I have been helping people improve their health and fitness for over 20 years. in at least 95 percent of cases, my clients have a goal of weight loss. It could be a goal of losing three kilograms or 30 kilograms. Sometimes each of these goals is equally compelling to the individual, and they both require the same strategy in terms of exercise and nutrition.
I have owned several health clubs and have done thousands of consultations with new members. It is very important to commence with a consultation in order to get a feel for someone’s exercise history, injuries, and medical considerations. It also provides an understanding of their lifestyle, so we can discuss and set their goals, take measurements, and talk about nutrition.
The funny thing is, people often decide to join a gym or see a personal trainer to exercise, and when we discuss goals, weight loss is inevitably one of them. We end up talking a lot about nutrition because it’s this component that is responsible for weight loss, more so than exercise. You can exercise 10 times per week, but if your nutrition isn’t right, you can get fit and strong, but not lose any weight.
Nutrition is a broad topic, and it can be fascinating, frustrating, and intensely personal. I was never a huge proponent of intermittent fasting until around 2014 when—after helping people with weight loss for 15 years—it became very clear that the main issue was overeating. In other words, consuming too many calories over the course of a day, a week, or a month.
What I have discovered is that eating results in more eating, and when someone has a meal before 9 am, they are more likely to eat something else around 11 am, and then lunch in the middle of the day. Before you know it, they have consumed at least 1,000 calories and only half the day is done.
Most foods these days are low in nutrients, and because our body isn’t satisfied by these foods, we don’t even question why we are compelled to eat again in the afternoon. And, of course, we have to eat dinner, and then three hours after dinner, it’s not unusual to find ourselves staring into an open fridge or pantry, looking for something to snack on while we relax or because we’re bored.
A weight-loss diet involves consuming 800 to 1,100 calories per day, and you can see in the scenario above how eating five or six times per day makes this challenging. It is not possible to lose weight when you are consuming more calories than you are burning.
Intermittent fasting, which is most commonly eating all your meals between 12 pm and 8 pm, thus and eight-hour window for eating and a 16-hour window of fasting, solves so many issues, and it can work with whatever nutrition preference you like. Fasting is key to increased levels of vitality and energy. Eating light as opposed to eating heavy makes you less bloated; and burning fat is a much more efficient source of energy than burning sugar.
Benefits of intermittent fasting include:
Weight Loss —you simply can’t eat as many calories in 8 hours as you can in 14 hours.
Anti-aging —digestion is a process that takes up a huge amount of energy. When we let it switch off, a host of other immune functions kick in, resulting in increased production of growth hormone, testosterone, and collagen, the way they were in our younger years. Fasting also lowers insulin levels, therefore reducing the risk of insulin resistance and developing type 2 diabetes. Human growth hormone is an important hormone produced by your pituitary gland. Also known as growth hormone, it plays a key role in body composition (your levels of muscle and body fat), cell repair, and plays a key role in your metabolism. Short term fasting actually increases your metabolism by anywhere from 3% to 14%, meaning you burn more calories with no additional effort. Growth hormone also boosts muscle growth, strength, and exercise performance, while helping you recover from injury and disease. Low levels may decrease your quality of life, increase your risk of disease, and result in weight gain. Optimal levels are especially important for weight loss, recovery, and regular exercise. (Source: Healthline). See how fasting is not just a calorie reduction strategy? It assists in weight loss, health and longevity by positively altering our internal environment. You don’t need food for energy. Eating a meal isn’t going to give you an abundance of energy. In fact, the opposite is true. Fasting increases energy. Eat light. Give the body a rest. Digestion uses a lot of energy and makes you tired and other important immune functions can’t work properly at that point.
Mental Acuity —we feel sharper when we don’t eat in the morning, and we also don’t get the “brain fog” associated with early morning carbohydrate consumption. Think in terms of evolution: if it was 300 thousand years ago, and it was 11 am, and I hadn’t eaten yet, my mind would need to be at its sharpest in order to hunt and kill something to eat. The point of this is to show that our bodies evolved to operate really well when we don’t eat a carbohydrate-heavy breakfast.
Results in Fat-Burning —we can only burn fat when carbohydrates are not present, and it takes 12 hours for our body to remove all traces of carbs from the blood. So, if my last meal of the day is at 8 pm, I cannot burn fat until 8 am the next day. Between 8 am and midday, when the fast is still going, acts as the fat-burning window.
Simple and Flexible —you end up eating your first meal at midday, a snack in the afternoon if you need it, and dinner at 7 pm. You can even snack after dinner if you can make the 8 pm cut-off. You don’t need to fast until midday every day to achieve weight loss with intermittent fasting, but the more often you do, the better the results. It is not just good for weight loss. It is terrific for overall health. And the eating window does not have to be between 12 pm and 8 pm, it can be any eight-hour window within a 24-hour period, for example your eating window could be between 8 am and 4pm, and your fasting window from 4 pm to 8 am.
Many cultures had this figured out thousands of years ago. However, in the Western world, we think we have to wake up and eat cereal, toast, yoghurt, fruit, or eggs, or have a smoothie. Eating to stimulate your metabolism is a load of rubbish. Eating six small, regular, meals per day is like telling an alcoholic to have just a few little drinks every day. It’s a set up for disaster.
With 50 percent of society overweight or obese we need to take a look at what we have been conditioned to believe is true and where this information came from. Many people are waking up and throwing down a breakfast meal on top of last night’s dinner that the body has not yet metabolised. It’s not healthy and can lead to long-term ramifications for the gut, bowel, and intestines. Give the digestive process a rest and let the body clean itself out. The process is called autophagy, and it’s like spring cleaning for our dead cells. It happens when we fast.
There are a few different versions of intermittent fasting; however, this one, with the eight-hour eating window and 16-hour fasting window, seems to be the most practical. Lots of people find it easy to wake up, exercise, get ready for work, sort the kids out, and do whatever they have to do without worrying about finding time to eat. Following on from that, the idea is to eat two to three meals between midday and 8 pm.
Morning fasting is also the ultimate compensation strategy for times when you overeat at dinner, have a few drinks, or eat late. It can all be counteracted by making your first meal the next day at midday or later. During the morning, the hunger will come in waves that last five to 10 minutes. Just ignore them, and associate those feelings with better health. If you are new to this, the first couple of days will be the hardest, and after a while, you will wonder why you were worrying about eating a meal first thing in the day for the last 30 years.
If you need a new slogan, you can tell yourself that breakfast is the most important meal of the day … to skip.