If I had a dollar for each time I have been asked my thoughts on intermittent fasting lately, I would be nearing retirement. I must say, I do appreciate people asking a professional versus Dr. Google at least. Intermittent fasting is a tough one when it comes to the latest fads. Many unintentionally "fast" quite often, meaning they skip breakfast due to laziness or the classic "I don't have enough time in the morning" excuse. Intermittent fasting is meant to be intentional and sought out.
So what is intermittent fasting?
Intermittent fasting is not consuming calories for a certain amount of time each day keeping your food intake to a designated window of time or set hours. For example, many will have an 8 hour window of the day in which they begin/stop eating, like 11-7; no food or caloric beverage before or after. The primary purpose of this style of eating is to limit the amount of time one has to eat and reduce overall consumption. In the designated window of eating time, unless on a caloric deficit diet, people are not reducing their daily caloric requirement. Intermittent fasting can also begin to tap into fat stores as a state of ketosis when the body goes extended periods of time without enough carbohydrate storage.
Burning fat, reducing time of eating junk and controlling your time of consumption doesn't seem like a bad regimen. What is the problem then?
As many of you know who follow me regularly, I teach sustainability. If you want breakfast, you CAN have breakfast, still lose fat and control metabolic disorders. I am actually a huge advocate for breakfast eating. Not because "it is the most important meal of the day," but because it is an opportunity to set your blood sugar. Fueling well with a breakfast full of healthy protein and fat will keep our bodies from riding the blood sugar roller coaster. The blood sugar roller coaster is just as it sounds- shooting the blood sugar up (with high carb breakfast) to then drop, to then be shot back up (another carb filled meal), to then drop again; all related to poor balance of macronutrients and inconsistency. Fat and protein are slower digesting and can keep that regulated to start the day.
Who here likes food? I am raising my hand! So for example purposes, let's say that your designated daily calories are 2,000. I can guarantee you that in 8 hours, most of you can eat 2,000 calories PLUS. When intermittent fasting, not everyone tracks consumption due to time being reduced. They assume "I cannot consume as much since I am not eating all day" or "I skipped breakfast and my regular Starbucks run" and therefore go willy nilly with their food choices/amounts. This results in STILL overeating. Does your body adjust to the fast and begin to not crave food in the morning? Yes. But that does not mean you are still not going to be hungry and easily consume a 1,500 calorie lunch leaving you only 500 for the next 7 hours. Do you catch my drift?
Last example: A Chipotle bowl with rice, beans, chicken, salsa, corn salsa, guac, fajita veggies and cheese averages 900 calories. BUT, that is ONLY if they stick to portion sizes. Ask for your rice next time on the side in a guacamole container. I am sorry now for the wake up call you will experience showing you a true serving of rice. So let's say it averages 1,200 calories since we are really getting 2-3 servings of rice (yes, that is even you people who say "light rice").
My biggest issue with intermittent fasting is the effect is has on female hormones. Fasting acts differently due to levels of testosterone versus estrogen. Ladies, can I get an "Amen" for hating men and their testosterone sometimes? We diet for months and lose 3 lbs. and they diet for 5 days and lose 10! Men.
Men and women have hormones that relate to satiety and hunger known as leptin, ghrelin and insulin. Both sexes also have kisspeptin, which is greatly influenced by these hormones. Women have shown to have more kisspeptin, resulting in easily throwing the bodies hormones out of balance with prolonged fasting. Women and their hormones are much more sensitive to changes like fasting, dieting, over exercising, poor sleep, stress, etc. I am here to tell you ladies, if you are not having a period (not birth control related), that is a sign of your body not being hormonally happy! If you want to lose weight or get your body to reach it's health goals, start with hormone regulation. Do not be looking at the next fad diet or short window of time to eat. Take your body out of a state of stress FIRST! Intermittent fasting, if messing with hormones, is another state of stress.
Men, I am fine with you intermittent fasting if you so choose. But do it the right way with wholesome foods and controlled portions.
Is IF a good way to gain self control around food if done right? Absolutely. If you are a male who does not love breakfast and feels appetite is well moderated through the day along with blood sugar, by all means, have at it! Ladies, I would strongly recommend getting into a regular breakfast routine. It doesn't have to be a 5 star omelette with avocado toast, but should contain healthy protein and fat sources. As you begin to see your hormones and appetite regulate with that, I bet you will see the body take the physical shift you have wanted; no fasting needed. So, I guess they are half right when they say "breakfast is the most important meal of the day."
Nutrition Yoda out.