Dieting is something many of us struggle to start and maintain. But as health and fitness have become more prominent hobbies, people are now also becoming more aware of their eating habits. If you are looking into a proper diet plan to complement your exercise routine, you might have already heard of Intermittent Fasting (IF). IF is a way of extending the period you are not eating and only eating within a strict window of hours per day.
How It Works
When we are eating, the carbohydrates we eat are broken down to become sugar and then used as an energy source of our body. When we are not using this energy, the sugar is stored as fat cells with the help of insulin. Now, when we are fasting, insulin levels go down, and in turn, it allows our body to use the fat as energy for our body.
The idea is that when we practice IF, we are telling our body to lower insulin levels so we can release the sugars in our body and promote weight loss.
There Are Different Types
Just because the idea is to fast for longer periods does not mean it’s okay to do it whenever you want. People have different methods when they practice IF. The most popular are the eat-stop-eat method, the 16/8 method, and the 5:2 diet.
The 16/8 method entails that you fast for 16 hours and eat only within 8 hours. This also calls for skipping breakfast and eating around or after lunchtime, with your last meal not after 8 PM. In other words, skip breakfast and no after-dinner snacking.
Eat-stop-eat is when you skip eating for 24 hours and then eat as you normally would the next day. You are supposed to fast, for example, from breakfast today to breakfast tomorrow morning, and then eat your usual meal come lunchtime. It’s important to remember that you should eat the same amount of food you would be eating as if you weren’t fasting.
The 5:2 diet stands for the five days in a week when you eat normally and the two days when you restrict your calorie intake to 500-600 calories per day. Let’s say you eat normal meals on weekends and Mondays, Wednesdays, and Fridays. Then on Tuesdays and Thursdays, you should only eat two small meals worth 300 calories each.
Can You Exercise on an Empty Stomach?
It depends. If you choose to exercise during your fast, as your body continuously expends energy, you might not have enough during work out to the point that your body would take your muscle protein and use it as an energy source. You might also feel too dizzy, especially if you overexert yourself.
It’s okay to work out during fasting hours if you are comfortable doing it on an empty stomach, but if you want to take advantage of your macros post-meal, then work out during your eating window.
Don’t Eat Junk Food
It’s probably a no-brainer but during your eating window, make sure to eat nutritious food that your body would benefit from. During the hours that you are not eating, and especially if you are new to IF, you will feel really bad hunger pangs. You can, of course, drink water, tea, or coffee while fasting to help satiate your hunger. And during your eating window, you can spread your meals in a way that allows you smaller portions throughout, but please, make those small meals healthy.
However, if you find yourself really struggling to satiate your appetite, you might want to think about seeking professional help as this may be a sign of an underlying issue. There are many possible issues like stress, diabetes, or having an eating disorder. For example, if you try to eat way more calories than advised, if you hoard food or find it difficult to stop eating even after feeling full, that may be what is called binge eating disorder. In this case, proper diagnosis is best, so look into what type of treatment you can have for eating disorders like it.
Intermittent Fasting is not a new dieting fad, but clinical research on it is limited, so a lot of people rely on anecdotal evidence right now. Whether or not it’s effective will rely on your discipline and responsibility. Try your best not to cheat while fasting, do your best to eat healthy food, and pair it with an exercise routine that would benefit from the macros you intake.