In some ways intermittent fasting is new to me. And in others I’m a veteran. Growing up in a muslim family meant participating in the once a year fast-a-thon during the month of Ramadan. If you are not familiar, we eat a meal before sunrise and don’t eat or drink anything until sunset everyday for a month. Depending on the time of year (Ramadan follows the lunar calendar) in Toronto, Canada, where I am, this means either a short 10 hour fast in the winter, to a looooooong 18 hour fast in the summer(!).
Even though I’ve been doing this for many years, the foods my family and I traditionally ate during Ramadan were very heavy, loaded with sugar, and mostly deep fried. It is definitely delicious, but not necessarily the best thing to eat when fasting regularly. Especially if you want to minimize hunger, keep energy levels up, and get a really good detox in.
Essentially Ramadan is our yearly bout of intermittent fasting, but I never really focused on doing it in a healthy way. I never really understood how to fast to help fuel my body and keep me energized until I started to pay attention to how certain foods make me feel.
Now that I have started to learn about intermittent fasting from a physiological perspective. As well as have a better handle on how certain foods make me feel, I’ve learnt how to properly use intermittent fasting to help my body get stronger, fitter, find more energy, increase mental clarity and, of course, lose weight.
With Ramadan starting this weekend, I thought it would be a good time to share what I have learnt about intermittent fasting so I can help you if you are fasting too.
I’ve also put together a short (and free) guide on intermittent fasting that summarizes all the basics, from the benefits to what foods to focus on and when to workout. Its a quick an dirty primer on intermittent fasting if you are considering giving it a go.
So what is intermittent fasting (IF)?
Intermittent fasting or ‘IF’ is essentially periodically restricting food intake so that your body can essentially detox and become much more efficient at processing food and making energy when it is eating. It also has the benefit of boosting weight loss, when done right, which is one of the primary reasons many people choose to fast regularly.
A 14 to 16-hour fast allows the body to reduce insulin, and promotes the breakdown of stored fats. It helps promote ketogenisis – which is basically when your body uses fat as fuel (instead of glucose). Fasting also encourages the body to start repairing itself – known as autophagy. By not eating, you allow your body to rest from digesting food, and focus on cleaning house. It’s like our bodies turn on ‘self cleaning’ mode when not worried about digestion.
The most popular reason people intermittent fast is probably the weight loss. It makes sense, by just cutting one meal a day you naturally will be cutting your daily intake of calories leading to weight loss. But, it gets better, fasting also pushes the body into fat burning mode. After about 12 hours of fasting, our bodies will have used up the stored food and will start to burn fat for energy. Do this regularly, and eat less of the foods that like to turn into stored fat in your body, and the weight loss can really start to add up.
This is just scratching the surface on intermittent fasting. There is so much to learn about IF. I’ve been doing it for years with my family as part of tradition and religion. But now I am learning how to fast properly so that my body also feels better for it.
There are so many great resources to learn about intermittent fasting. I highly recommend you do your own research, speak to a medical professional, and see if it can work for you too. I loved reading Genius Foods by Max Lugavere, which got me thinking about the health benefits to intermittent fasting. I highly recommend it.
But whether you are new to IF, or you have been fasting for years there are always so many questions about IF…
- How long should you fast to get the most benefits?
- Does it make a difference if you are a male or a female?
- What should you eat during the eating window?
- Is it better to intermittent fast every day, every week, a few times a year or something in between?
- Can you eat or drink anything during an intermittent fast?
- How do you prevent getting hangry during a fast?
- What about working out? Is it better to workout before, during or after a fast?
I created this helpful fit fast free download that answers all those questions. I also share five helpful quick and easy tips that can help you have a fit and healthy fast.
And as a bonus, I’m doing a fun email fit fast challenge! Sign up here and starting May 5 (this Sunday) I will send you a fit fast tip a day for the next 5 days. The tips are simple and should take you less than 5 mins to implement, but they could help you have a much healthier fast.
Have you tried intermittent fasting? Do you pay attention to how certain foods make you feel during a fast?
And, as always, please check with your doctor to make sure IF is right for you before you make any drastic changes. Especially if you have any medical issues or are pregnant.