Intermittent Fasting isn’t a new concept, but it’s a fast-growing trend in both the health and fitness industries. The physical results are impressive, but when you look at the health benefits, it’s no wonder everyone is getting on board with this strategy!
The act of fasting, or abstaining from food for a set time, is an ancient practice. Indeed, it is still an important part of many cultures and religions today. It is used for bringing mental focus and spiritual clarity. However, fasting specifically for physical health is a relatively new concept and it’s spreading fast because the results speak for themselves.
After learning about the idea of Intermittent Fasting for fitness reasons, I decided to start trying it out in 2015. I experimented with different protocols and strategies to see what truly gave the best results without compromising health or safety. I dialed in what was working best for myself and my clients—and the results have been absolutely incredible!
Intermittent Fasting isn’t complicated, but many people simply aren’t sure what it is or the right way to do it. With the rising popularity of “IF” (as it’s referred to in the industry) has also come misinformation and a lack of specific training in how to follow a healthy Intermittent Fasting strategy.
What is Intermittent Fasting?
It’s important to note that IF is not a fad diet—it’s simply an eating schedule. The body is always in one of two states: fed or fasted. In the fed state, the body’s main focus is on digesting food. In the fasted state, the body is able to focus on healing and repair. Without an eating schedule, or with a poor eating schedule, our bodies will rarely go into the fasted state. For years the health and wellness industries have promoted multiple small meals through the day (or “grazing”), but we’re learning now that doing this never gives our bodies time to focus on repair and healing.
Let’s go a little deeper into the biology.
While in a fed state, the human body uses insulin to bring glucose into cells to manufacture energy. That energy is used to keep your organs functioning, your blood circulating, to keep your brain at its top game, and to handle any damage caused by toxins and ‘wear-and-tear’ in your internal systems. During periods of fasting, the body's level of blood glucose significantly decreases. Once glucose isn’t available for fuel, the body will rely on its next-preferred fuel source to keep functioning and repairing. That next-preferred fuel source is fat.
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“Don’t do it—Intermittent Fasting will lower your metabolism!”
This is my favorite myth to bust. IF actually maximizes your metabolism! Deprivation is never the goal, and this is often a dangerous part of trying IF without the right protocol and supervision. I always strongly encourage my clients to "eat enough of the right macros" (carbs, fats, and protein) to properly fuel their day and balance hormones. We simply eat during specific hours each day rather than throughout the day.
There are various protocols that are healthy options. In the FASTer Way to Fat Loss we practice the 16/8 protocol. This means you’ll fast for 16 hours out of your day, and consume all your daily food during an 8-hour window. This may sound daunting, but it’s surprising how, in a couple of weeks, our bodies can adjust to this and feel the benefits of having time to rest and repair versus continually digesting food.
I do also recommend an occasional 24-hour fast to give the body additional time for healing and recovery, although this should be planned for and requires specific “before and after” nutrition to be considered a health benefit rather than starvation.
Some people who practice IF choose a 5/2 protocol (eat normally for 5 days, fast for 2 days) or an alternating protocol (do a 24-hour fast every other day). I personally recommend the 16/8 protocol above either of these other protocols as a healthier option.
“Breakfast is the most important meal of the day!”
There is actually no research to back this claim, that eating a meal as soon as you wake up is important—or even healthy. This message has been heavily propagated by breakfast food companies (which obviously have a huge financial stake in the game). Skipping breakfast and consuming those calories later in the day is a great way to extend your body’s digestive rest so it can focus on repair and healing.
What I will say is this: it is important to have the right foods to break your fast later in the day (break-fast), and the FASTer Way goes into further details on this.
Can I eat or drink anything during a fasting window?
Eating during your fast will break your fast, but there are absolutely drinks that can be consumed that will boost the impact of your fast. Hydration is important for the body to keep repairing. In my program I encourage consumption of non-caloric or very low calorie drinks such as water, black coffee, and herbal teas. These will keep your body at digestive rest, and can also help push through the last few hours of the fasting window.
What are the benefits?
When we talk about Intermittent Fasting in the fitness world, fat loss is the obvious benefit that has everyone so excited. But it’s doing so much more than that.
Other health-based benefits include:
Natural detoxing (why it’s important to drink lots of water during IF)
Decreased insulin levels (which in turn helps you burn fat)
Increased insulin sensitivity
Lower risk of Type 2 Diabetes
Improved hormone profile
Increased life expectancy
Maintenance of skeletal muscle mass
Another side benefit for anyone who travels by plane (whether regularly for work, or the occasional long flight), IF can help you reset your internal clock, and overcome jet lag faster. Eating is one of the cues (such as light) which affects our circadian rhythm, the sleep/wakefulness patterns.
Further, when you plan your fasting window to be during your travel time, you don’t have to worry about eating at the airport or on the plane! This avoids the huge hassle of packing food to take, or trying to find something healthy to purchase at the airport restaurants.
This is convenient for more than just travel. I save hours every week not worrying about planning, preparing, eating, and cleaning up breakfast. Mornings are simplified because I’ve eliminated the most time-consuming part of my old routine.
Is it safe for everyone?
