal of the day, preferably either breakfast or dinner as it’ll extend the period of your fast.
- One Meal A Day (OMAD or Warrior Diet): It is what it sounds like, an intense form of fasting where you eat once a day. This should only be attempted by those who can consume large meals in a short time daily.
That’s all I got.
Go now and become a master of your own body.
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