What the eff is IF?
So what the efff is IF? IF stands for Intermittent Fasting, which has been a big trend in the fitness industry recently. Basically, it involves not eating any food or consuming calories of any kind for a minimum period of time (at least 12-16 hrs) and instead consuming all of your daily calories within a specific window of time, usually eight hours. There are different IF methods – some do 5 days of normal eating habits without fasting, and then two days of extremely low caloric intake (i.e. 500 calories for two days). For me, I skip breakfast and eat all of my meals between 12 and 8 pm (8 hour window)… so I essentially fast for 16 hours per day.
Until I started IF, I’d always been a firm believer in the supposed importance of eating breakfast. I believed that breakfast starts your day off right. I was always hungry, so I thought I needed food to give me energy for the day. This was how I approached the concept of IF, so I was as skeptical. All of these questions came to mind: Isn’t it bad to skip breakfast? Aren’t you going to have cravings later in the day if you skip breakfast? Isn’t it bad for your body and metabolism to starve for so long? Hopefully by the end of this, I’ll be able to answer some of questions for you.
I started IF a little less than a year ago in June 2016 as part of a 6-week fitness and diet challenge that I was involved with at my former gym. This challenge involved both IF as well as drastically lowering carb intake and an extreme daily calorie deficit. At the end of the challenge, I lost 7.5 inches all around (4 around my waist and 3.5 around my hips and lost 13lbs). See pic below. It was an extreme and short-term challenge, but I quickly learned the value of IF and have since kept this diet approach as part of my daily routine (mostly) and it has completely changed the way I eat and look at food. Without a doubt, for me, IF is an effective and sustainable method for fat loss and increasing muscle mass, among other benefits.
But wait, I just want to be clear here. Intermittent fasting is not a DIET but instead a different pattern of eating. You still eat the same amount of calories a day, but with a different timing of when those calories are consumed that makes this different. Why? When your body has nothing to eat (after that 12-16hr fasting period), it starts looking elsewhere to places like your fat storage. How? When we eat, our body takes what it needs but then stores what it doesn’t need as fat (simplified description but you know what I mean). So if you keep feeding yourself, your body will never enter the self-cleaning process of burning stored fat when in the fasted state. This is why fat loss can be achieved without changing what you eat or how often you may exercise. But remember that IF is not a substitute for poor dietary habits or a lack of exercise, but instead should be used to complement a good diet and regular exercise.
Personal benefits I’ve seen over the past year…
- My immune system is much stronger. I normally get sick a few times a year. For the past year, I’ve been sick once and it didn’t last very long (my boyfriend has been sick probably 2-3 times in the past 6 months and I have not been affected by it)
- Increased alertness. I am not a morning person, period. But since IF, my mornings have been more alert. I can focus and get so much done without feeling tired or sleepy. I still drink black coffee or tea in my morning (with no added milk, cream or sugar!)
- Fat loss. Although I’m eating differently (i.e. more calories, carbs, protein and fat) I’ve been able to continue build a leaner physique and keep the fat off. My strength and endurance have also improved and I’ve also been able to lift a lot heavier. Training consistently I am sure was a big factor as well. But IF has not weakened me at all.
Now, I’ll still have the odd weekends where I’ll be loose on IF and eat brunch earlier, or eat a later meal. But for the most part, I stick to this really well. I found it to be fairly easy to skip breakfast. The first two weeks were hell because for over 30 years, I’ve eaten a breakfast every single day! Once you start, you’ll be amazed how quickly your body actually adapts to new routines. Two weeks in and I was fine without breakfast. Now, not eating for 12-16 hours rarely bothers me.
Whatever it is you decide to do, listen to your body and do what makes you feel great. I’ve kept this because it’s improved the way I feel. This may not be for you, especially if you have health issues that require frequent feeding.
Remember, our ancestors did not always have food easily accessible. They needed to hunt for their next meal, which could sometimes take days. Intermittent fasting was the norm and apparently they hunted better in the fasted state because their senses were heightened. So our bodies have evolved to work without food for a few hours.
I’m happy to answer any questions you have relating to this based on my experience, so feel free to comment below!