Critical Stuff: Intermittent Fasting offers health benefits and weight loss.
In This Chapter: Avoid the hucksters. Just do it. No, you won’t starve.
Exercise is easier when you’re hungry.
There is a substantial and growing body of evidence that intermittent fasting provides substantial health benefits as well as helping with weight control. If you’re interested in the science behind it, just google it. There’s lots of advice, most of it from “fitness gurus” and people selling some kind of diet plus supplements. There’s a good reason for the hucksters to grab hold of this method of weight control and fitness–it actually works. The health benefits that studies have revealed are really surprising. It appears that people can substantially lengthen their lives and be healthier throughout their lives by practicing this simple discipline. But you don’t have to read anything or buy anything to make intermittent fasting work for you. It’s just a pattern of eating that lowers the overall amount of calories you consume and causes some positive changes in hormone levels in your body. Here are two approaches that are most popular, though lots of people are grabbing onto this approach and branding it with some twist of their own.
Five-two: Pick two days of the week to fast, and eat normally the rest of the week. I fast Tuesdays and Thursdays and eat normally the rest of the week. In theory “normally” means eat whatever you want, but I modify this to maintain some discipline and focus on healthy food and lots of vegetables. My wife is type I diabetic, so I tend to eat a diabetic diet anyway, simply because it’s easier than preparing individual meals. The fast days don’t have to be rigorous fasts. If I’m feeling really hungry I eat a tiny amount of food–perhaps a spoonful of cottage cheese, or a small bowl of steamed vegetables. But usually, it’s easy to fast for 24 hours as long as I’m busy.
Daily Fast: In this pattern people eat their last meal before 6:00 PM and then skip breakfast the next day, not eating for sixteen hours–meaning they don’t eat until after 10:00 AM. the theory here is that your body takes three to five hours to digest your meal, then it enters a “post-absorptive state” where it uses those nutrients. After about 12 hours it enters a fasting state and starts using stored fat for fuel. The daily fast pushes your body into burning some fat every day, something you otherwise rarely do. Some people feel it’s much easier to follow this regimen than the Five-two, and some people combine the two regimens, which is what I’m doing.
You might think you should take it easy when you’re fasting–that’s wrong. If anything you should step up your activity, and I find it easier to exercise when I’m hungry than when I’m not. In fact, I’ve never had this much energy before. You also need to drink lots of water, which helps curb hunger and makes you feel generally better. The immediate positive reinforcement of this diet is that you feel more vigorous right away. If you’re concerned about muscle recovery then eat some protein right after exercise. Doesn’t have to be some expensive recovery drink–a glass of milk is fine. When I do a really hard paddle I sometimes grab an individual size bottle of cold chocolate milk from a convenience store–a great recovery drink and man, does it taste good when you’re bushed and hot.
I find it also helps to think of what I’m doing as taking a break from eating and helping my body eliminate the results of overeating and poor diet choices. Just a mental game, but it helps me.