Those of you familiar with the Paleo diet may recall it being billed as eating like a caveman. The theory behind it is that our physiology has evolved based on a certain diet – meat, fish, animal fat, root vegetables, berries, etc.
But what about our eating patterns? Do you think our ancient ancestors were sitting down to a small meal every 2-3 hours? Not likely. And more like the exact opposite – as in feast or famine.
What is Intermittent Fasting
Fasting, in general, is defined as a prolonged abstinence from food, whether you’re talking about skipping one meal, or 30 days of meals. It should be noted that all of us currently fast every night while we sleep. Then we Break our Fast at breakfast each morning. Or at least we used to.
Intermittent fasting is about reducing your eating window each day from the normal 12 – 14 hours, to something in the 4 – 8-hour range. And unfortunately, the easiest way to do this is by skipping breakfast. (Don’t worry, you can still have bacon and eggs for dinner!)
For most intermittent fasters, this means eating lunch and dinner only. If you want to reduce your eating window to eight hours, eat your lunch at noon, followed by dinner at 8pm or earlier. If you’re shooting for a six-hour window, perhaps eat dinner a couple hours earlier, or lunch a couple hours later.
The smaller your window, the greater the benefits. Though it may take some time to get there. One thing you’ll want to be careful of regardless is not eating too close to bedtime. As a rule of thumb, don’t consume any calories at least three hours prior.
How Does Intermittent Fasting Work?
Numerous studies have been done on calorie restriction in animals that show significant life-extension benefits. Without getting too science-y on you, our body’s preferred fuel is fat. That’s what our bodies were made to burn, and the reason the keto diet is so beneficial to your health. In fact, ketogenesis and intermittent fasting share many of the same benefits.
When you eat constantly, as in the outdated six-small-meals model, your body is simply burning whatever your last meal was. Whereas, when your body is in a fasted state, it burns stored fat. Yes, you read that correctly. If you want to burn stored fat, you have to stop eating long enough to do so.
Benefits of Intermittent Fasting
Obviously, burning fat will have cosmetic benefits – fat loss – and also quite obviously, when you cut an entire meal out of your day, you’re likely to eat fewer calories naturally. So, if you’ve struggled with weight management in the past, intermittent fasting may be the perfect solution.
However, it’s your body’s sensitivity to insulin, along with the increase in HGH production, that provide the most beneficial reasons for adopting a new, calorie-restrictive eating pattern.
You want to become more sensitive to insulin, as opposed to becoming more insulin-resistant. Your body is better able to fight disease with improved insulin sensitivity, you’ll experience less cognitive decline, and you’ll look and feel a whole lot better. Check out this resource for an in-depth look at all the benefits of increased insulin sensitivity.
Increased HGH production deserves special mention as well, as it’s the closest thing we humans have found to the fountain of youth. It’s also the reason that one benefit of intermittent fasting is that it promotes muscle growth. If you want to stay feeling and looking as young as you can for as long as you can, you want to stimulate your body’s natural HGH production.
Complications of Intermittent Fasting
We humans are truly habitual creatures, and although your body doesn’t really need to eat breakfast, your mind will feel quite the opposite. You have to get past this. And you may have to deal with some hunger signals and ignore them. At least until you become accustomed to skipping everyone’s favorite meal. (Seriously, having bacon and eggs for dinner feels like Christmas morning!)
For some, skipping breakfast will be a breeze, and the entire intermittent fasting model will feel very natural. For others, there’s going to be a learning curve – the mental aspect of skipping meals. If you’re in the latter category, as are most of us, try EFT (Emotional Freedom Technique). It looks goofy. But you can learn it in minutes, it’s free, and it works.
Who Shouldn’t Intermittently Fast
If you have diabetes, hypoglycemia, or a blood-sugar regulation issue, you may want to check with your physician before giving this a try, or at the very least, extend your eating window to begin with, and reduce it little by little over time.
Also, we are all unique in our own little biological ways. In other words, what works for one may not work for another. Try it and see how you feel. And adapt the principals to fit your needs and lifestyle as best you can. For instance, maybe it’s easier for you to skip dinner. Go right ahead!
The Two Most Common Questions
If I skip a meal, won’t I have less energy? The short answer is, no. The longer answer is, this, too, is mental. Remember, your body wants to burn fat. It’s an efficient energy source. And one most of us have stored in abundance.
Besides, your digestive process requires a significant amount of energy – up to 30% of your body’s total. If you’re not using this energy for digestion, it makes sense that you can use it elsewhere.
Can I still exercise even if I skip breakfast? You bet! In fact, you should exercise in a fasted state, particularly if you’re doing it to lose fat. If you eat before exercise, you’re only burning off those calories. But when you exercise in a fasted state, you really ramp up your body’s stored fat-burning.
If this is new to you, it may be a shock. You’ve been led to believe that you need numerous small meals each day, and that you want to jump-start your metabolism with a morning meal. But it’s simply not true. And pretty far removed from how our cavemen (and women) ancestors ate.
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