Intermittent fasting is a home run dieting method for many women trying to achieve a lean physique. Notice that I don't refer to it as a diet, because it isn't. It's a method for how you diet and I'm about to give you all the juicy details.
I sort of fell into intermittent fasting naturally. I'd been eating the fitness industry-backed 6-8 small meals per day and boy was I sick of it. I felt as though my entire waking day was spent looking at the clock and thinking about my next meal. For me, that was not a sustainable lifestyle. Food started feeling more and more like a chore. As I always say, your fit lifestyle must be sustainable in order to be effective. Subconsciously I started to rebel, my 6-8 meals turned into the customary 3 and eating breakfast went right out of the window. I know, I know...but breakfast is the most important meal of the day! Not for me, it wasn't.
What is Intermittent Fasting?
Intermittent fasting is a manner of managing your regular diet so that you're only eating during a period of time. For me personally, I only eat between 12p-8p. However, some people choose 6-hour windows or even 4. Another method of intermittent fasting is taking a full 24 hrs off from eating. This is typically accomplished by eating on your regular schedule until 7pm or 8pm, and then not eating again until 7pm or 8pm the next day.
Is Intermittent Fasting Starvation?
Well, no, starvation is eating too few calories. You're still eating your normal amount of calories per your fitness plan, just with a longer duration in between. In fact, for me, I finally felt like I wasn't starving through fasting. When I was eating 6-8 meals per day, they were teeny little teasers and I always felt hungry. When I migrated to intermittent fasting, I returned to 3 hearty meals that allowed me to hit my macro goals and were satiating. No more feeling like a starving Tasmanian devil for this girl!
How Does Intermittent Fasting Work?
Intermittent fasting works in two ways. The first way being optimal fat burning and the second being an increase in insulin sensitivity. The fat burning aspect is the simpler of the two to explain.
Your body operates on a simple system of energy in, energy used, and energy stored. You eat food to bring energy into your body. Your body uses that energy to function, ya know the important stuff like to think, breathe and even sleep. Also, don't forget about the energy it uses during your workouts. Then, after all that, any excess energy is stored on the body as fat. Not only does your body operate on this simple system, but it prefers to get through the process as easy as possible. This is why your body converts the food you recently ate into energy first. It's much easier for your body to process than the treasure trove of energy from your body fat. When your body requires more energy than you've given it by eating, it will begrudgingly access your body fat and burn it for energy. This is the beauty of fasted dieting. That lengthy period in between your meal(s) forces your body to burn your body fat for energy because it doesn't have any recently eaten food to get it from.
Insulin is a hormone that your body produces and its role is to tell your body's cells to receive the nutrients from the food you've eaten. Your insulin also tells your body to stop burning its fat stores by causing your fat cells to absorb glycogen and fatty acids. When your fat cells are full of glycogen the energy from foods you eat are more likely to be stored as fat. Fasting causes increased insulin sensitivity, which allows your body to store energy more efficiently, and not just immediately as body fat.
Is Eating 6-8 Meals Per Day Effective?
If it helps you stick to your diet, feel satisfied, and is sustainable, yes. However, it's not actually a technique that helps the body burn more calories like originally touted. Your body uses energy to eat, and the debunked logic that supported eating 6-8 meals to burn calories rested on the fact that if you're eating more you're burning more. When that's not accurate at all. Your body is still burning the same about of energy to eat those 6-8 meals as it would 3. You're just portioning the same calorie burning out, just like your meals.
Intermittent Fasting & Hormonal Imbalance in Women
I believe that women are amazing unicorns who rock in every way. Except that, it feels like our hormones are constantly looking for reasons to get out of wack. That being said, intermittent fasting can temporarily disrupt your hormone balance. This is especially true if you abruptly switch from 6-8 small meals to an intermittent fasting method. Some women can experience excess fatigue, bloating, depressed mood, and temporary irregular periods. Mmm, thanks, hormones. One study even found that intermittent fasting actually worsened insulin sensitivity in non-obese women.
If you want to give intermittent fasting a shot, I recommend graduating yourself from your multiple small meals to a few larger. Do this while slowly increasing your fasting period. There are so many benefits to intermittent fasting, even beyond its fat burning effects. Less time spent meal prepping, a lower grocery bill, and feeling fuller after eating are a few.
So what are your thoughts on this topic? Do you currently practice intermittent fasting? Are you just considering it? Leave your comment below and talk to me.