Over the years, I tried various diets and restricting calorie intake in conjunction with regular exercise to release body fat. I found that they worked short-term, and I would reach a plateau after a few months. I was always determined, but I could not get to that next level of shredding the mid-section. Of course, I had habits that would undermine my efforts, particularly on weekends when we are known to put our feet up and wind down after a long work week. Studies have shown that most people who diet achieve progress but only to gain it back over time. It’s like lather, rinse, repeat, and the yo-yo effect becomes truly frustrating. I seemed to have settled for the idea that it was too difficult to lean out my core, especially in my 40’s. I was content with simply maintaining my physical condition until a friend of mine introduced me to the idea of fasting a couple of years ago. I initially thought that the fasting periods were far too long for my liking, so I dismissed the idea. As I observed my friend’s results after a couple of months, I took some time to research the benefits of intermittent fasting and tested the process. I started with 15 hour periods and worked up my tolerance from there. It certainly wasn’t easy during the adjustment period, but I managed to press on. Watching my friend’s progress had built up my conviction that this was going to work for me. Within the first several weeks, I began to see some results in my mid-section, and it fueled my determination to remain disciplined to this day. It is now a three times-per-week habit for me.
How does intermittent fasting work?
Fasting is an ancient practice in various cultures globally. In a nutshell, intermittent fasting is a regimen of abstaining from food or drink for a set number of hours on alternate days of the week. The food we consume breaks down into enzymes in our gut and enters the bloodstream, where carbohydrates breakdown into sugars, which our cells use for energy. If we do not burn our fuel throughout the day, we store it in our fat cells. Sugar enters the cells with insulin, and intermittent fasting periods allow enough time for insulin levels to drop far enough so that we burn off fat. I found great results when combining this regimen with regular exercise, proper nutrition, supplements, and limiting sugar intake.
Some will find it too challenging to allow the adaptation period to take effect, which is entirely understandable. Taking small steps towards getting to an ideal fasting period is a good start. Like anything, fasting becomes more comfortable once your body adapts to the process.
How long do I need to fast to see results?
An optimal fasting period lasts between 16-20 hours for men. For women, the suggested fasting period should be between 12-15 hours. The longer the fasting window, the more fat loss you will experience, so you determine your results based on your desire level.
The easiest way to achieve a 20 hour fast is to stop food and drink intake at 8 pm until 4 pm the following afternoon. You can drink water, coffee (no milk, cream or sugar) or green tea during this time, which will not break your fast. It is okay to add a tablespoon of apple cider vinegar or lemon to the glass of water at times. You can try this out once per week and eventually work up to three times per week on alternate days. Fasting at these lengths is said to trigger autophagy, which helps with disease protection. In the absence of food consumption, the body begins to destroy and recycle its damaged cell bits and proteins to create new and healthy cells. Autophagy is believed to protect against diseases like cancer and dementia.
The early stages’ adverse side effects that you may experience include feeling cold, irritable, and lower energy towards the end of a cycle. Evidence suggests that intermittent fasting is not harmful physically or mentally in healthy adults. It improves metabolic health for those who can safely tolerate intervals of fasting for the periods mentioned above. People with diabetes should consult with their medical doctor before testing intermittent fasting.
Here are a few benefits in addition to the chief aim of achieving healthy weight loss and fat release.
1. Eliminates the boredom of following the typical low-calorie diet and provides a mental boost because of the flexibility you have from alternating days of reduced and increased food consumption.
2. Enhances brain function, focus and concentration as you increase into longer fasting windows. Fasting can eliminate cravings for trans-fatty and processed sugar food, caffeine and nicotine.
3. Lowers blood pressure.
4. Improves insulin sensitivity and reduces blood sugar.
5. Lessens inflammation and clears out toxins and damaged cells.
6. Improves mood levels through increased release of dopamine.
7. Increased longevity and resistance to stress.
8. Decreased incidences of disease, including cancer.
Everyone has different dietary needs based on factors such as physical activity level and body composition. As I mentioned earlier, intermittent fasting may not be for everyone, but it is one method that I find works to release fat, manage hunger and improve focus and concentration. It is important to note that you should not solely rely on this information as an alternative to medical advice, so I recommend speaking to your medical doctor if you decide to test this process.
What matters most is that you are doing what helps you feel your best. Without good health, nothing else matters, so take the time to invest in your health and vitality. I invite you to leave comments and share your experiences below.