I’m a proponent of intermittent fasting because I believe in its health benefits, but I’ve not always been that way.
When I first started out as a fitness professional, I used to believe that breakfast is the most important meal of the day. Like many other well-meaning fitness pros, I preached the message of “eat breakfast like a king, lunch like a prince and dinner like a pauper”. It was the dietary philosophy I believed and lived.
Just like our brain needs, 7-8 hours of sleep, almost every organ in our body needs 12-14 hours of downtown, to repair, reset and rejuvenate.
Dr Satchin Panda.
Is Breakfast The Most Important Meal of The Day?
The answer depends on your definition of the word, breakfast.
Breakfast comes from two words, break and fast, which can be defined as “break your fast” or “stop fasting.”
Every morning you wake up in a fasted state. How many hours you’ve fasted depend on when you had your last meal the previous day, and how many hours of sleep you had. You break your fast with the first meal you have after those long hours of fasting.
Breakfast, therefore, is not the meal you eat in the morning. It’s your first meal of the day, and when you have the first meal or break your fast is a matter of personal preference!
You’re not skipping breakfast if you choose to break your fast at 12:00 pm. You’re just extending your fasting window.
Maybe you’re thinking, “If it’s okay to extend the fasting window, why then do some weight loss experts advise people to eat early breakfast?” Good question!
The primary reason some weight loss experts recommend that those who want to lose weight should eat traditional breakfast is that many people tend to overeat later in the day when they skip breakfast. While breakfast skippers tend to eat more later in the day because of overcompensation, those who follow intermittent fasting (IF) time their nutrient intake and stay within their daily calorie need.
There’s a difference between calorie restriction and time-restricted feeding. One is about eating less, the other is about eating less often. Intermittent Fasting is not about eating less, it is about eating less often.
What Is Intermittent Fasting?
Intermittent fasting is a method of eating that cycles between periods of fasting and feeding known as fasting window and feeding window respectively.
There are different intermittent fasting methods. The most popular ones are:
The 16/8 Method: In this method, you’ll fast for 16 hours and have an 8-hour feeding window. Your fasting window includes your sleeping hours. Example: Eat your first meal at 12 pm and stop eating from 8 pm.
Eat-Stop-Eat: In this method, you fast for 24 hours once or twice a week. During your 24-hour fasting window, you’ll take a complete break from food. The fasting period is then followed by a feeding window where you eat whatever you like.
Be careful not to compensate by overeating during the feeding window. That will undo whatever progress you made during fasting.
Which protocol is the best? Personally, I do and recommend the 16/8 method. I find it easy and doable for most people.
Intermittent Fasting Increases Fat Metabolism
Contrary to what proponents of the 5-6 meals a day would have you believe, intermittent fasting does not slow down your metabolism. This study here and this one here and several other studies have shown that short-term fasting increases fat burning.
Eating 5-6 meals a day will not turn your body into a fat-burning machine, and fasting for a few hours a day will not give you a sluggish metabolism. Your metabolism isn’t going to slow down if you BREAKFAST at 12 pm instead of 8 am! And you’re not going to die if space your meals by 4-5 hours.
Intermittent Fasting Promotes Healthy Ageing
One of the many benefits of intermittent fasting is its anti-aging effect (I don’t like using the word, anti-ageing because there’s nothing wrong with ageing. I use the word here because I want you to fall in love with intermittent fasting).
A recent study from Harvard School of Public Health shows how interventions such as intermittent fasting can promote healthy ageing.
“Mitochondria — the energy-producing structures in cells — exist in networks that dynamically change shape according to energy demand. Their capacity to do so declines with age, but the impact this has on metabolism, and cellular function was previously unclear. In this study, the researchers showed a causal link between dynamic changes in the shapes of mitochondrial networks and longevity.
Mitochondrial networks inside cells typically toggle between fused and fragmented states. The researchers found that…mimicking dietary restriction through genetic manipulation of an energy-sensing protein called AMP-activated protein kinase (AMPK), maintained the mitochondrial networks in a fused or “youthful” state. In addition, they found that these youthful networks increased lifespan by communicating with organelles called peroxisomes to modulate fat metabolism” (Havard.edu)
Intermittent Fasting or Traditional Feeding
As I mentioned earlier, I’m a proponent of intermittent fasting. I do it more than three days a week and recommend it to my clients. But, I also understand that everybody’s body is different and different people respond to the same program different ways. What works for one person may not work for another. Therefore, you must find what works for you and be consistent with it.
Some people do well eating three meals a day, and some do well on intermittent fasting. Both methods of eating have been researched and found to be effective for weight loss.
When To Try Something New
If the way you’re eating right now is not giving you the results you want, maybe it’s time to make a few changes and try a new thing. Give intermittent fasting if eating breakfast isn’t working for you.
And if you are a breakfast skipper, try eating regular breakfast or switch to the proper intermittent fasting protocol.
You’ll see the most result where you make the most change.
Your Simple Guide To Intermittent Fasting
- Decide which IF protocol you want to follow and what your fasting/feeding window will be.
For example, if you are following the 16/8 protocol, you’ll eat your first meal at 12 pm and stop eating from 8 pm.
- Strive to stick to 2 meals a day and avoid snacking if possible.
The goal is to leave at least 4 hours in between meals. Each meal should be designed to hold you over until the next, taking away your desire to snack.
- Experiment with 12/12, 14/10, 16/8, 18/6 or 20/4 fasting/feeding windows.
How long you fast for should depend on your level of experience with fasting, and what you feel comfortable doing. If you’re just starting out, I recommend you start with 14/10.
YOUR TURN: Have you tried intermittent fasting before? How did you like it? Share your experience in the comments below.