Diet trends and fads are constantly circulating. I feel like I can barely keep up with them all. Studying nutrition in college I have always been fascinated with health, wellness and the best way to care for your body on a daily basis. When I learned more about intermittent fasting and the potentially life extending benefits I was very intrigued and have been consciously practicing this lifestyle for the past 4 years.
WTF is intermittent fasting?
Intermittent fasting is not a diet or fad, it's a lifestyle. There are many ways to intermittently fast. For example, you could choose one or two days during the course of the week to strictly fast and only consume lots of water or I personally like to eat every day so I restrict the block of time I eat to a 6-8 hour window. This allows your body to fast for 16-18 hours between eating and gives the opportunity for proper digestion. I've been practicing intermittent fasting long before I knew what it was or the benefits of it. When I learned more about it I was fascinated by the health advantage to this lifestyle and I'm obsessed. I got more specific with my window of time that I eat and have been doing it for years.
Giving your body at least 16 hours of fasting time can help:
- tap into and burn fat stores
- curb sugar cravings
- support healthy GI bacteria
- increase HGH (human growth hormone) production
- boost metabolism
- reduce inflammation
- prevent chronic disease
By restricting caloric intake through regimented intermittent fasting, you can significantly improve your health and extend your life as shown by numerous animal studies.
Just because food is available 24/7 in our increasingly lazadelic society (postmates, grubhub, doordash, etc.) that doesn't mean we should be constantly eating. A grazing diet, where you eat small healthy snacks consistently throughout the day, has been widely promoted to help increase metabolism. And that might work for some, but it can be excessively taxing on the digestive tract. When your body is constantly breaking down and using food for energy, it doesn't get a chance to break into your fat stores.
Think of it like this: every time you put food into your body, all of your body's digestive functions are working to break it down into fuel. At the same time, your cells are constantly exerting energy and regenerating during this process. When you intermittently fast and allow your body to take a break, it has more time to dedicate to a specific process like digestion and can essentially work less. Less stress on your body. Increased energy. Liiiiike would you rather work 8 hours or 16 hours a day? Work smart, not hard. This article by Dr. Mercola dives deeper into the science behind IF.
I have unknowingly practiced the IF lifestyle for years with great benefit, but was not familiar with the term intermittent fasting until recently. I eat within a 6-8 hour window each day, leaving 16-18 hours for my body to reset. Generally I am not hungry in the AM so I don't eat. I like to work out first thing in the morning and often eating before or immediately after exercise leaves me nauseous. So I don't have my first meal of the day until the afternoon. Aiming to limit my food intake between 1-7PM allows for enough wiggle room to stick to my plan.
This is how I start my day and -general- food intake:
- Hot water and lemon + small cup of Chinese herbs for hormone balance*
- Throughout the morning drink a thermos of tea (ginger/peppermint) and, if I'm lucky, 1-2 of the greenest of green cold pressed juices I can find**
- Water! I drink at least 64 oz of water a day in my massive yeti, always hydrate your body during all hours.
- Coffee-I personally don't drink coffee and will go into more detail why I choose not to in another post, but if you drink coffee and want to intermittently fast I would definitely recommend drinking it black with a fat like MCT oil, coconut oil or organic, local, grass fed butter with some cinnamon added so it doesn't spike your blood sugar.
- Eat lunch around 1PM. Sometimes it’s sprouted flax cereal with protein powder, a vegetable rich salad with a bit of protein like quinoa or salmon, a veggie sandwich with extra (vegan) mayo and sprouts. or whatever leftovers (hopefully cabbage) I have on hand.
- I'm not a snacker so this satisfies me until dinner. In case of emergency: grab another juice.
- I do indulge in dark chocolate as an afternoon pick-me-up. I love anything 70%+ cacao, but 85% is my preference. I munch on 1-2 small squares instead of coffee for my buzz.
- Dinner is generally between 5-7PM If I'm cooking at home I always try to keep it healthy with foods like: fish + rice with veggies, roasted veggies + rice, buddha bowls, homemade Mexican food, veggie burgers, lots of kale, etc. I love new food experiences so it is constantly changing.
