Intermittent Fasting (IF) is now a “Thing” and this is a great ‘thing’. The benefits of fasting are clear and manifold, from weight management to autophagy to metabolic health. I’m not going to take you down the rabbit hole of autophagy, only say it is a VERY real, and necessary cleansing process and fasting is the only way to make this happen.
But with Intermittent Fasting now ‘trending’ there is also a LOT of well intended but potentially out of context information on the subject. In this article, I hope to clear up a LOT of the potential misconceptions to guide you with your intermittent fasting, so you can achieve higher health and peak performance.
#1 You don’t need to adhere to a strict structure
The first thing I’d like to tackle are all these recent IF programs with highly structured ‘fasting windows’ and ‘feeding windows’. I ‘get’ it, a lot of us need structure, however, such programs often fail to take in critical factors which play into fasting like:
metabolic state of the individual,
training - type, volume and level,
environment and stress levels - physical, mental and emotional.
Here are some examples you need to be aware of to understand why a metric driven one-size-fits all fits all feeding and fasting windows are not optimal…remember, you want optimal.
Males and females are different. Generally speaking, today’s males can fast far longer than today’s females. Also a female’s fasting windows will vary with her cycle.
#2 Training Load
If you are an athlete and training more than 6 hours per week your fasting window may be considerably shorter than prescribed. If you are over 10 hours a week it is almost mandatory to adjust your fasting window down to avoid adrenal fatigue. Over extending fasts during the stress of training can actually backfire and yield exactly the wrong results on a metabolic level.
Your metabolism turns down
Your appetite increases
You over eat when you break a fast
When you do eat the body stores as much as it can
While we are on the subject of fasting, if you are doing fasted workouts you are leveraging the benefits of fasting and building your metabolic capacity. A 12-14 hour overnight fast with a 2-3 hour morning workout and a late breakfast/early lunch has the benefits of a 24 hour sedentary fast and probably more! Similarly, and probably more realistically, that same 12-14 hour overnight fast combined with a 75-90 minute workout is the equivalent of an 18-20 hour fast. . .fasted workouts are cleanses and metabolic capacity builders on steroids.
One more important thing you need to know. The trivial calories of a black coffee, tea or Vespa and electrolytes before or during your physical activity do not physiologically break the fast!
Hydration is REALLY important when it comes to seamlessly and successfully fasting. While most people know they need to drink more water they do not understand the critical need for the right balance of electrolytes that go hand in hand hydrating.
I think this has to do with the massive messaging about minimizing sodium/salt intake as the ‘villian’ for causing high blood pressure……in reality fasting addresses the root cause of high blood pressure and without appropriate sodium to literally ‘fill the void’ of increased plasma volume you can suffer from the ‘keto flu’.
#4 Chronic Stress and Hunger
Chronic stress is another major factor in determining your fasting window capacity. While modern life has removed some very real and life threatening stressors from our lives, it has replaced those sporadic and isolated stressors with hundreds of chronic daily mini-stressors. These ping our cortisol in micro-doses mimicking the same fight or flight physiology to burn glucose, thus defeating one of the main goals of fasting; fat burning. It also it not very fun fasting this way.
If you have to gut out a fasting window or find yourself hangry or obsessing about food during fasting, many of the benefits are severely impacted. When any or all of these occur during a fast your body is:
One. Turning your metabolism down.
Two: Shifting into scarcity modality, shifting your physiology from fat release to fat storage.
Three: Turning up the hunger signals.
This combination sets you up to over consume and subsequently store calories rather than burn them. An overextended fasting window not only negates many of the benefits of fasting, but makes fasting even harder.
A Better, more Practical Way
We’ve developed a better way to achieve the metabolic goals of fasting as part of our comprehensive OFM Program. However, this requires a deeper dive and individual consideration which is more than I can address in this vlog post. You can find this and other content in our learning centre.Finally, fasting should not be a metric-driven, stress filled test of will. It should be a seamless and natural part of LIVING which is precisely how we approach it.