You’ve probably grown up eating three square meals a day and our bodies are used to it, so we think it’s how it has to be done. We’ve all heard it and believed it for years. Well, you don’t need to eat 3 meals a day to be healthy and for most people its healthier not to. Skipping a meal (or sometimes a few) can be a great way to incorporate intermittent fasting into your health strategy.
What is Intermittent Fasting?
It’s nothing more complicated than a period of time where you don’t eat. Honestly, everybody does it every day because we don’t eat when we sleep. It’s just a more structured approach to when we eat. There are lots of different types of intermittent fasting but it’s as simple as choosing an extended period of time that you don’t eat compared to traditionally eating breakfast, lunch, dinner and snacks throughout the day. There are lots of benefits to intermittent fasting. We’ll talk about those a bit later but first let’s talk about how it can be easily done.
Intermittent Fasting Strategies
Intermittent fasting is super easy! Anyone can do it no matter how busy you are and there is no need for counting calories. The most strategic way to do intermittent fasting is to go on the 16 – 8 principle. This is where you do 16 hours of fasting and you have 8 hours where you eat your meals. So basically, you skip breakfast then you eat lunch, snack and dinner. Your eating window is from 12 pm to 8 pm (8 hours) and from 8 pm – 12 pm (16 hours) that is when you are in your fasting state. So, some people like to stick to the numbers but really any period of fasting is good.
Breakfast can be a good choice of a meal to cut out because the typical modern breakfast choices are detrimental to our health. Breakfast is usually cereals, sugars, carbs, bagels, cream cheese and choices that set you up for failure. When the first thing you put in your mouth is garbage, it basically sets your blood sugar level off on this wild roller coaster ride all day with lots of sugar cravings.
Dinner can also be a good meal to cut from your day, especially, in the beginning when you will be sleeping through the end of your fast. A lot of times dinner is the heaviest meal of the day. Some people, instead of making dinner a balanced square, load it with carbs and greasy foods.
24 Hour Fast
Another strategy is to choose one day a week for fasting. It’s a little harder to get used to especially if you haven’t trained your body to go without food. Honestly, it’s not that tough when you strategize it. For example, a Monday into Tuesday fast – you would still eat dinner on Monday night but then you don’t eat anything until Tuesday night. So, you still get to eat both days while getting the benefits of a 24 hour fast.
It is Easy and Tough
I’ll be honest, the first couple of times-it’s tough. Your body is used to food. It’s used to the hormonal response to food. For myself, it’s a little growling in the stomach, a little blah, but now ultimately my body is used to it. I do it most days except for a few breakfasts with family. We are so trained to need food. Always worried where our next meal is coming from. Seems silly, doesn’t it? I think so.
It wasn’t always but now my body is trained not to need food. It’s kind of a freeing thing. Now I just have a black coffee, or a water, but I don’t actually have food until lunch time. Make sure the beverages during your fasting times don’t have any calories. Having sugar in your coffee will impact the fasting. Anytime you have a calorie or have a hormonal response to what you are ingesting, it will break the benefit of what that fast is doing for you.
Benefits to Intermittent Fasting
What are the benefits? There are a few you’re going to like.
It’s highly beneficial for your body to have time to go into clean up mode. Research shows your gut lining can regenerate in 72 hours if you just fast. That’s how capable our body is in healing itself. We just have to give it a chance. If there is food in the system, it can’t do that.
It’s great for helping your body burn fat and giving your body efficient fuel. When you are in a fasted state your body is going to be burning fat. This is also a great time to work out because your body won’t pull fuel from your last meal and when it does that the fuel is carbohydrates. When you are fasting its coming from the fat so it’s more sustainable without the highs and lows. It’s less hormonally demanding. So, it’s actually more efficient and healthy for us to be able to burn fat.
It’s freeing and easy for those who are busy. I think that’s all of us. Intermittent fasting is great from a scheduling stand point. It’s nice to have to not worry about eating sometimes. That’s why I like skipping breakfast. I wake up and cool- I can just go about my day until lunch later on.
You don’t have to cut calories. You can still eat just as many calories. Everyone is so worried about calories and what the massive meals will do to their body but its ok. Let’s say your body is supposed to get that average 2,000 calories you just eat them in a shorter amount of time. You’re condensing your calories into a window that your body can be more efficient with them.
You have fewer meals to worry about your allergies. Cutting out meals makes your allergy diet easier. If you have had your allergies tested, you know what foods to avoid preventing inflammation in your body and keep it running well. If you have fewer meals to worry about, you have fewer times you have to watch out for your allergens. Especially, if you’re using the strategy of cutting out breakfast or dinner. So many common allergens are also common in breakfast like eggs, dairy, wheat and others. You might have more allergens for your dinner meal favorites so in that case you might choose to skip dinner.
Important to Know
Things to know are you may experience an energy drop at first but after time that will go away. Your body will learn to use that stored energy. Also, know that women with a high hormonal demand including those who are pregnant, or nursing should avoid intermittent fasting. If you are concerned about your hormonal balance or don’t know what it is- get tested! We don’t want to add stress to a body that is already stressed.
Still Worried About Skipping a Square?
Let’s think of aging and how constantly eating can impact your body. If your metabolism is always high you are pushing your pedal to the metal. If you’re driving your car down the highway driving 55 MPH or 75 MPH which one gets the better gas mileage? 55, because the demands aren’t as high. If we are eating constantly throughout the day, it’s a lot higher demand on the body.
The whole concept of intermittent fasting is to allow your body to be in a period of fasting when you don’t have food processing in your system. Then your body can utilize the energy to work on digesting. It can work on healing, repair, energy production and all these other things that it can’t do if its processing food. You are doing yourself and your body a favor.
So now you see, not only is it ok to skip a square – it’s healthier for you! Your body does not require 3 square meals, so now you have time for other adventures.
Written by: Dr. Greg Abbott