Breaking the intermittent fasting rules of skipping breakfast
I’m a very early riser. Some people cringe when they hear how early I get up in the morning. Let’s just say that 5:00 am is normal, and sometimes it’s as early as 4am. Or even 2:30am if I’m not sleeping well.
I know. Ouch.
It’s not like I have to be anywhere, such as heading off to work the extra-early shift, or because I love my morning runs. Or even because I insist on watching the sun rise every morning (although this is an added bonus, I must admit).
My body naturally gets up this early. Even when I was a teenager, I woke up around 6am.
Now I’m a grown adult, and I get up even earlier. Plus…insomnia. It’s a bitch.
Being an early riser and intermittent fasting
There is a buzz about Intermittent Fasting (IF) as a great way to lose weight, and I’m on an intermittent fasting kick, trying to understand the concept and how it relates to weight loss, and if certain rules can be bent or broken.
IF stresses the overall concept of shrinking your window of eating down to 8–10 hours per day, and uses the idea of skipping breakfast or holding off eating as long as possible, to increase your fasting window.
This may be helpful for a person who wakes at 7–10am, or later. Holding off eating for a few hours would throw that person into an early lunchtime (or very late breakfast. Brunch?) It’s not helpful for someone like me, who gets up very early, too early, in the morning. I’d have to wait for at least seven hours before I could eat. My stomach doesn’t have that much discipline. I get hangry if I don’t eat. It even triggers my migraines.
If I can hold off eating for a couple hours, I can eat breakfast around 7–9am. Although that’s early for every one else, it’s like getting up at 8am, and having your first meal around 11am-12pm.
Most of the time, I’m able to wait until 8am to eat. This is close to the time the normal population wakes up. By the time they are ready to eat their first meal, I am craving my second one.
I’m usually ready for bed at 8–9pm. I’ve been up for 15–17 hours, and I’m exhausted. It would be more appropriate for me to have my last meal at least three hours earlier. Five hours earlier would be ideal. That puts my last meal between 3–5pm.
The science behind intermittent fasting
The concept of IF for weight loss, when broken down, is simple; when we consume food, the gut breaks the food down into enzymes, which eventually end up in the blood stream as energy. Refined carbs break down quickly into sugar. Our body uses insulin to help regulate sugar into the blood stream. If we don’t use all of that energy, it gets stored as fat.
Fasting, either with long fasting stretches or intermittently fasting, even refraining from snacking between meals, lowers insulin. The body starts relying on fat stores for energy. In essence, this also puts the body’s organs into a resting state, which is beneficial.
The goal of IF is to allow the body to burn fat rather than sugar.
An article through NCBI comparing studies of different forms of fasting and their results can be read here.
(Although this is all good information, anyone who has a medical condition or eating disorder and wants to lose weight, should do this under the advice of a physician trained in weight loss, and a knowledgeable registered dietician.)
The true concept of intermittent fasting
Ideally, IF should have a 16–8 ratio; an eight-hour eating window and sixteen-hour fasting window. For an early riser like me, I have to cut my food off at sometime during the day, and both first thing in the morning and late in the day is difficult, depending on the day.
Reading through a lot of medical articles on IF, there are different concepts. Some research shows people who eat late in the evening and/or eat nighttime meals are at increased risk for obesity, diabetes, and weight gain.
An earlier time window of eating is more beneficial and more effective at losing weight. This means reframing the window from 12pm–8pm, to 7am-3pm. The earlier you can stop eating in the day, the more successful you can be with weight loss.
There’s also the idea of using the person’s own circadian rhythm as a barometer for IF. An early riser, like me, will have a different circadian rhythm than a night owl who awakens at 11am and goes to bed at 3am.
So, although many articles idealize IF as fasting as long as possible in the morning, if you’re an early riser, or enjoy breakfast more than dinner, IF can be tailored to start your fast earlier in the day.
What I’ve found is that IF can be individualized based on your own sleep-wake cycle. Trying to wait to eat for seven hours will only create more problems such as overeating during the feed phase. As I go through the adoption of intermittent fasting into my lifestyle, I plan to use this idea of eating earlier-fasting earlier in the day.
Anyone who likes this concept of IF and weight loss, there are multiple articles, research, and books on IF. For a society that has 24/7 access to food, IF can help, if used correctly, towards having a healthier body.