Intermittent fasting is currently a popular “in vogue” method of weight loss and healthy weight maintenance. In essence, it is a technique of cyclical calorie restriction reported to tap in to our bodies natural propensity to generate essential energy from stored fuel (fat), during times of little food, whilst not having to resort to the destruction of muscle and other essential tissues that occurs during prolonged starvation. In addition, intermittent fasting also contributes to speeding up your metabolism for weight loss and maintenance. Below is a summary of the six major types of intermittent fasting.
In the introduction I purposely used the phrase “natural propensity”. This is because the reason why intermittent fasting works is intimately linked to how we as humans have evolved as a species. During our early evolution our species, and its common ancestors, were hunter gatherers and food was generally much scarcer than in our modern times of convenience and mass-produced foods. Much of our ancestor’s time and energy would have been spent trying to find food by foraging and hunting, and a good supply of energy from food would have been irregular at best. During this early time period of scarce food (a major selection pressure) our bodies evolved to be very economical with the storage and release of energy derived from food, energy that is essential to our biological processes and therefore survival. We evolved to maintain a constant supply of energy output in the stark face of limited and very intermittent fuel input. And evolution made us oh so very good at it!
The Modern-Day Problem
Fast forward to modern times. For most of us in the developed world getting enough food isn’t a problem. However, we are left with an evolutionary urge, like all animals, to eat when we can to survive. Furthermore, we evolved a major driving force that compels us to seek out food and survive: enjoyment. And boy do we enjoy food! Therefore, to cut a long story short, our fundamental biology remains the same as our ancestors but our access to food and recreational revelling in eating has changed dramatically. Our bodies are still very economical at storing energy but we in the developed world tend to take in more fuel than we need. Often much more. As a result, we store excess energy as fat and our bodies get confused about how to regulate the release of energy. This has led to increases in obesity and it’s associated major health risks and mortality rates, some of which are illustrated below.
Why it works and why it’s beneficial
This is where the various techniques of intermittent fasting come in. The central idea is to recreate the eating patterns that our bodies evolved to economically survive and prosper under. This is achieved by cycling between taking in enough healthy calories most of the time, and less calories some of the time. This mimics the conditions that out bodies evolved to work best under and therefore we achieve a much more natural healthy weight. Furthermore, evidence suggest that this brings with it a whole host of other positive health benefits, some of which are listed below.
A good place to start
Any change to diet and eating habits can be daunting and most of us find it difficult to adjust at first. Sticking to a new regime can be even harder. Our natural biological drives can lead us to obsess about food, deviate from our new healthy pursuit and basically BINGE!
And guess what? I am no different! That is why I recommend trying the “16:8 restricted time feeding” method of intermittent fasting. I have found this to be the easiest to adjust and stick to, and I have personally seen good results in myself and I feel great! Below is a summary of how to get started. It really is as simple as waiting 16 hours after your evening meal before you eat again, and you asleep for around half of that. This basically means that you delay breakfast until later in the morning and only eat within an 8 hour window. Naturally it will be of greater benefit to eat as healthily as you can during this time, and it is important to eat enough balanced calories. Drink plenty of water between meals and black coffee helps as an appetite suppressant (providing you do not have a medical condition that prohibits coffee).
As always, consult your physician before making any dietary changes, especially if you have an existing medical condition(s).
I hope that you have found this article useful and please do not hesitate to contact us with any questions or comments.
Here’s to the healthy YOU that YOU DESERVE,