You may have heard of intermittent fasting–the idea has caught on as a way to jumpstart your metabolism and lose weight by burning fat instead of glucose. I recommend it to clients who have been on the Paleo diet for a while and tested it on myself recently.
So what is intermittent fasting? Fasting involves skipping meals for a certain period of time. Some people fast during Lent, a Catholic observance or Ramadan, a Muslim observance, which can benefit them both spiritually and physically. However, intermittent fasting is a more secular concept based on the idea that sudden and intermittent calorie restriction can shift your body from using glucose as energy to using fat as energy. Glucose is a source of fast-burning energy and is converted into glycogen and stored by your liver and muscles. It takes about eight hours for your body to metabolize your glycogen stores. After that, your body starts to shift into fat-burning mode. However, if you are replenishing your glycogen stores by eating every eight hours (or sooner), you make it harder for your body to use your fat stores as fuel.
You can schedule your fasting in different ways. For example, some people find it beneficial to do a daily fast by eating 2 meals within a 6 hour or 8 hour time-frame, while others may fast one or two days a week. A 2007 American Journal of Clinical Nutrition study found that when researchers divided study participants into two groups and had one group eat all their calories in three meals spread throughout the day and the other group eat the same number of calories but in a restricted time frame, the latter group had a ‘significant modification of body composition, including reductions in fat mass.’
After hitting a plateau in my weight and wanting to drop 5 pounds, I started eating 2 meals daily instead of my usual 3 without significantly cutting calories. I still eat breakfast, usually a veggie omelet, when I have finished my yoga, stretching and meditation routine. This typically is between 9 and 10 am. Then, I skip lunch and have a light snack and eat my dinner between 3 and 5 pm depending on what’s going on that day. When I play tennis at night, I will eat a light snack afterwards. After doing intermittent fasting for a week, I lost 3 to 4 pounds along with eating Paleo and regular exercise.
Because my metabolism is higher during the day than in the evening, it makes sense to eat my biggest meal earlier in the day rather than at night. Research actually shows that people who eat the majority of their calories later in the day tend to eat more calories, weigh more and have more body fat. Try making breakfast and lunch (even a late lunch) your big meals and then try skipping dinner or having a light meal or snack if you’re hungry, especially after a workout. During fasting, you want to drink water and a cup of tea or black coffee are OK.
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