Intermittent fasting (IF) is just what you would suspect, a diet that cycles around periods of fasting and non-fasting.This style of dieting became popular after several studies showed beneficial effects on the health and longevity of animals (specifically rats) after periods of fasting. 

How does it work?

Limiting the calories that pass your lips for a few days is thought to encourage fat oxidation while lowering your bad cholesterol, triglycerides, and body weight. Did I lose you at oxidation? That’s right fat oxidation. Your body normally relies on glucose (mainly from carbs) to meet its daily energy needs. However, when you are not giving the body the normal dose, it turns to fat as a secondary fuel source. When this happens you get fat oxidation, or fat reduction.  Get excited – but not too excited –  about the lowered blood levels and weight, the research is promising but not entirely conclusive.

I want to try

Intermittent fasting means different things to different people. In the studies mentioned above, animals fasted for entire 24 hours periods. However, the same results can be created by skipping a few meals instead. No matter how you do it, the goal is to create a calorie deficit for the day.  You may be thinking, “ok, I can do that… but where do I start?” A popular approach to intermittent fasting comes from the 5:2 Fast Diet. This diet encourages you to have 5 days of normal eating – don’t go crazy, these are not feasting days, just normal-every-day-eating. On the other 2 days you eat only 25% of your daily calorie quota – about 600 calories for dudes and 550 for the ladies. The days can be broken up (i.e. Monday fast, Tuesday normal, Wednesday fast, Thursday-Sunday normal) to make it a little easier. 

But I workout!?!

Many worry that on a reduced-calorie day they are going to hit the wall and end up with a completely busted sweat session. Not necessarily true. As long as you are getting enough energy on the non-fasting days you should have enough energy to get through. In fact, some studies have shown fasting results in better metabolic adaptations and improved protein synthesis – basically you are getting more out of the food you do eat when you train on an empty stomach.

Should I try IF?

IF is not for everybody.  It should not be used unless you are already eating a healthy diet which means real foods, no processed junk, lower carbohydrates (no added sugars)and  no grains (for most).  If you have any medical conditions, such as high blood pressure, heart disease or diabetes, talk with your healthcare professional before starting intermittent fasting.