Yes, Intermittent Fasting is safe for everyone, but I always recommend a visit with your doctor before you start practicing IF. We don’t recommend IF for children, but people of all races, genders, ages and backgrounds can safely practice Intermittent Fasting. I do warn against trying IF on your own; rather, find a program you can trust to teach you how to implement this, and will provide you with daily support and encouragement as you learn. It doesn’t take long to learn—for example, the FASTer Way program is 8 weeks long, and most people have mastered the Intermittent Fasting component by the half-way mark or before.
What if I have diabetes?
While there is some positive research about subjects with diabetes utilizing various fasting protocols, it is critical that you consult your treatment provider prior to implementing anything new. Because of the individual nature of diabetes, and the medications involved, be sure to talk to your doctor before engaging in any health program. I do have a number of clients who joined with Type 2 Diabetes who have been weaned off their meds by their provider due to the health benefits. However, please hear me when I say, your doctor is the expert on your condition and we strongly recommend you talk to them about FASTer Way to Fat Loss before trying Intermittent Fasting.
What if I have hypothyroidism or adrenal fatigue?
If you are being treated for hypothyroidism or adrenal fatigue, it’s important to ease into intermittent fasting. You will most likely want to use the 12/12 fasting protocol, and not the 24-hour fast. If you have hypothyroidism or adrenal fatigue, stick to whole foods, eliminate gluten and dairy, and be sure to consume enough complex carbohydrates. To continue improving your condition, be mindful of the balance between stress and rest, focus on sleep, and get adequate sunlight within two hours of the sun rising. In FASTer Way to Fat Loss, “rest” is a high priority we focus on—for our digestive systems, for our minds, for our families. Rest is an important health investment.
What are some common IF mistakes?
The biggest mistake I see people make is not working with someone who really knows Intermittent Fasting. A lot of people want to try Intermittent Fasting on their own, which is understandable, as it seems so easy. The problem is that without the right training and experience, you can cause damage (for example, if you go into starvation mode) and your body may even experience the opposite results to what you hope for! While it is easy to learn IF, there are so many variables and factors that it’s wise to work with an expert who can answer your questions, and guide you on a regular basis while you learn.
That being said, two of the most common mistakes people tend to make when they begin practicing Intermittent Fasting on their own are
not drinking enough water
not eating enough during their feeding window
If you want to see the full benefits of IF, then you have to properly hydrate and fuel your body.
The last thing you want to do on your health journey is damage your metabolism, exacerbate adrenal fatigue, or elevate cortisol levels long-term (that’s your stress hormone, which your body may generate if it senses deprivation while trying to keep up with a busy lifestyle). You can avoid these pitfalls by investing a little of your time and money in learning from an expert (after a few weeks, you can likely do this yourself without an expert, but we recommend starting IF with more than an article you read)
Should I work out during a 24-hour or “full day” fast?
While we do workout during our intermittent fasting days, I recommend to my clients that they rest or engage in an “active recovery” workout during a 24-hour fast. Active recovery workouts would be a long walk, swimming, or maybe a hike.
However, if you personally want to accelerate results, and you are confident your body is fueled from the previous day, feel free to complete a HIIT, speed burst, or sprint workout during a 24-hour fast day.
If you complete an intense workout on a 24-hour fast day, you will likely be more tired than normal. This is because your glycogen stores will be depleted. However, as mentioned above, HIIT, speed bursts, or sprints on a 24-hour fast day will accelerate fat loss tremendously.
Does Intermittent Fasting negatively impact female hormones or fertility?
The honest answer to this is yes AND no. It depends on which kind of Intermittent Fasting you practice.
There are studies which have shown IF to have a negative impact on fertility rates. However, the studies I’ve seen all use the “alternate day” fasting protocol (which I don’t recommend). With an alternate day protocol, the likelihood of someone under eating is significant. This type of restrictive caloric intake will undoubtedly have a negative impact on female hormone levels.
I recommend a 16/8 protocol, because we eat every day. I do use a 24-hour fast once a month, but that is the longest I recommend women go (men are a little different because they don’t have the same hormone situation to deal with, but should also be careful to avoid starvation). With these types of fasting windows, we are able to reap all of the benefits of fasting, without seeing any negative hormonal changes.
Most of the research available is showing IF to be both healthy and safe for women in terms of fertility. My third baby was conceived while I was living the FASTer Way lifestyle, and many other clients have also become pregnant while living the FASTer Way. In addition, it is clearly documented that IF is an effective way to help women become fat burners, and excess fat is a contributing factor in hormonal imbalance.
My cutting-edge program, the FASTer Way To Fat Loss, will never utilize more than a 24-hour fast, once a month. Often, we only incorporate a 24-hour fast every 3 weeks, although many of my clients begin enjoying a weekly 24-hour fast. For the most part, we stick to the 16/8 protocol, as that is the most sustainable and most effective with the fewest potential risks.
How can I learn more?
I’ve put together a FREE FASTer Way to Fat Loss® Starter Kit!
Are you an expert?
After years of guiding more than 100,000 clients through my program, yes. I know Intermittent Fasting works if you do it the right way, and would love to guide you to experience the incredible health benefits too!
“The best of all medicines is resting and fasting.”