Intermittent Fasting: How I lost weight and gained focus by skipping breakfast

“Breakfast is the most important meal of the day”…so we’ve been told and so we repeated.  Turns out that isn’t the holy grail.

“Eat 5 to 6 meals a day to prevent your metabolism from slowing down”…so we’ve been told and so we repeated. Come to find out that’s not exactly true.

As a practicing Muslim once a year I spend 30 days going 16-18 hours a day not eating.  The fast during the Islamic month of Ramadan dictates for Muslims to stop eating and drinking during daylight hours and throws both these concepts out the window and most Muslims feel physically healthier and more productive during this time.  So why wasn’t I doing this more often? That’s what lead me to hacking my health by fasting.

Muslims are not the only group of people who fast by restraining from eating and/or drinking for extended periods of time.  Chapter 2 verse 183 in the Holy Qur’an says (what is translated as) O ye who believe! Fasting is prescribed for you, even as it was prescribed for those before you, that ye may ward off (evil)”  recognizing the previous faiths before revelation of the Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) in arabia some 1500 years ago and indicating that those religions throughout time were also commanded to fast.  Fasting isn’t limited to the Abrahamic faiths of Judaism, Christianity and Islam but many spiritual lifestyles and philosophies practice fasting including Buddhism, Taoism, Jainism, and Hinduism.

Researchers have been looking into the effects fasting has on the body and the finding have been absolutely fascinating. Weight loss, increased focused, cellular detoxification and increased cellular regeneration are all effects of eating less often.

You know I’ve been hacking my health lately so when I read the research I had to adopt this eating method (outside of Ramadan) and see what happened. Since I am use to fasting in and around Ramadan I started my journey with a full 36 hour fast to both challenge myself and get a huge brain boost and jumpstart on the health benefits, followed by a daily eating pattern of 16 hours fasting window and 8 hours of a “fed” window.  Most days I stop eating around 8pm and eat my first meal around noon.

Before we go further first let’s define the main terms –

Intermittent fasting is a schedule of eating where you are given a certain window of time during which you have to consume all of the calories for the day. It sounds simple enough, and it is, to some extent. The most common intermittent fasting schedule is for people to consume their calories in an eight hours window, after which they go into a fast for the rest of the day. However, there are several methods of intermittent fasting.

12:12 – Fasting for 12 hours a day and limiting your eating time to a 12 hour window [Good start for beginners to introduce the body to the concept]

16:8 – Fasting for 16 hours a day and limiting your eating time to a 8 hour window [Most common way of fasting because of its practicality.  Most often practiced by stop eating at 8pm, skipping breakfast and having the first meal at 12 noon.]

20:4 – Fasting for 20 hours a day and limiting your eating time to a 4 hour window [The most effective fast for weight loss since the greatest lipolysis happens between hours 18 and 20]

5:2 – Fasting for 24 hours twice a week on non-consecutive days [Effective for weight loss and health with less daily restrictions.]

36 hours – Going without food for 36 consecutive hours once a month, drinking only water, black coffee and tea without sweetner.  [Less common but effective for people who want boost in brain power and muscle growth]

 

Fed State refers to the hours in the day that you are eating AND digesting food. So you may eat at 2pm but your body is still digesting your food four hours later you are still in a fed state at 6pm.

Fasting State refers to the consecutive hours of the day you are not eating OR digesting food.

 

WEIGHT LOSS

After being in maintenance mode for several year while I was in school I decided that it’s time to drop this last 10 pounds. When I read about the effects of fasting on weight loss I thought “bet! I can kill two birds with one stone”. Using intermittent fasting a method of weight loss is like a dream come true.  You can simply change WHEN you eat and your body will burn more fat. I don’t want to give you the impression that exercise isn’t an essential part of losing weight and improving your health, but fasting alone can help you lose weight even without exercise and that’s a huge plus, especially for people who struggle to lose weight and have physical limitations that prevent them from moving more or exercising.

I already exercise 5-6 days a week and adding to my exercise routine isn’t my preferred option when it comes to increasing weight loss, so adopting a small change like eating time without adjusting my workout was exactly what I was looking for.  In a month I not only loss 10 lbs but I also decreased my body fat percentage by 5% while maintaining my muscle.

When we go extended periods without food the first thing that happens is insulin levels drops.  Insulin is the main catalyst for the hormonal domino effect that creates weight, but not just weight loss literal fat loss.  The lowering of insulin signal the increase of the mother of all fat burning hormones in the body: Human Growth Hormone (HGH). The increase in HGH has been shown not only to increase lipolysis but also maintain and build muscle at the same time, making it easier not just to lose the weight but keep it off.  

Lipolysis, the technical term for our body burning fat, is at its peak somewhere between 18 and 20 hours of fasting, which means that our bodies are the most efficient at burning fat for fuel after almost a day of not eating.

Researchers at the Intermountain Medical Center Heart Institute found that men, who had fasted for 24 hours, had a 2000% increase in circulating HGH. Women who were tested had a 1300% increase in HGH.

