Intermittent Fasting is the latest trend in the fitness & diet world. Naturally, I have my opinions but before I spout of and tell you why you shouldn’t waste your time….let’s really dive into what IF is first.
With IF you dramatically shorten your daily “eating window” to 8 hours (this is the most common eating window) while you fast the other 16 hours. The idea behind IF really boils down to simple math. By reducing your “eating window” you substantially reduce your caloric intake which puts you into a caloric deficit and allows your body to burn fat. During the 16 hours of fasting, your body doesn’t have food to use for energy, so it turns to its fat stores for its energy…..which of means, fat loss.
This of course only works if you don’t gorge yourself during your 8 hour window.
Let’s look at a typical IF day for someone who’s eating window is 12pm-8pm.
They wake up at 5:30 but they can only drink water or black coffee for breakfast. And then for the rest of the morning.
At 12pm they have entered their allowable eating window and can have lunch. They can continue to eat the rest of the day but must be finished by 8pm. The idea for most Intermittent Fasters is that they have a big lunch and a big dinner which helps to sustain them through the 16 hour fast. The fine line would be not overeating because you’re so hungry or fear the pending hunger and completely ruining the entire point.
Does IF work? Well, if we are looking at it from only a fat loss point of view, then the answer is probably. Again, it’s simple math.
But let’s look at it from a few other angles, shall we?
Intermittent Fasting has a lot of rules. In my opinion, this makes it completely unsustainable. It makes it no better or different than any other fad diet on the market. I don’t want to be dictated by a bunch of rules. What if my kids want to go for ice cream after the baseball game on Friday? I guess i won’t be partaking, because I’m outside of my permitted “eating window.” No thanks.
Intermittent Fasting has a lot of room for error. Sounds a little contradictory from my last point, doesn’t it? Hear me out. If you aren’t eating the right kinds of foods and fueling your body with the foods it needs…..then this will not work. Not all calories are created equal. You can’t fill your eating window with junk and expect this to work. I suppose this can be said for any weight loss program…..I just don’t like the way it’s sold. Much like Keto - you can’t have carbs but you can have all the cheese. You can’t eat 16 hours a day, but you can eat what you want for 8! It just seems misleading to me. Perhaps there are some IF coaches who teach proper nutrition for the “eating window” but the internet machine doesn’t sell it this way.
Intermittent Fasting doesn’t solve the root problem. I like to begin all of my programs with an educational lesson on label reading and understanding what the ingredients are in our foods! You have to understand how to fuel your body, but most importantly why. Without knowing the how and the why, you aren’t actually changing your lifelong habits. You’re just dieting for 8 hours a day. And what happens when you don’t want to fast anymore? Have you really learned how to fuel your body with good solid nutrition? I feel like the answer is no. You’ve mostly just trained your body to function while being really hungry.
Intermittent Fasting can make your workout regiment rather difficult. Your body uses its stored carbs as its energy source to fuel your workout. When those run out, it will turn to your fat and protein stores. Well, wait. This sounds great! It will burn fat! Read that again though….It will turn to your stored carbs and stored protein. That translates to muscle. The protein stored in your muscle will be the next fuel source…..that means you’re compromising your muscle. Maybe you aren’t as fond of your muscle as I am of mine. But I’ve worked really hard to build up some muscle and I sure as heck don’t want to lose it because I’m not within my eating window..
Intermittent Fasting can damage your metabolism. This brings me to my next point. If you’re compromising your muscle in your workouts because of a lack of fuel, then you’re also simultaneously slowing down your metabolism. A slow metabolism is the opposite of what you want while you’re trying to lose fat and potentially maintain an exercise regiment. You’ll be working against yourself a lot.
Intermittent Fasting can potentially affect your hormones. There are various studies that show if Intermittent Fasting isn’t done correctly, it can adversely affect a woman’s hormonal balance. I’ve read articles by Doctors who suggest women do not do IF everyday, but instead only fast 2-3 days per week because of the damage it can cause to your hormones. When women experience hunger after undereating, we are also experiencing the overproduction of the hunger hormone leptin and ghrelin. The body senses that it’s being starved and increases production of both hormones. There are studies that show long term IF for women can cause fertility issues and potentially cause eating disorders like anorexia and bulimia. I’m sure there a lot of women who have very successfully been able to intermittent fast, but I’m just laying out the possibilities for you here.
Intermittent Fasting ignores anything your body is trying to tell you it needs. Contrary to what some Fitness gurus will say, this goes against the very grain of everything I teach and believe. When your body is hungry, you should feed it. Hunger is normal and should be welcomed. It means your body is alive and functioning. It means your body needs fuel for energy. IF ignores these signals that your body is throwing at you. I’ve seen the “they only ate once a day way back when they didn’t have a refrigerator in the cave” argument thrown around a lot. Which is absurd. It’s hard for me to even acknowledge this argument, but I shall. They ate once a day by force. Not by choice. We live in a modern day society where food is at our fingertips. If my body is telling me with various signals (growling stomach, headache, low energy) that it needs food - I’m going to give it food. Otherwise, I risk a drop in my blood sugar and the feelings of mega hunger. Why put yourself through that? The very concept of this just sounds so unhealthy and unnatural to me.
All in all, I leave you with this last point. It’s hard for me to imagine living this way when I know there’s a better way. It doesn’t have to be this hard. It doesn’t have to be strict. It doesn’t have to be this complicated.
Listening to my body and fueling it with natural, whole, nourishing foods is always my top priority. I eat for optimal function and energy. I’ve dieted before. I did slim fast way back when. I did meal replacement shakes. I did low carb. No carb. No sugar. There is nothing - absolutely nothing - compared to just eating for fuel and eating intuitively.
The definition of Intuitive Eating according to the google machine:
Intuitive eating is a nutrition philosophy based on the premise that becoming more attuned to the body's natural hunger signals is a more effective way to attain a healthy weight, rather than keeping track of the amounts of energy and fats in foods.
If you are interested in learning more about intuitive eating, consider joining my next 6 week group! The foundation of my entire nutrition plan is based on Intuitive Eating. We really focus on learning to listen to our bodies, fueling for energy and function, and creating balance in our lives and diets! We begin June 3rd and registration is open now!