And while this may sound difficult, it’s really not. After all, the reasons our bodies store fat in the first place is because we, as a species, aren't really designed for constant eating. The three-square-meals (or more) eating plan is a relatively new phenomenon in human history; for much of our past, feast and famine were the order of the day. Our bodies know how to handle long stretches without food, and they know how to make good use of the “feasts” when they come along.
An intermittent fast is a brief fast where, for 12–16 hours or more, you don’t eat anything except water (a few exceptions apply). And while that may sound incredibly difficult to achieve, you might already be fasting without knowing it if you eat dinner at, say, 7 p.m. and break your fast in the morning between 7—10 a.m. — and if you only have water and black coffee or tea between.
I don’t recommend that you go straight for a 1-2 day fast, but begin by restricting yourself to certain eating windows. Typically people restrict themselves to the hours of 5pm – 11pm. People often refer to their fasting windows by numbers: 19/5 or 21/3, for example, means 19 hours of fasting and 5 hours eating or 21 hours fasting and 3 hours eating, respectively.
Fasting helps you build a better brain, too. Intermittent fasting increases a protein in your brain called BDNF that researchers have nicknamed “Miracle-Gro for your brain.” BDNF improves learning and memory and can help you forge stronger neural pathways, making your brain run faster and more efficiently, which is especially important as you age.
Most people make an IF schedule that requires them to fast for 12 to 16 hours a day. During the rest of the time, they eat normal meals and snacks. Sticking to this eating window isn’t as hard at it sounds because most people sleep for about eight of their fasting hours. In addition you’re encouraged to enjoy zero-calorie drinks, like water, tea, and coffee.
Hello Maria, I can honestly say I look forward to my morning black coffee now, just as much as I enjoy a cup with a little cream, once my eating window opens late afternoon. My easiest “go-to” tip is adding just the smallest pinch of pink Himalayan salt to my coffee. It really works to smooth out the black coffee bitterness! Good luck with your IF journey, Maria!
For example, in the graphic below you would eat dinner on Monday night and then not eat again until Tuesday evening. On Wednesday, however, you would eat all day and then start the 24–hour fasting cycle again after dinner on Wednesday evening. This allows you to get long fast periods on a consistent basis while also eating at least one meal every day of the week.
The thing is that if you want to slim down and get rid of excess pounds, then the fasted state is really the best way to do it. If you keep taking food into your body, insulin levels will remain high, and you will keep burning glucose for fuel instead of burning fat. Of course, to remain in the fasted state, you need to not be in the fed state, and that can be a problem. Starving yourself all of the time isn’t enjoyable, and it’s not healthy. To be blunt about it, your body needs nutrients, it just doesn’t need them all day, every day.
The problem is that we tend to spend so much time in the fed state, fueling our bodies exclusively with glucose, that we become addicted. Once the flow of glucose stops and our insulin levels drop, we start getting hunger pains. This is one of the reasons that overweight individuals — people with more than adequate energy stores in their fat cells — often have such a difficult time cutting back on food intake. They’re not starving, but they’re not getting the glucose their bodies are used to.
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.
It requires less time (and potentially less money). Rather than having to prepare or purchase three to six meals a day, you only need to prepare two meals. Instead of stopping what you’re doing six times a day to eat, you simply only have to stop to eat twice. Rather than having to do the dishes six times, you only have to do them twice. Rather than having to purchase six meals a day, you only need to purchase two.