Marks Daily Apple
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19 Mar

How To: Intermittent Fasting

After the great discussion last week following the 1 Meal vs. 3 Meals news post, we thought it was a great opportunity to follow up and delve into the nitty gritty of IF. Practically speaking, what does IF look like? Today we’d like to focus on the “window of eating,” a dimension of IF that got people talking last week.

Any brand of fasting can already seem a little daunting for the newcomer. (But for those whose impressions of fasting involve hunger strikes or gaunt figures sitting in meditation, we think you’ll be pleasantly surprised.) Reading about some options, and knowing your efforts will indeed be rewarded with true health benefits, makes the leap a little more inviting.

Let’s first put this on the table: there is no one way to do IF. The only real guideline is that, as always, the food you eat should be healthy. (It’s pretty clear how we choose to characterize that.) In addition to the substantial health benefits, the simplicity and flexibility are what draw people to IF.

As Mark said, he enjoys mixing it up beyond the use of one approach by missing meals naturally or on an unplanned basis in addition to full day fasts. Let your choice(s) fit with your personal/family schedule, natural rhythms, and your personality (some of us are meticulous planners and some are more spontaneous – “and that’s O.K.”). The point of IF is this: episodic deprivation takes your body “off the track” for a while and allows systems to reinvigorate and recalibrate (also known as up-regulating and/or down-regulating gene expression). Check out Mark’s previous post on IF for more info on the research and nifty benefits of fasting.

Here are a few ways to IF (in unofficial terms):

Skipped Meal:
As Mark alludes to in his comment in the 1/3 meals post, he likes to miss meals naturally or on an unplanned basis. When we listen to our bodies rather than blindly follow routine we find we’re not always hungry when mealtime comes around. Let yourself skip a meal when this happens, or plan a meal skip during a convenient time.

Condensed Eating Window:
As shown in the comments from last week’s post, this is a popular option. The day’s food intake is condensed within a set number of hours, often somewhere between four and seven hours. The timing of this window varies depending on the individual’s schedule and preferences. The time since you prior meal or until you next day’s meal becomes the fasting period.

Early and Late:
For some, this option is more easily managed than the condensed eating window. The day’s food intake and nutrients are balanced between an early meal and later afternoon/early evening meal.

Single Twenty-Four Fast:
Most people choose to have a normal dinner and then fast until the following evening. Others choose to extend the fast until the following morning. For many people, this can be a weekly routine. Others may integrate it on a monthly basis or as an occasional event based on their sense of progress/plateau.

Alternating Day Fast for Week (or more):
This approach is often credited with a deeper “cleansing” character. Some people do it once or twice a year. Others make a seasonal commitment. You can choose to drink only water or include teas/small amounts of juices during fasting days. On the alternate days, some people choose to eat normally, and some opt for reduced caloric intakes.

One tip: During your “window of eating,” however long or brief it is, don’t feel that you should eat more than you might be hungry for. It’s a unique opportunity to listen to your body’s signals. It also serves as a way to “prove” to your conscious brain that you can survive quite nicely on smaller amounts of food and that you don’t need to “make up” for those temporarily lost calories. Of course, eating according to the Primal Blueprint at all times whether fasting or not means that you are constantly refining your fat-burning skills. This, in turn, means that you are not so dependent upon regular meals to sustain normal blood sugar levels, physical energy and mental acuity.

Interested in trying IF for the first time? We’ll highlight the “condensed eating window” approach (one option among many) to get you started. This approach, particularly with a fairly extended window, is very doable and can seem less daunting as you get started. Choose your own timing and length of window based on your schedule and preferences. If you can’t decide, you can consider condensing your eating between the hours of eleven and 5:00 p.m. Look for a corresponding IF menu in this week’s installment of “Eat This Today, Feel Good Tomorrow” later on today.

Be sure to send your feedback. We’d love to hear your results!

*Florian Flickr Photo (CC)

Further Reading:

Post Workout Fasting

Modern Forager: My IF Success Story

Conditioning Research: IF Reduces Inflammation

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