Let me answer this with a question back to you…
Do you want to be intermittent fasting?
What is the purpose of it to you?
IF has gotten a lot of attention recently, not just 'IF' either but fasting in general too.
It seems to be the new 5am club or the new Keto club.
I don’t think it’s a bad thing either but I do feel we need a greater understanding of it before jumping on the bandwagon.
Let’s start by running through what IF actually is...
It’s typically done in a 16:8 fashion, where you’ll have an eating window of 8 hours which you’d consume all of your daily calories and during the other 16 hours of the day you’d fast and simply have water, drink tea etc, but you won’t consume any calories.
Another popular method is the 5:2 method where you do full 24 hours fasts a couple of days per week and eat regularly on the other 5 days.
So there’s quite a few different forms of fasting and there’s also a fair few benefits which include...
Improving blood sugar levels
Increasing growth hormone
Reducing oxidative damage and inflammation.
In my opinion, around 9/10 of us do it to reduce our eating window to help control calorie consumption.
So is IF the right approach for everyone?
Just like any approach, it won’t work for everyone.
For those who are underweight, have or have a history of disordered eating, or even those who are super stressed at the moment, this may not be the right approach for you.
Furthermore, if you have an existing medical condition or you’re breastfeeding, then this may not be the best option for you either.
If none of the above is applicable to you, one of the easiest places to start would be to skip breakfast and fast through the morning.
Disclaimer, breakfast is not the most important meal of the day unless you work in marketing for Kelloggs.
So typically you would fast in the morning and have an eating window between 11am-7pm, 12pm-8pm etc.
This can be super useful if you’re beginning a new diet...
Let’s say that you were previously eating 2500 calories, and you’ve recently begun a diet that has you on 1800 calories, there’s a 700 calorie decrease in calories across your day.
You previously ate between the hours of 7AM-9AM, not too bad when you have 2500 calories to spread across 14 hours.
You may have been having 600 calorie meals 4x per day.
But when you’re on 1800 calories, if you were to eat the same sized meals, you would only be able to have 3 instead of 4.
However, if you now reduce your eating window into just 8 hours, those meals can be back at 600 cals but you’re now able to eat every 3 hours which is going to make a huge difference in how satisfied you’ll feel after your meals.
This is one of the main reasons why we would use this with our clients.
Although this won’t necessarily be the case for everyone.
Some of us, when switching our foods from low volume, nutrient void foods to foods that are rich in protein/fibre will actually find themselves having a hard time finishing all of their food and may have to extend their eating window initially.
Despite the obvious benefits of intermittent fasting that we’ve discussed, you still have to assess whether it’s right for you.
When wouldn’t the traditional form of IF work?
Let’s say you have an extremely stressful morning…
You have two really intense meetings early on in the day.
You have to get the kids ready for school.
You have another 10,000 tasks to do before your morning really begins.
Running on empty when your blood sugar levels are probably low, you may not be sufficiently hydrated and perhaps you’ve had a poor night's sleep too is not going to set you up for the best day of your life.
If that sounds like you, then it might be better to have breakfast, stabilise your blood sugar levels, reduce cortisol and help you take on the day more effectively.
Caveat, this doesn’t mean grabbing a pastry and a latte as this will likely lead you to crash later in the day!
Another good example is someone like myself.
I love breakfast!
I actually prefer to eat earlier in the day and won’t be skipping my sourdough and eggs any time soon.
I opt to start my eating window around 9/9:30ish and prefer to close my eating window earlier around 5/6PM.
If this sounds familiar to you too, you can opt for a similar approach to what I do.
Another super important factor is your goal.
If you’re in a muscle building phase, the traditional format is incredibly challenging - take my word for it.
At one point I was eating 3-4000 calories a day.
Eating all of those calories in 12-14 hours was hard enough, I wouldn’t even be able to consume all of those during an 8 hour window if I tried.
I preferred the occasional 24 hour fast, it gave my digestive system a break, it would help reset my appetite and when you’ve gone through a longer gaining phase, it can be quite refreshing.
All in all, I think most people practice intermittent fasting to win back time.
it’s not really about the food, it’s more about the time it takes to prepare breakfast, sitting down, eating it, having to cleanup after etc.
So a great solution to this could be to just wake up 30-45 mins earlier, I appreciate this a big ask…
But it would allow us to sit down and eat a nutritious breakfast (if we wanted to), eat it mindfully as opposed to throwing it down and you may end up enjoying the first meal of the day.
I’d encourage you to ask yourself the question, is it eating in the morning that’s the problem or is it the lack of time?
Winning back the time is always helpful but assessing whether you’re using all of the time you have effectively is the best place to start.
Ultimately, it comes down to find the approach that works best for you!
Just because it’s getting all the attention, your friends are raving about it and you’re seeing it all over social media doesn’t mean you have to do it too.
There’s definitely potential benefits to take from IF and fasting in general but that’s only if it works for you.
Maybe the 16:8 isn’t ideal but a 10:14 or a 12:12 is.
If you’re curious, give it a go and be open minded, start with a smaller eating window and slowly extend if you’re enjoying it.
If you don’t, at least you tried and can go back to what works for you best for you!