Now that you’re sold on the idea of intermittent fasting, here is some tips and frequently asked questions on how to derive the best results for your effort.
• Drink water
Lots of it. It keeps you full, and you’ll need to stay hydrated, especially at the beginning. The large reduction in insulin results in the kidneys excreting a lot of excess water and it is important you help the body’s flushing process.
For those starting out, you can cheat by adding lemon to the water for a bit of taste to get rid of hunger pangs, but remember to ween yourself off it over time.
• Does black coffee count?
Many people are way too dependent on coffee. If you’re only doing 16:8 then it may work well to boost your metabolic rate and make the most of that 16 hour period. Plus, it helps you keep that element of “breakfast” in your mornings.
You need to be very careful that you keep it to a very low dosage though, as caffeine increases anxiety and stress levels. If your hunger is already contributing to that, you can end up amplifying it.
Also, if you’re going longer than 16 hours, it is recommended taking it as an opportunity to learn to do without coffee. Take advantage of the natural alertness that fasting for long periods gives you.
Past 16 hours you may also not want to be getting coffee involved: the point of long fasts is to let your body rest from dealing with food and hit “reset”.
Some purists point to continued enzyme release, mainly by your liver, to deal with black coffee and caffeine and how this can hold back the regenerative effects on the digestive system.
Why not address two addictions at once?
Pro tip: Research Acetyl L-Carnitine as an alternative or keep a lookout for an upcoming article on this.
• How to fight hunger
Brush your teeth. Seriously, it kills your appetite. But there’s absolutely no need to brush your teeth vigorously five times a day – that would likely ruin your gums or enamel – a quick scrub will do.
• Got a headache? Feeling dizzy?
Calm down, your electrolytes are just low. A pinch of pink Himalayan Rock Salt under the tongue will address this; watch your mood suddenly perk up.
Have a nap if you need to, there’s some serious spring cleaning going on in your body at the moment. So rest.
• How to break a fast right
Eat fats. When you haven’t eaten for a long period of time, your insulin is extremely sensitive, so don’t go throwing sugar at it. Bring in slow-release carbs later in the day. If you’re not sure what foods are high in fat, Google it.
However, anyone who’s trying to build muscle needs to understand that a driven insulin response is a good thing as explored in the article Meet Insulin. Especially if you’re using it to help nutrient replenishment in your muscles post-workout.
One tactic, provided you’ve not fasted for over 24 hours, is to “train fast” (or consume a small portion of simple sugars like bananas and dates), finishing up 30-60 minutes before breakfast, and load your body with good quality carbs.
Ever wondered why bodybuilders inject themselves with insulin? A spike around training is beneficial and only lasts for a few hours. Use it to your advantage.
One thing to consider is tailoring your fasts to your activity levels and body fat percentage. If you are already under 12% body fat, fat stores aren’t as abundant to tap into when you run low.
If you’re also doing more exercise than most in the space of your fasted period you could end up “fasting for longer” by having to burn more calories from stored fats.
As a result, your calorie deficit may affect your stress levels quicker than others and tax your nervous system heavily, preventing proper recovery.
It doesn’t immediately identify itself, simply because mentally, you still feel amazing. But it could result in your muscle mass dropping (despite you getting stronger) and an onset of injuries.
You need to take your lifestyle in mind when deciding when to time your fasts and how long to do them for.
Lastly, listen to your body. If you’re in a slump near the end of a fast but need to be in a meeting or the gym soon then break your fast early with some brain-fuel like blueberries and pumpkin seeds.
Sometimes it’s not worth detracting from aspects of your life so you can stick to a fasting number. Make up the hours some other time when it feels right.
Joompa is a digital platform that facilitates the sourcing and booking of freelance, mobile personal fitness coaches. Available on iOS or via www.joompa.com.my