There are a lot of “buzz words” out there and diet trends that constantly claim to be the best method for losing weight, gaining muscle, getting leaner, etc. One such “trend” that’s been circulating the health world is the phrase ‘intermittent fasting’. The idea of fasting has been around hundreds of years, but the idea of ‘intermittent fasting’ first burst on the scene in 2012 with the TV documentary Eat Fast, Live Longer and has subsequently grown in popularity in the years that followed.
Fast-forward to the present, and intermittent fasting has become a staple in the CrossFit community. In fact, one of the most famous CrossFit athletes of all time, THE Rich Froning himself, has found great success with intermittent fasting. So, if it’s a method of eating adopted by the greats, is it something that you should be doing as well? Let’s look at the basic facts and then you can determine if intermittent fasting is right for you.
First of all, it’s important to note that intermittent fasting differs from other dieting methods because the focus isn’t so much on what to eat, but when to eat. A very simple definition of intermittent fasting is that it is an eating pattern that cycles between periods of eating and fasting. Therefore, the focus isn’t so much on what types of foods to eat or avoid, but the timing of meals throughout the day.
There are actually several different types of intermittent fasting, but the following three methods have become the most popular:
- The 16/8 Method: this is also known as the Leangains protocol and involves skipping breakfast and keeping your daily eating period to 8 hours (such as between 1-9pm). Then you fast for the next 16 hours until your next eating period.
- Eat-Stop-Eat: This method involves fasting for 24 hours once or twice a week. An example of this would be to not eat from dinner one night to dinner the next day.
- The 5:2 Diet: For this method, 5 days of the week follow a normal eating schedule and on the other two days, you only consume 500-600 calories (however, these should be two non-consecutive days).
All of these methods do involve reducing your caloric intake (whether it be by purposely eating less calories on a couple days a week or restricting the time you take in meals) which should cause weight loss as long as you don’t compensate by over-eating during the eating periods. The 16/8 method is the most commonly used because it is the simplest and often fits into peoples’ lives the best.
Finally, it is important to note that there are several health benefits to intermittent fasting. For starters, intermittent fasting can reduce blood pressure, markers of inflammation, oxidative stress, insulin resistance, and risk of cancer. It can also increase cellular turnover and repair, fat burning, growth-hormone release, and metabolic rate. It also improves appetite control, blood-sugar control, cardiovascular function, and neurogenesis and neuronal plasticity.