I find our nature as human beings to be very interesting and I say that because we’ll usually look for whatever shortcut we can, only to skip right past doing the thing that actually works but maybe requires more time or effort.
Intermittent fasting strikes me as one of those things. Now, before you think I’m just going to bash on intermittent fasting for this whole post, let me say it can be very beneficial and it has its place. However, it always seems to be one of the first thing people go to because they “don’t have time” to eat breakfast anyway or they feel like it’s going to produce some super lightning fast results. Intermittent fasting, like most things, has its peaks and valleys. I’m going to discuss a few of them in this post. I will say that you can also look up Nicole Carroll’s Instagram account. She has experimented with 24 hours on and 24 hours off fasting and gave very detailed accounts of her findings.
But, before I give you the goods on that I will give these few disclaimers first. Number one, IF you’re doing high intensity workouts, like CrossFit, then intermittent fasting should probably be your last option. The reason being is that food, and most notably carbohydrates, are going to fuel your performance. You simply will not push through workouts or recover the way you need to on an empty stomach. It’s not going to happen. Number two, IF you haven’t already tried eating real foods ONLY for at least 30 days and done some sort of weighing and measuring then you also should do that first before considering fasting. Those things work. We know they work. If you’re going to change the oil of a car, you better make sure you drain the old oil before you add the new one.
Now, that we’ve gotten that out of the way let’s discuss the benefits of intermittent fasting. If you’re trying to lose weight, and I say weight not fat for a very specific reason, you will. You will lose body fat as well as some muscle mass. Results do come on a case by case basis but generally most people will lose a good amount of weight. There are some great health benefits when it comes to losing and obviously more so for someone who has excessive body fat. There are also health benefits that apply to your cells that are a result of fasting. Humans evolved going LONG periods without food. If you think about the first hunter gatherers or even colonists of the 17th century, humans have long had to deal with the possibility that they may have to go a day without eating. The result of this was an increased sensitivity to the hormone insulin. Human beings became masters at utilizing every bit of fuel that would come into the body, i.e cellular respiration. This is also the mechanism by which cells repair themselves or prevent themselves from turning into cancer cells. This is why doctors are beginning to experiment with fasting for cancer patients. But…
The days of starvation, at least in the US for the most part, are over. We no longer worry about our next meal. We know it’s going to come. Our brain knows it’s going to come. It tells you everytime you go longer than 4 hours without eating. So, what happens to a modern day human being that has a raised sensitivity to insulin and starts eating meals at a normal rate again? Yup, they balloon up. We all know that person who tried a “crash” diet of very few calories and then went back to eating normal and gained all the weight back and then some. This is the reason for it. Your brain is very self sufficient and very reliant on glucose. If you start going LONG periods without eating again it’s going to protect itself and the way to do that is to make you really good at storing food. So, the case against intermittent fasting is if you’re going to do it you either need to cycle it, do it for a 1 week period and then go back to regular eating, or be prepared to do it for the rest of your life.
I’m never against self-experimentation, but I am not a fan of skipping steps. Be honest with yourself. Have you done everything you possibly can to see the results you want? Have you exhausted all other options? Then, and only then, should you give fasting a try.
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