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I’ve been doing intermittent fasting (without realising it was called that) for the best part of a decade as I’ve never been into eating breakfast first thing. I practice yoga most mornings and you don’t eat before your practice – it’s better to be light inside – I found that when I did eat breakfast first thing I got lethargic, foggy brain, bloated and felt like I was in a food coma. Not a great start to the day. I also found that my food choices for the rest of the day were unhealthier. That’s me – you could be different.
What is Intermittent Fasting?
Let me start by saying ‘Intermittent Fasting is NOT a DIET‘. I don’t believe diets work. They aren’t healthy for you. Are not sustainable and definitely no fun. Being healthy is a lifelong pursuit and should start early. This quote by Patricia Alexander sums it up well: ‘The people who say they don’t have time to take care of themselves will soon discover they’re spending all their time being sick’ True right?
Intermittent fasting is about how and when to eat. You follow a daily protocol that mimics our ancestors’ cycle of feast and famine. You eat within a time window during 24 hours and you fast for the rest. Here are some examples:
- 12:12 – fast for 12 / eat for 12 hours
- 13:11- fast for 13 / eat for 11 hours
- 14:10 – fast for 14 / eat for 10 hours (this is what I do and seems to work best for women)
- 15:9 – fast for 15 / eat for 9 hours
- 16:8 – fast for 16 / eat for 8 hours (Men tend to find this protocol works better and gets them the best results)
It’s easier to fast on a regular basis than do it once a week or ad hoc as your body gets into a routine pretty quickly. This method also means prepping one less meal per day, which I find makes life easier and is especially good for those who are super busy – juggling work, family, play, social and travel. Best bit is you still get to eat your daily calorie allowance and get all the nutrients and enjoyment of food whilst not having to think about it too much.
Why and how do I Intermittent Fast?
Let me start by saying I JUST LOVE FOOD. I love shopping for the right ingredients. I love cooking and experimenting. I love tasting all the different flavours and textures. I’d never want to restrict the foods I can eat. I’d say I eat healthily about 70% of the time and go completely the other way for the other 30%. Life’s meant to be enjoyed don’t ya think?
Food is also about self-love, nourishment, variety and the best bit is cooking amazing delicious meals and eating with others, connecting into each others’ lives. Food is BIG in our family always has been and always will be (my grandfather was a professional chef and my mum makes the world’s best Indian food – yes I am biased). If you are like me and love your food then I believe intermittent fasting is the best and most effective way to supercharge your body’s long-term health and transform its’ ability to burn fat.
I follow the 14:10 protocol – I fast for 14 hours and eat in a 10 hour time window, Monday to Friday. I never fast on holiday and am not doing currently as I’m pregnant. Typically I start fasting around 9pm and eat my first meal of the day the following morning at 11am. I do have one tablespoon of organic virgin coconut oil after I’ve done my morning yoga practice or gym workout, as that doesn’t break your fast due to its medium chain fatty acid structure and provides me with just the right amount of boost. At the weekends I don’t follow intermittent fasting at all. I think it’s good to mix things up a little. But hey! if you fancy doing it everyday then go for it.
If you’re wanting to try it out I advise you start it at 2 days a row per week and build it up from there. Ideally like with anything – going to the gym, meditating, practicing yoga – when you want the best results it’s better to do it regularly – 5 times a week in a row is a good place to get to.
The Science Behind Better Fat Burning
Let’s get down to business. We get our energy from our glycogen stores and blood sugar which comes from the food we eat. It takes anywhere between 8-12 hours for our bodies to use up these fuel stores. After that your body goes to your fat reserves for energy. If you eat small meals regularly – aka the fashion for grazing and snacking in between meals – then you’re always replenishing your glycogen and blood sugar so your body never goes into fat burning mode. You’ve probably heard that your metabolism reduces when you fast. Not true. Especially when you intermittent fast daily. Your body only starts to go into ‘starvation mode‘ where your metabolism plummets after 72-96 hours. Think about it our ancestors bodies would conserve what they could when they didn’t manage to hunt for food after a few days not after 12 hours!!!!
In fact your metabolism increases a little during your intermittent fasting state as does production of HGH (Human Growth Hormone – the anti-ageing hormone) which starts to plateau when you hit your late 30s. Insulin and HGH are indirectly related too – Dr. Mike VanderSchelden states in his research – as insulin is released your body can’t excrete HGH at the same time – so when you have a few hours of being in a true fasted state during your ‘famine’ window‘ – Men’s HGH increases by up to 2000% and women’s by 1300% WOW. That is incredible. No wonder many pro-athletes leverage intermittent fasting to boost their HGH levels naturally.
When you combine a workout like HIIT (high intensity interval training) during your fasted state then you’ll supercharge your bodies’ ability to burn fat. I experimented with an Intermittent Fasting/Weight Training/HIIT/Ketogenic Diet for 8 weeks in spring 2016 and believe me – this combo – torched the fat, built lean muscle and made me feel superhuman fit and healthy. In mind and body. It was incredible. I’ll tell you all about that experiment in a future blog post.
Intermittent Fasting & Better Brain Health
We’re living longer and instances of mind diseases such as Alzheimers and Dementia are growing amongst the general population. In research Intermittent fasting has been shown to increase BDNF Brain-Derived Neurotrophic Factor which has great biochemical benefits, namely improving your body’s ability to rejuvenate brain and body. Basically they are your brain’s stem cells – located in the hippocampus – the area of the brain responsible for memory and concentration. Intermittent fasting has been shown to increase your brain cells’ ability to replicate and make new ones by between 50-400%. I’ll take that!
Where can I Find Out More?
Check out our YouTube episode on Intermittent Fasting here: Voyage & Soap – Intermittent Fasting & Why We Think it works
I believe Dr.Michael VanDershelden @DrMikeVan in his excellent book: The Scientific Approach To Intermittent Fasting sums fasting up the best. ‘The fact of the matter is that our body was built for periodic cycles of feast and famine. This mimics the eating habits of our ancestors. The evolutionary explanation for this is humans and other animals have fasted intermittently for much of their time on Earth.‘ As a recent paper in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences notes, ‘The most common eating pattern in modern societies, three meals plus snacks every day, is abnormal from an evolutionary perspective.’ Research shows that many biological repair and rejuvenation processes take place when there is an absence of food. Eating all day never allows your body the time to clean out all the garbage and regenerate.
Dr. Michael Vanderschelden has done a tonne of research into this space and goes way more into the science and detail of what goes on in your body as you fast. Since I’ve been doing this for so many years it’s been wonderful to see the scientific research behind intermittent fasting and knowing it’s been so good for me for so long definitely makes me happy. So if you’re into the science I suggest you go check out his work.
We’re moving on from our nutrition series and our next series will cover all things mindfulness. Stay tuned.
Dimple Sthankiya (Founder, Voyage & Soap)
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