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Expect funny looks if you spend a lot of mornings with breakfast eaters. A few weeks back I had a number of friends staying with me, and they were all completely dumbfounded when I told them I didn’t eat breakfast anymore. I tried to explain it to them but received a bunch of blank stares. Breakfast has become so enGRAINed (zing!) in our culture that NOT eating it sounds crazy. You will get weird looks from those around you…embrace it. I still go to brunch or sit with friends, I just drink black coffee and enjoy conversation.
Those studies above, in working with small sample sizes, and different types of fasting than recommended here, would lead me to believe that fasting affects men and women differently, and that many of the weight loss benefits associated with intermittent fasting (that affect insulin and glucose responses) work positively for men and negatively for women.
Perhaps most importantly, intermittent fasting is one of the simplest strategies we have for taking bad weight off while keeping good weight on because it requires very little behavior change. This is a very good thing because it means intermittent fasting falls into the category of “simple enough that you'll actually do it, but meaningful enough that it will actually make a difference.”
Zero-calorie beverages are okay. I drink green tea in the morning for my caffeine kick while writing. If you want to drink water, black coffee, or tea during your fasted period, that’s okay. Remember, don’t overthink it – keep things simple! Dr. Rhonda Patrick over at FoundMyFitness believes that a fast should stop at the first consumption of anything other than water, so experiment yourself and see how your body responds.
While the idea of fasting can be overwhelming, especially if you haven’t done it before, intermittent fasting can actually be a lot easier than many other types of eating plans. Since you are fasting for time restricted chunks of the day, you’ll be eating less food, which eliminates a lot of the stress around having to meal prep. During the periods of time in which you're eating, you’ll still want to focus mainly on healthy fats, clean protein, and carbohydrates from whole food sources—but this isn’t an excuse to hit the drive-thru and load up on sugar the rest of the time! Here are some of the effects of intermittent fasting:
You’ll spike your blood sugar when you eat. If you’re fasting on a high-carb diet and you’ve powered through the cravings and lack of energy from low blood sugar, there’s a good chance you’ll eat a ton of carbs when you feast. You want to eat big meals when you fast to make sure you’re getting enough calories, but all those excess carbs in one go will spike your blood sugar in the opposite direction, from low to high. High blood sugar causes fatigue and lack of focus. That raging hunger will also cause you to binge unnecessarily, and whatever carbs you don’t use will get stored as fat.
Islam is the only major religion that engages in a fasting practice reflective of intermittent fasting in terms of both food consumption and diet consistency. The duration of the Ramadan fast is between 28 and 30 days, depending on the year, and consists of not eating or drinking from sunrise until sunset. During the holiday, Muslims eat twice per day: once in the morning before dawn and once in the evening after dusk. A meta-analysis on the health of Muslims during Ramadan shows significant weight loss during the fasting period of up to 1.51 kilograms (3.3 lb), but this weight was regained within about two weeks of Ramadan ending. The analysis concluded that "Ramadan provides an opportunity to lose weight, but structured and consistent lifestyle modifications are necessary to achieve lasting weight loss." Negative effects of Ramadan fasting include increased risk of hypoglycemia in diabetics as well as inadequate levels of certain nutrients.
Black coffee won't break your fast or take you out of ketosis. In fact, according to a report published in the Journal of Basic and Clinical Physiology and Pharmacology in 2017, caffeine may even increase your metabolism, which will help promote weight loss. Black coffee also helps curb your appetite, which can make getting through your morning fast much more manageable.
Your body contains proteins and other structures that constantly become dysfunctional or die. This isn't a bad thing; it's a necessary process for optimal health. However, if these dead tissues aren't cleared out from the body, they can cause cell death, contribute to poor cell and organ function and even become cancerous. Enter a process called autophagy.
One potential disadvantage of this schedule is that because you typically cut out a meal or two out of your day, it becomes more difficult to get the same number of calories in during the week. Put simply, it's tough to teach yourself to eat bigger meals on a consistent basis. The result is that many people who try this style of intermittent fasting end up losing weight. That can be a good thing or a bad thing, depending on your goals.
After that timespan, your body goes into what is known as the post–absorptive state, which is just a fancy way of saying that your body isn’t processing a meal. The post–absorptive state lasts until 8 to 12 hours after your last meal, which is when you enter the fasted state. It is much easier for you body to burn fat in the fasted state because your insulin levels are low.
You’ll run out of energy. When you don’t have anything in your system for several hours, your blood sugar will eventually drop below baseline. If you’ve ever had a blood sugar crash, you know how this state feels. Sleepiness, trouble focusing, lightheadedness, intense cravings, and the occasional mood swing typically accompany low blood sugar. Your cells run low on fuel and they start demanding that you give them more carbs.
Hunger suppression. A ketogenic diet suppresses hunger, too. On a keto diet, your liver turns fat into little bundles of energy called ketones, which it then sends through your bloodstream for your cells to use as fuel. Ketones suppress ghrelin, your body’s main hunger hormone. High ghrelin makes you hungry. On keto, your ghrelin stays low, even when you don’t have food in your system. In other words, you can go longer without eating and you won’t get hungry. Fasting becomes significantly easier on keto so you can fast for longer windows to reap all the benefits.
Also, if you eat a big dinner the night before, I think you’ll be surprised by how much energy you have in the morning. Most of the worries or concerns that people have about intermittent fasting are due to the fact that they have had it pounded into them by companies that they need to eat breakfast or they need to eat every three hours and so on. The science doesn’t support it and neither do my personal experiences.
There’s a ton of incredibly promising intermittent fasting (IF) research done on fat rats. They lose weight, their blood pressure, cholesterol, and blood sugars improve… but they’re rats. Studies in humans, almost across the board, have shown that IF is safe and incredibly effective, but really no more effective than any other diet. In addition, many people find it difficult to fast.
That said, I have heard that women may find a wider window of eating to be more favorable when doing daily intermittent fasting. While men will typically fast for 16 hours and then eat for 8 hours, women may find better results by eating for 10 hours and fasting for 14 hours. The best advice I can give anyone, not just women, is to experiment and see what works best for you. Your body will give you signals. Follow what your body responds favorably to.
Autophagy is spring cleaning for your cells. It’s Latin for “self-eating,” which is spot-on: when autophagy turns on, your cells sift through their internal parts, get rid of anything that’s damaged or old, and install shiny new versions. Autophagy is like a tune-up for your car: afterward everything runs more smoothly. It reduces inflammation and even boosts longevity. Intermittent fasting triggers, to quote researchers, “profound” autophagy, especially in your brain.
Listen to your body during workouts. If you get light headed, make sure you are consuming enough water. If you notice a significant drop in performance, make sure you are eating enough calories (especially fats and protein) during your feasting window. And if you feel severely “off,” pause your workout. Give yourself permission to EASE into intermittent fasting and fasted workouts. This is especially true if you are an endurance athlete.