|My colleagues think I'm insane. Why? Because I regularly go on 16- and 24-hour fasts. It's like perpetual Ramadan in our house. For some it may be their worst nightmare, but for us it has become a way of life.Intermittent fasting refers to abstaining from food for periods at a time, the idea being that you lower your insulin levels, forcing your body to use its own fuel and fat stores as energy. This not only is more efficient, but it keeps you alert, enhances brain function and improves your cardiovascular strength .
I am aware that this goes against the widely held notion that consistent grazing boosts your metabolism, but I hate to break it to you that it just simply isn't true. Grazing all day will not boost your metabolism any more than eating three meals will.
Here are the top ten things you need to know about intermittent fasting, the quick and dirty.
1. Intermittent fasting will not slow down your metabolism, it will boost your metabolism as you fast.
2. It is unlikely that our ancestors had a constant supply of food on hand. It is likely that they hunted during the day and then ate a large meal at night, with days going by without much food at all. This is the basis for intermittent fasting.
3. Because meals were closely preceded by a vigorous hunt, it is best to consume at least 50 percent of your calorie requirements after a fast very closely after you're done working out for the day. This will allow your body to reap the most benefits from your workout by synthesizing carbs and proteins more efficiently and helping you recover and build muscle faster.
4. There are numerous ways you could go about completing a fast, be it a moderate daily fast or an occasional 24-hour fast. If it's discipline and moderate calorie-cutting you're looking for, try a 16-hour fast. If you want to really reap those fasting benefits, try a 24-hour fast that will clear your head and boost your energy, much to your own surprise.
5. During a fast, you cannot consume anything that exceeds over 50 calories as that will put your body in a fed state and produce insulin. Stick to water, club soda, teas and coffee. A small splash of milk in one cup of tea or coffee a day won't harm.
6. When you eat your body secretes insulin to process carbs and fats. The more you eat and the more frequently, the more insulin you need and the less effect it has. This is called insulin resistance. The higher the insulin in your blood, the more fat your body stores. Intermittent fasting combats this effect.
7. Fasting has been proven to prevent against numerous diseases like cancer, Alzheimer's and heart disease.
8. What you eat when you are not fasting makes a difference. This is not like the fasting you do in Ramadan which is just code for "don't eat all day at work then gorge on kunafa all through the night." You must feed your body healthy, nutritious food in modest amounts for you to reap benefits from intermittent fasting. Focus on nutrient-dense vegetables and fruits, lean meats, nuts, moderate dairy and some nutrient rich carbs like sweet potatoes.
9. Your body will not go into "starvation" mode when you fast and cause you to store fat when you break your fast. Your body doesn't go into a lowered metabolic rate until at least 60 hours of no food. If starvation mode were real, there would be no one really starving in the world, our bodies would just hold on to all our energy reserves always.
10. Intermittent fasting may not work for everyone in exactly the same way. There is no one way to do things, ever. Experimenting with timing and length of fasts, the amount and types of foods you eat and the frequency of your fasts will help you discover what is best for you.