- Food Curfew: I never eat anything past 9PM. That is my strict "food curfew". Of course there can be extenuating circumstances: traveling, excessive drinking (biggest culprit for late night eating). There are always exceptions. I always listen to my body and encourage you to do so as well, but when I eat late night I'm never feeling great the next day.
I feel like I could do an entire post on if I'm dining out, but some quick guidelines:
- Try to make reservations with friends within your usual food eating window, if not, adjust your food window around your late night plans. (Ex. Meeting for dinner at 9PM. Eat lunch at 2 or 3PM, if early AM Brunch adjust accordingly)
- Avoid the complimentary bread/chips or exercise portion control if they are incredible. Don’t fill up before your meal. If anything, load up on fiber before a party or dinner outing.
- Focus on Veggies (not slathered in creamy sauces).
- Think about taking home leftovers since portions are usually ridiculous and can be 2-3 meals.
- Enjoy a drink without sugary mix ins. Tequila and wine are all I drink these days, but more on that later.
- Always enjoy the experience, if it's somewhere you go every week with friends, maybe hold back on the extra cocktail or appetizer. If it's somewhere special, indulge and balance out with more greens the next day.
- After dinner I do enjoy the occasional sweet treat, but usually another bite of chocolate will satisfy me.
- Definitely sip some more tea before bed (peppermint or ginger are my go-tos) or Calm Magnesium Tea.
- Always avoid eating within 3 hours of going to sleep ESPECIALLY SWEETS. Trust me, you will immediately enjoy a better night's sleep if you adopt this practice.
* I have had a confirmed hormone imbalance and have talked to my doctor about the potential of IF contributing to my hormone levels being out of whack. Thankfully that is not the case and my herbs and supplements along with meditation and yoga has helped to balance my hormones back to normal. If you have a hormone imbalance you should talk to your doctor before taking on an IF lifestyle.
**Drinking juices are carbs so your body is technically digesting, but since I drink highly green juices with no fruit sugars the carbohydrate content of the juice is low and there's no fiber in juice so the nutrients are easily absorbed thru the digestive tract and don't hinder your fasting state. To read more about cold pressed juices click here.
I've been practicing intermittent fasting for over 4 years and I don't see myself getting away from it any time soon. My body thrives off of this lifestyle and I am way more in tune with my body's cravings and needs. Some benefits I've experienced and can attribute to intermittent fasting include:
- Healthily and easily losing 10 pounds with this simple change
- Increased energy-I am always full of energy and I don't drink coffee ever.
- Amazing sleep- Sure there are a lot of factors that can contribute to good or bad sleep, I feel like everyone around me is complaining about not being able to sleep. but I believe part of the reason I get such great sleep is that my body is a "well oiled machine" that is digesting properly and not getting pushed to its limits.
- Get up and Go-Since I don't have to factor in time for breakfast in the AM I get more time to meditate and do a workout without having to rush to make breakfast and I get to enjoy my morning teas and pack my lunch.
- Being in tune with my body-Getting to know my body more has been incredible and learning from eating things (or at times of the day) that don't agree with me have altered my lifestyle and food choices. I almost always am putting things into my body that will help me to thrive (or I know the consequences if I don't). I am not even tempted by unhealthy junk foods I used to love because I know how I feel when I eat them and it's not good.
Intermittent Fasting isn't for everyone. You shouldn't try intermittent fasting if you are pregnant, diabetic, have hypoglycemia/ hypoglycemic tendencies, if you have a hormone imbalance or if you have had an eating disorder you should talk to your doctor. Always listen to your body and find what works best for you. I find this is an amazing way to cut your caloric intake easily without feeling like you are restricting yourself. This lifestyle combined with healthy food and fitness choices will lead you on the path to optimal well-being,
Please leave any questions you have below.
If you would like to privately reach out and talk more about intermittent fasting and if it could be right for you my email is: firstname.lastname@example.org