Weight loss, like any other aspect of life, is extremely simple once you get the basics clear. Good carbs, bad carbs, fat, protein – words which are used in every health article, all sounded too complicated, until I decided that I wanted to lose weight for real. I did my research and as a result I lost 30 pounds in 3.5 months. (You can read about it here.) At present I have crossed the 30 pound mark and continue losing weight every single day.
What is intermittent fasting?
Intermittent fasting is an eating pattern, not a diet. Unlike prolonged fasting which goes into days, intermittent fasts are smaller fasts, lasting from 16 hours to 24 hours. It involves an eating window and a fasting window.
There are different types of intermittent fasting protocols – fasting daily, every alternate day or two days in a week. I fast daily and it has helped me tremendously.
These are the two methods of fasting I use:
1. The 16/8 Method : This is one of the easiest and most popular methods. It involves eating during an 8 hour window and fasting for the remaining 16 hours. For example, if you start eating at 12 pm, you should finish all your meals by 8 pm. After 8 pm you should not eat anything till the next afternoon. You can drink water, green tea or black coffee during the fasting period.
2. One Meal A Day : This is a variation of the above method – it involves eating only one large meal in the entire day, i.e. eating during a 1 or 2 hour window and fasting for the remaining 22 to 23 hours.
Why are you starving??
This is the first question people ask me when I tell them that I eat for only 2 hours a day. Trust me, I do not blame them – I used to think exactly like that before I started fasting.
Fasting isn’t a new concept. Our ancestors fasted daily for millions of years, due to the lack of freely available food. It is only after the Industrial Revolution, when food was available 24*7, that people started eating so often. Eating six meals a day is recommended by almost every health guru, causing people to eat more than they actually require.
The science : The easy explanation:
Our bodies take around 8 to 12 hours to completely digest the food we eat. During this time our bodies break down the food and absorb the nutrients. We get most of our energy during this time period from the food we’ve just eaten.
After the 8 to 12 hours our bodies enter a fasted state. During this period we utilise our stored body fat for energy. Intermittent fasting works wonders as we stay in this fasted state for a good amount of time on a regular basis, literally becoming fat burning machines.
The science : The complex explanation:
When we eat carbohydrates, they are broken down into glucose. Glucose is the main source of energy/fuel for our cells. When our cells are full of fuel, the body takes this extra energy and stores it in our liver as glycogen. Between meals when energy is needed, our liver breaks the glycogen down into glucose and releases them into the bloodstream for our cells to use as energy.
After 8 to 12 hours of not eating, our glycogen reserves will be extremely low. At this point of time, fat cells in our bodies release fats into our bloodstream. The fat goes straight to the liver, where it is converted into energy for utilisation by our cells. This is how intermittent fasting puts us in a state of ketosis. (This is similar to what happens on the keto diet. However, intermittent fasting has been proven to be more effective than the keto diet.)
Hormones affected by intermittent fasting:
1. Insulin : When we eat, our bodies produce insulin. If we are sensitive to insulin, our bodies can utilise the food we eat for energy instead of storing it as fat. Also, our bodies can access our fat reserves only when our insulin levels are low. Thus, by following an intermittent fasting eating pattern, our insulin sensitivity increases, our insulin levels remain low and we end up burning fat rapidly.
2. Human Growth Hormone (HGH) : HGH is a hormone responsible for improving our metabolism. It helps in muscle growth, recovery, repair and fat mobilisation. Higher levels of HGH enable a person to put on muscle mass and burn fat more easily. This hormone is usually secreted in our bloodstream when we sleep. However, the release of the HGH hormone is supressed each time we eat. Thus, the longer we fast, the more HGH is released.
3. Adrenaline & Noradrenaline : These are our fight-or-flight hormones. These hormones make our body ready to face dangerous situations, where we either have to fight or run away. They improve our metabolism and make us more alert. Intermittent fasting increases these hormones to a level where we are healthy and focussed at the same time.
My intermittent fasting journey:
In my first month of healthy eating, I ate 3 to 4 meals a day, counting calories diligently (like I do now as well – it helps me stay accountable).
After a month I started intermittent fasting – I started with the 8 hour eating window and kept on decreasing it every few weeks. Currently I eat for only 1 to 2 hours a day. I make sure I eat a good amount of food – I have continued eating healthy meals, with at least one cheat meal every week. (You can read about my diet plan here.)
I eat one meal on most days, but there are days when I eat two meals or even three. Don’t be too rigid, try sticking to the fasting as much as possible, but on days when it becomes too difficult you can give yourself a break. Remember that this is for the long run, so enjoy the journey.
Thank you for reading! Stay blessed!