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What's the deal with Intermittent Fasting (IF) - Coach Cathy Barry - Head Coach of Eclipse T&F Club



I must profess that I've always been an "eat everything in moderation, don't eat processed foods and exercise" kind of advocate for weight loss. It goes without saying that if we eat healthy and exercise regularly and keep these two habits consistent we should be able to either maintain weight or even lose a few pounds.


So why can't we just stick to what is easy and good for us? Well, that's really a loaded question. We live in the "NOW" society of get me what I want, when I want it, and by the way, is there a pill for that? We aren't really interested in eating healthy all the time or even a little bit of the time. We prefer convenience above all else. We figure, tomorrow we'll start, and then the next day after that and then the week after that and so on. We've become really good at putting things off, Procrastination 101 (there really should be a degree in that). Other factors are socioeconomic, lack of education in regards to nutrition and also too much information on the world wide web that serves to confuse the population and led them to believe in some magical diets or fad diets.


Now I'm not sugesting for one second that these diets that shall remain nameless for the purpose of this blog, don't work and I an tell you I've never tried any of them. For that reason, I won't comment on their effectiveness or not. However, for this blog, I wanted to know more about Intermittent Fasting and share my findings.


So what is Intermittent Fasting:


According to John Hopkins Medicine: " Intermittent fasting is an eating plan that switches between fasting and eating on a regular schedule. Research shows that intermittent fasting is a way to manage your weight and prevent — or even reverse some forms of diseases."





How does this "fasting" and eating on a regular schedule work to help reduce or maintain weight?


According to the Harvard Medical School - Harvard Health Publishing, the food we eat gets broken down by enzymes in our stomach and Intestines, and eventually ends up as molecules in our bloodstream. Carbohydrates, particularly sugars and refined grains (white flour and rice for example), are quickly broken down into sugar, which our cells use for energy. If our cells don’t use it all, we store it in our fat cells as, fat. But sugar can only enter our cells with insulin, a hormone made in the pancreas. Insulin brings sugar into the fat cells and keeps it there for future energy stores - a process called "cellular glucose uptake"

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Between meals, as long as we don’t snack, our insulin levels will go down and our fat cells can then release their stored sugar, to be used as energy. We lose weight if we let our insulin levels go down. The entire idea of Intermittent Fasting is to allow the insulin levels to go down far enough and for long enough that we burn off our fat.


According to England Journal of Medicine - Fasting is evolutionarily embedded within our physiology, triggering several essential cellular functions. Flipping the switch from a fed to fasting state does more than help us burn calories and lose weight. The researchers combed through dozens of animal and human studies to explain how simple fasting improves metabolism, lowering blood sugar; lessens inflammation, which improves a range of health issues from arthritic pain to asthma; and even helps clear out toxins and damaged cells, which lowers risk for cancer and enhances brain function.


There is some good scientific evidence suggesting that circadian rhythm fasting, when combined with a healthy diet and lifestyle, can be a particularly effective approach to weight loss, especially for people at risk for diabetes. (However, people with advanced diabetes or who are on medications for diabetes, people with a history of eating disorders like anorexia and bulimia, and pregnant or breastfeeding women should not attempt intermittent fasting unless under the close supervision of a physician who can monitor them.)


Intermittent Fasting Approach:

These are three popular methods:

  • The 16/8 method: Also called the Leangains protocol, it involves skipping breakfast and restricting your daily eating period to 8 hours, such as 1–9 p.m. Then you fast for 16 hours in between.

  • Eat-Stop-Eat: This involves fasting for 24 hours, once or twice a week, for example by not eating from dinner one day until dinner the next day.

  • The 5:2 diet: With this method, you consume only 500–600 calories on two non-consecutive days of the week, but eat normally the other 5 days.


The Leangains approach is pretty straightforward: You eat all of your daily calories in an 8-hour window and fast the other 16 hours of the day. During the fasting window, you can drink zero-calorie beverages, but restrict anything with any caloric content. The rest of the specifics of the diet are pretty standard gym advice: high protein, more calories on training days and fewer calories on off days, etc.


The research shows that Intermittent Fasting is an effective way for some to lose weight, lower blood pressure, reduce caloric intake and reduce the incidence of diabetes. Dr. Deborah Wexler, Director of the Massachusetts General Hospital Diabetes Center and associate professor at Harvard Medical School states “There is evidence to suggest that the circadian rhythm fasting approach, where meals are restricted to an eight to 10-hour period of the daytime, is effective,” she confirmed,


So while there is some pretty good research-based evidence that Intermittent Fasting may be a good way to maintain or lose weight, we should never discount the long-lasting effects of exercise in conjunction with any weight loss strategy. The benefits of exercise alone outweigh any diet. Exercise also helps control weight, helps your body regulate insulin and blood sugar, reduces your risk of heart disease, improves your mental state and mood, strengthens your bones and muscles, increases balance and stability, reduces the likeliness of certain cancers, improves your sleep and sexual health and will increase your chances of living longer. Diet alone will not get you all these benefits.


My conclusion: Intermittent Fasting definitely has it's benefits and when combined with exercise. I'd be happy to hear about your encounter with Intermittent Fasting if you've tried it and if you found any benefits with it.


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