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Intermittent Fasting 101: What Is It and Should I Do It?

WHAT IS INTERMITTENT FASTING?
Just as the name implies, it’s a term to imply a period of not eating. However, this can be implemented in many different ways. Some folks will go 16 hours not eating each day while others will do 24 hours a couple of times a week. There are no absolute “rules” – it just means you will go longer without food than a normal 3-6 meals a day. For purposes of this audience and article, we will talk mostly about the 16/8 fast (16 hours fasting, 8 hours eating) instead of the 24.

WHY WOULD I DO IF (Intermittent Fasting)? 
There’s a few reasons one might IF. One is simply to save time. If you have ever skipped breakfast, then you have done IF. You probably had dinner the night before around 7pm, then skipped breakfast and had lunch the next day at noon. That’s 17 hours of not eating and technically considered fasting!

Another big reason is to lean out. Although we don’t believe weight loss is only about calories, intermittent fasting is a way to reduce your overall daily/weekly calorie intake.

Another reason is for overall health. Hormonally, fasting has been shown to help reset blood sugar and insulin levels, plus reduce inflammation. It may also increase human growth hormone (HGH). Blood markers such as blood pressure, HDL, LDL, and triglycerides could potentially improve depending on the individual.

WHO SHOULDN’T IF? 
Overall, this is definitely an n=1 experiment you should tinker with if you’re interested. Not everyone responds well to fasting and not everyone should do it. Those who want to gain mass typically shouldn’t do this as they need to be consuming excess calories (although the LeanGains protocol says otherwise, so you should check that out if you’re interested); those with diabetes should consult with a doctor; and women in particular seem to not do as well with IF as men. It can potentially mess with your cycle and blood sugar levels. (Anecdotally as a coach, I can attest to women not responding as well to IF as men) Lastly, if you tend to workout in the morning, IF is probably not the best for you as it’s generally recommended to eat around your workout.

HOW SHOULD I START?
If you decide for yourself that you want to try IF, start with skipping breakfast one day. Eat a normal or slightly bigger lunch and normal meals after that. If you notice yourself snacking more or making up for those calories in other ways, it might be your body’s way of saying that IF is not for you. If one day goes well, then try two non-consecutive days the next week. People rarely need to do more than three days per week, but again, this is completely individual. It’s usually best to ease into a new routine/habit over the course of a full month instead of diving headfirst and fasting for five days a week right away. As always, consult with a doctor if you’re not sure about something.

LAST BUT MOST IMPORTANT – PRIORITIES
Something to note is that Intermittent Fasting is way down the list of priorities if you’re looking to get healthy and potentially lean out. There are so many things you can do that would impact your health and weight before doing IF. Things like changing your food quality (food that grows and dies), getting enough sleep (7.5-9 hours), exercising, and finding a good community (seriously – there’s research about personal connections and longevity) are ALL way more important to your health than doing intermittent fasting. We consider IF to be a more advanced technique that does not work for everyone. It’s more of a lifestyle than a diet, so get the other priorities in check and then you can play with IF.

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