Benefits of Intermittent Fasting: my experience with the 16/8 pattern of eating for long-term health!
It turns out that when you eat is just as important as what you eat! Being in the health and wellness realm, I’m well aware that diets are everywhere; however, IF is not necessarily a “diet” but instead a pattern of eating. Although I love a good breakfast (like this Sweet Potato & Brussels Sprout Hash or Cherry Oat Pancakes!), skipping it has actually increased my metabolism and made me feel amazing!
What is Intermittent Fasting?
Intermittent Fasting (IF) is a pattern or style of eating where you switch between periods of fasting and periods of eating. In the long run, the benefits of intermittent fasting are vast; this style of eating helps optimize the body for long-term health. Switching between periods of eating and fasting actually maximizes your body’s metabolism.
When you eat, your body spends 3-4 hours burning calories, immediately using them as a source of energy. This is especially true if you consumed carbohydrates or sugar since the body breaks those down first. In a fasted state, the body is low on glucose and instead utilizes stored fat for energy. When we eat regular meals and snacks, our body never truly enters a fasted state; this is combated through Intermittent Fasting.
Benefits of Intermittent Fasting
- Intermittent Fasting increases metabolism. Our bodies’ natural response to eating food is insulin production. During a fasted period, your insulin levels decrease significantly and human growth hormone levels rise exponentially. Both facilitate fat-burning and muscle gain. Because of the hormone changes, IF can accelerate your metabolism by 4-14%!
- IF decreases your risk of developing Type 2 Diabetes. Due to improved insulin sensitivity and better glycemic control, the risk for developing Type 2 Diabetes is much lower (source). There is still more research to be done in women, though!
- IF can reduce oxidative stress and inflammation in the body.
- It induces cellular repair. Fasting triggers the removal of waste products in the body, promoting cellular repair processes. For this reason, it may help decrease the incidence of cancer and heart disease.
My Experience with IF
Several different methods can be used to intermittent fast. I use the 16/8 method, which is essentially a 16 hour fast, and eating meals within an 8 hour window. Other methods exist, like fasting for a full 24 hours (Alternate Day Fasting). I’ve found that the 16/8 method is the easiest and feels the least restrictive to me. Since I have a background with disordered eating, the 16/8 method allows me the most flexibility and zero restriction!
My husband was the first one to talk me into trying IF. At first, I thought it sounded like a terrible idea given my history of disordered eating, but after fully recognizing the benefits of Intermittent Fasting, I decided to give it a shot! It’s been 3 months and I haven’t looked back!
Here’s what I’ve found:
It’s easy for me to skip breakfast. // When I was a kid, I’d eat breakfast as soon as my feet hit the floor. And I’m not talking about a healthy breakfast either! Two or three bowls of cereal and maybe a slice of toast later, I was out the door for school. Things are much different now! On a typical day, I don’t start to feel hungry until around 9 or 10 a.m., so it’s really easy to push past that hungry feeling for another couple hours until lunch time.
My eating window is from 12 noon until 8 p.m. I fast from 8 p.m. for 16 hours until 12 noon the following day. I’ve found this to be the easiest, but do whatever works for your schedule!
My workouts haven’t suffered one bit. // I thought that by practicing IF, I’d see my strength decrease, but actually it’s quite the opposite. Glycogen is depleted during a fasted state, forcing your body to pull energy from stored fat. It’s depleted even more during a workout, leading to increased insulin sensitivity. The meal you consume after a workout will be stored much more efficiently.
I want to snack less. // Because I’m not eating breakfast, my lunch and dinner meals are larger in size. These keep me fuller longer, so I really don’t feel the need to snack throughout the day.
I haven’t had any tendencies toward disordered eating. This one is really important for me. One of the benefits of Intermittent Fasting is that it’s technically not a diet. I eat what sounds good (whatever I want!) within an 8-hour window and have never once felt restricted.
I desire to eat healthier because I know how my body is utilizing that energy. // Now that I know how my body is using the calories I feed it (or, rather, how insulin is reacting to the foods I eat!), I crave healthy foods because I know I’m being fed the things my body truly needs. Vitamins, minerals, whole grains, lean protein, healthy fats, a very minimal amount of sugar… I feel great!
I’m not strict about my eating window. // If Josh and I are out late or celebrating something over dinner, we may not eat until 9 p.m. I just compensate by fasting an hour later the next day. Coffee or tea usually tides me over and it isn’t as hard as it seems!
I absolutely love Intermittent Fasting and can see myself practicing this eating style for quite a while. Of course, I will never be rigid about it. When Josh and I vacation, I’m more flexible about my eating patterns (though it actually saves us money on food!).
I will be honest and tell you that the scale has changed a little. Though I really don’t like to check my weight (it brings up old disordered body image tendencies), I have stepped on the scale a few times throughout the process. I overall feel leaner, stronger, and more defined, with less body fat and more muscle mass!
What do you think about the benefits of Intermittent Fasting? Have you tried it? I’d love to hear your thoughts in the comments!