Intermittent Fasting-Eat Whatever You Want Some of the Time

Until recently most of us associated the word "fast" with the religious practice of abstaining from food for a period of time.  That word has always given me visuals of people donning long, black church robes while starving themselves and chanting prayers from a pew.  Extreme visuals, I know.  When I was a little girl I would ask my grandfather (he's a minister) what we were going to have for dinner and his answer was always "oh, we're fasting tonight, honey."  Of course he was joking, but it would send me into a panic...a night without food?  Who would do that to themselves?  Over the last year, however, fasting has gained a lot of popularity in the fitness world.  Studies have shown there are countless health benefits that come from fasting.  Doctors are even prescribing fasting treatments to patients with chronic diseases.  Fasting is still a controversial practice in the medical world, but there are a lot of success stories of fasting treating the following:


Type 2 Diabetes
Obesity
Depression and Anxiety
Irritable Bowel Syndrome
Mental Illness
Cold/Flu

Many health professionals even believe that fasting will prevent cancer and increase your longevity.  Now I'm no doctor and there obviously isn't a clear cut answer on whether or not fasting is the solution to all of our health woes, but hopefully this trend is no longer giving you visuals of church elders chanting in the synagogues.  Below you'll find some information on a few of the most popular fasting techniques and my personal experiences with each of them.  


The Warrior Diet

A man named Ori Hofmekler published a book in 2002 called The Warrior Diet.  He sort of introduced the idea of intermittent fasting to the fitness community.   As you can see in the picture to the left, he is pretty jacked for an older guy.  The plan is based on how our ancestors ate.  Back in the day people had to work for their food!  They would hunt during the day (generally on an empty stomach) and have one large meal in the evening.  The warrior diet in a nutshell-- Eat only 1 meal in the evening.  You can eat whatever you want, but you are encouraged to eat like a true warrior by consuming mostly proteins and fruits/vegetables.  Your fasting period lasts around 20 hours so your feeding window would generally be something like 6 PM-10 PM.  This program promises to help you shed fat, build lean muscle and increase daily energy.  Personally, I like the warrior diet. Whenever I follow this style of eating I lean down quickly and feel very energetic.  Just get ready for people to be confused and concerned when they find out you're skipping breakfast and lunch!  It's better than suffering through diet meals and protein shakes in my opinion.  






Alternate Day Fasting

When it comes to weight loss, this type of fasting has the most compelling evidence and studies backing it up than any other form of fasting.  Just as the name implies, this program only calls for you to fast every other day.  On the fasting day you will only consume 25% of the calories your body needs on a daily basis within a 2 hour eating window.  For a woman this translates into a small 400-500 calorie meal.  For a man, 500-600 calories.  Once you've made it through your fasting day you can rejoice!  For the next day is a "feeding day."  On feeding days you will eat 125% of your body's daily caloric needs.  You really don't need to count these calories though.  Just eat what you want to.  Studies have shown that people will generally only eat 110% of their bodies caloric needs rather than binging.  Krista Varady is a nutrition professor and the author of The Every Other Day Diet. Her research at the University of Illinois at Chicago showed that dieters can lose 10-30 pounds in just 8 weeks.  That's quick weight loss!  I suggest trying this form of fasting if you can handle the fasting days.  I found the Warrior Diet easier because I knew I could eat whatever I wanted to in the evening.  Ultimately when it comes to any type of dieting you just need to pick a plan you can stick to.  Consistency is the key!  If you can't stick to a plan then it DEFINITELY won't work for you.  


The Fast Diet  (AKA The 5:2 Diet)

The 5:2 Diet is just a spinoff of alternate day fasting.  Dr. Michael Mosley was struggling to fast every other day so he started fasting on two non-consecutive days of the week while eating, however he wanted on the other 5 days.  He quickly lost over 20 pounds on this plan.  Fasting days still consist of roughly 25% of your daily caloric needs (400-500 for a woman and 500-600 for a man).  This plan is excellent if you want to ease into a fasting lifestyle or if you don't need to lose weight and merely want to cash in on some of the other health benefits of fasting.  


**Intermittent fasting is generally safe for healthy individuals, but it is always recommended to consult with your doctor before beginning any diet or fasting plan.  Fasting is NEVER safe for pregnant women.
 

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