Intermittent Fasting: Is it effective or are you just hangry?
It's 7am on Monday morning and you are making your usual 300 calorie breakfast. You've packed your mid morning 200 calorie snack, 400 calorie lunch and another 200 calorie afternoon snack. For dinner, you know that you'll be eating a 500 calorie dinner at 7pm. You've carefully timestamped each meal so that no meal or snack is separated by more than three hours.
This is the diet that doesn't want to create a spike in blood sugar and insulin. The principle on this eating style is to consume frequent, small meals over a 12 hour period. Eating in this manner has been shown to be effective because you keep your metabolism at a stable level and you never undergo a period of starvation.
However, Intermittent Fasting (IF) changes the script on this diet. Instead of constantly eating or snacking, you create severe drops in insulin by not consuming any calories for 16 hours. You pick an 8 hour window to eat and stick to it. The most effective times are closer to the morning or right when you wake up (i.e. 7am-3pm). Although, you can do whatever time period works best for you so long as you last meal doesn't fall right before bedtime.
(The type of IF that I will be discussing is the style of eating all your daily calories in an 8 hour period. There are a few different kinds but the principle of temporary calorie deprivation are the same.)
What makes Intermittent Fasting effective?
Drop in Insulin
We lose fat when our insulin levels decrease. Insulin is a hormone released by the pancreas to help digest sugar in the bloodstream. During the 16 hour fast period, our insulin levels will go down and our fat cells can then release their stored sugar, to be used as energy. Intermittent fasting allows the insulin levels to go down far enough and for long enough that we burn off our fat.
Simply consuming less calories
Often, our snacks and our meals are more calorie dense than we calculate. Or the opportunities to eat during the day are so high and frequent. If we restrict the time that you are allowed to eat, you could consume less calories over the course of the day.
You already exercise in this manner
Beyond athletes, no one is exercising for 12 hours per day. You give your body a rest in between bouts of activity. The same practice could be effective on your diet. Your cells undergo a mild stress during the fasting period. This stress is similar to the stress they experience during exercise. Your cells become stronger and more resilient during these stressful times. Much like exercise, if you give your body time to recover, it will grow stronger.
Am I starving all the time?
I'm not going to lie to you. The times of calorie deprivation can result in hunger pains. However, as your body adjusts to this eating style, you become satisfied more easily with smaller portions and eating during the designated period.
Researchers at the University of Alabama compared a form of intermittent fasting where all meals were fit into an early eight-hour period of the day, or spread out over 12 hours. After five weeks, the group eating in the IF style had significantly decreased appetite. They weren't starving. So if you stay consistent with it, the hunger pains could diminish.
Is Intermittent Fasting right for me?
Have you been eating the small meal strategy without any results?
Do you have a career that naturally keeps you from eating at certain times?
Can you handle being hungry for an extended period of time?
If you said yes to all three of the above questions, IF could be a good fit for you. In my line of work, I can't eat for several hours anyways. Extending the fast a little longer isn't difficult for me. However, if you need an energy boost throughout the day and can't stand that hunger feeling, IF may not be a good strategy for you.
Want to try it?
DO IT! Create a food diary so that you can log how you are feeling during this eating program. Maybe over the course of 30 days, you notice that you have difficult staying on the schedule in the beginning. But by the end, you have more energy and are getting better results.
Maybe it's a good fit for you. Maybe it's a not. Only way to know for sure:
TRIAL AND ERROR.
Thanks for reading!