Fasting: An introduction

Simply put, fasting is not eating, and intermittent fasting is not eating for short periods (typically between 16-24 hours) but regularly (1-3 times per week).

Fasting has been made increasingly popular of late by lots of media coverage and books including: Eat-stop-Eat, 5:2, Lean Gains etc.

Most people are filled with horror at the thought of not eating for any length of time, but are often surprised at how easy it is, and find it much easier than just eating less.

The reason that it is easier, is that unlike when you eat, your blood sugar stays level, and Insulin (one of the hormones that makes you hungry) doesn’t spike then drop, which is why you feel hungry 2 hours after you eat, especially carb and sugar heavy meals such as breakfast cereal.

It is also simple to do and understand, extremely flexible (so you can fit it in around your schedule to suit your lifestyle) and highly effective.

Not only is fasting easy, it has huge health benefits including:

  • Decreased fat and body weight
  • Maintains muscle mass (and hence metabolism – how many calories you burn doing nothing)
  • Lowers blood glucose
  • Releases and burns stored fat (Lipolysis and Fat oxidization)
  • Reduces Cholesterol
  • Reduces system Inflammation (Reducing the risk of certain cancers, diseases, Arthritis, Asthma, Cardiovascular disease, diabetes, effects of aging, and many others )

There are also many hormone benefits including:

  • High levels of growth hormone, (Burns fat, build muscle, lowers belly fat)
  • Lowers insulin levels and increases its sensitivity (Stops you storing fat and reduces the risk of diabetes)
  • Increased Glucagon levels (fat burning, the opposite of Insulin, maintains blood sugar, reduces Cholesterol)
  • Increased norepinephrine and epinephrine levels (happy hormones, that make you feel more alert and awake)

Fasting methods

There are a number of ways to fast,

  • Eat-stop-Eat, works on one or two 24-hour fasts per week.
  • 5:2 suggests reducing your calories to 500 on 2 days a week.
  • Lean gains, has 16-hour fasts every day.
  • Warrior diet, is one main meal per day but with multiple protein shakes or small meals.
  • Velocity diet is 1 solid meal per week!!!! The rest of your food comes from protein shakes and supplements.

My recommended method

Having tried several methods, and spoken to lots of other people about their experiences. My findings are: Velocity is very hard. Warrior can lead to weight gain and isn’t strict enough (though it can work for some). Lean gains is good but hard to stick to long term. 5:2 is good, but isn’t fully fasted. Eat stop eat works well.

For me, the easiest way I have found to fast is to finish your evening meal then not to eat for 24(ish hours). Then eat the next days evening meal. This way you eat every day and can sit down with your family to enjoy a meal together.

The effect of 2 days fasting is to typically reduce your weekly calories by 15% and you should expect to lose 2-3 lbs a week.

Top Tip: Drink lots of water, plus hot black coffee/tea really helps keep any hunger pangs at bay.

I would also recommend you combine fasting with a healthy diet that will also help your weight loss, specifically a Paleo diet (see other posts), and training (exercising with purpose).

If you train on your tasted day (highly advised, many health benefits plus good for distraction and appetite suppression) then I suggest a protein shake an hour after doing so, but nothing else.

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