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January 15, 2021


I am not the best dieter. When my wife suggested cutting down on carbs, I felt instantly mutinous.

I don’t have a bread problem. You have a bread problem!

So, if you’re anything like me, when you first heard about intermittent fasting, you were struck with horror. I already fast intermittently every day - the dreadful suffering between breakfast and lunch, and lunch and dinner. Are you mad?!

However, there is scientific evidence that intermittent fasting, in a specific, controlled way, is beneficial to your metabolism, and can lead to lower blood sugar levels and weight loss. It also can be much easier to sustain than calorie counting. Combine intermittent fasting with a healthy diet (lots of fruits, vegetables, healthy proteins and non-refined carbs) and good exercise and you’re likely to see positive results.

That said, fasting is not recommended for everyone. Diabetic people, people with a history of anorexia, pregnant women or purely hypothetical guys who have tantrums when they don’t eat for three hours may want to consider other methods. Do consult your doctor before initiating a fasting program.

THE SCIENCE

When we think about our eating habits, we don’t always think about where they come from. For example, the idea of breakfast cereal is not natural - it’s marketing.

Our hunter-gatherer ancestors didn’t eat cereal in the morning, they would have had a few pieces of fruit, if they had anything at all.

Food scarcity was a constant in our history - there’s a reason most major religions integrate fasting in some way.

Jogger

However, there is increasing evidence that fasting is beneficial to our biology, even today. This is due to our metabolic cycle. Whenever we eat, our bodies break down food into sugar, and use insulin to store this sugar in our fat cells and keep it there. When we fast, our insulin levels go down, and our fat cells begin to release stored energy.

It takes time to enter this fasting state, typically between 8-12 hours. But once the switch is flipped, your body begins burning fat, increasing your metabolism. Some people even notice increased energy and muscle gain.

FASTING TYPES

Some fasting methods are more difficult than others (mentally, and physically) and offer less health benefits. Others are simply adapting your meal schedule. In all cases, there are strengths and weaknesses. Here are the most common methods we know:

The Fasting Mimicking Diet:

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The 16/8 (or, Leangains Method):

In this method, you eat every day, but only during an eight-hour window. This is also sometimes called “circadian rhythm fasting” with eating hours meant to complement our sleep cycle.

There is evidence in scientific studies that this does increase your metabolism while also being much easier to do than completely abstaining from food for a whole day.

However, you do have to choose your window carefully. Some studies claim that a 7AM-3PM eating block is ideal for your health, but this means skipping dinner, and that social experience, so many people opt for a window closer to 12-8PM.

Stairs
The 5:2 Diet:

With this method, there are 5 normal eating days during the week, and 2 light fasting days - split up, of course, so you don’t pass out in want of a burger. For example, you might fast on Mondays and Thursdays.

With this method, you still eat on your fasting days but you try to consume a minimal amount of calories - around 500 total. This can provide a longer period of fasting than the 16/8 method, but may require more planning. Plus, you know you’re going to have two rather sad days every week.

1:1, or Eat-Stop-Eat:

In this method, you completely abstain from fasting for a full day each week. While some prefer the simplicity of this diet plan, there is no unanimous evidence that it’s better for you than the other methods. Plus, it’s more difficult.

A whole day of fasting can be strenuous, with some people suffering from fatigue, dizziness or really extreme hanger.

Plus, if you fast too often during the week, you’re going to have real problems getting enough nutrients on your feast days. Additionally, there’s an enormously strong biological desire to overeat after fasting periods. Going whole hog on nachos and milkshakes on your feast day can undo all the pain you just went through.

Learn What’s Right For You

Everyone has a different biology, relationship to food and health goals. You may find that a healthier diet with better portion control works best for your goals than any fasting schedule. Or, maybe you modify one of the schedules listed above (i.e. a 10 hour window for eating instead of 8 in the 16/8 method).

Contrary to what some health sites tell you, there is no consensus on an ideal fasting schedule. If you have any doubts - or dizziness - talk to your doctor.