As a added perk, there is strong evidence that HGH stimulates collagen synthesis and improves the functionality and strength of muscles, tendons, ligaments, bones and exercise performance as a result. (Great for making the Collagen I take to hack my joints more effective) In other words get ready to SMASH YOUR FITNESS GOALS.

 

READ: What is Collagen? 5 Ways Collagen Can Boost Your Health

 

MENTAL FOCUS

I’ve been finishing my book mR40 Method and incorporating some of the experience of the first beta testing group into it.  It was slow going during the initial writing process but once I adopted fasting as a daily eating pattern my productivity and focus went through the roof.  I not only was able to sit down and write for longer stretches of time but also totally focus without being distracted. This is a result of increase in Brain-Derived NeuroTrophic Factor (BDNF) which has been called a “master molecule” and referred to as “Miracle-Gro for the brain” by Harvard Neuropsychiatrist, John J. Ratey, MD, author of Spark, The Revolutionary New Science of Exercise and the Brain. (A book I LOVE and highly recommend)

BDNF levels govern the formation of new neurons and the development of synapses and various lines of communication within the brain. Higher levels of BDNF lead to healthier neurons and better communication processes between these neurological cells contributing to better learning, memory and mental focus.  Intermittent fasting up to 36 hours has been shown to boost BDNF levels by up 400%.

HGH and insulin are opposites in function. HGH is focused on tissue repair, efficient fuel usage and anti-inflammatory immune activity. Insulin is designed for energy storage, cellular division and pro-inflammatory immune activity. Fasting increases HGH and decreases Insulin consequently reducing the inflammatory state of the body which improves brain function and overall tissue healing.

One of the first thing that starts to happen when fasting for more than 6 hours  our brain literally begins to clean itself. Now I’m on a mission to dispel the myths of fake “detox” programs but autophagy is literally cellular detox. Intermittent fasting turns on brain the cleaning phase of autophagy, or “self-eating,” in where the cells recycle waste material, regulate waste products and repair themselves. The cleansing phase is catabolic in nature in that it tears down old damaged cells.

I like to explain is like dusting your house.  During the day our brain is working extremely hard and in that process it uses cells, breaks down broken cells.  Think of these damaged cells as dust around the house. Dust buildup has nothing to do with how clean you are, it’s just a normal part of the environment.  Autophagy is the process of dusting and genetic repair that’s turned on through the release of human growth hormone. Intermittent fasting allows for the brain to clean itself up.  In this way, fasting improves brain function as there is less clutter blocking healthy neurological function in the brain. STRAIGHT FOCUS

 

TIPS AND ADVICE

Some people might argue that this sounds dangerous, because it goes against our best judgment to skip meals. Others are unsure about getting all the nutrients, vitamins and minerals they need during a fast, but to all of those people, I say: Ask yourself: Did our ancestors have food readily available at all times? Did cavemen have refrigerators?  Of course not! Our bodies are so smart you wouldn’t believe it.

On the other hand, there are some pitfalls that we want to stay away from. You have to bear in mind that this is an eating pattern, and not a diet. That’s amazing, because we can combine it with different diets, and get even better results (don’t even get me started on combining Keto and intermittent fasting, the list of benefits is too long to get into right now), but it can also be tricky thing. Even though this is a highly effective way to lose weight, basic laws of thermodynamics still apply. If you eat more than you spend, you won’t lose a lot of weight, I can tell you that.

Once you are adapted to this method of eating you don’t have to count calories because not many people overeat when intermittent fasting (you are just not that hungry) and that’s why this eating pattern is so amazing. It helps us stick to the diet that we are already on. On the flip side, it’s crucial to still get enough food in order for your body to be able to function normally. Remember, we are not starving, we are following a plan.

If you want to give intermittent fasting a try and you are a bit hesitant the best way to begin fasting is by giving your body 12 hours between dinner and breakfast every single day. This allows 4 hours to complete digestion of your food and 8 hours for the liver to complete its detoxification cycle. After this is a standard part of lifestyle, try extending the fast to 16-18 hours a day. Eventually, you may choose to do a full 24 hour fast twice a week on non-consecutive days.

This is just the most basic when it comes to intermittent fasting. To help you learn more about the health benefits of intermittent fasting, but also different ways to do it and tips and tricks on how to become a fasting expert I created the mR40 method.  

 

 

 

 

 

Sources:

  1.     Collier, R. (2013). Intermittent fasting: the science of going without. Canadian Medical Association Journal, 185(9), pp.E363-E364.
  2.     James Clear. (2018). The Beginner’s Guide to Intermittent Fasting. [online] Available at: https://jamesclear.com/the-beginners-guide-to-intermittent-fasting [Accessed 19 Apr. 2018].
  3.     Healthline. (2018). 10 Evidence-Based Health Benefits of Intermittent Fasting. [online] Available at: https://www.healthline.com/nutrition/10-health-benefits-of-intermittent-fasting [Accessed 19 Apr. 2018].
  4.     Publishing, H. (2018). Not so fast: Pros and cons of the newest diet trend – Harvard Health. [online] Harvard Health. Available at: https://www.health.harvard.edu/heart-health/not-so-fast-pros-and-cons-of-the-newest-diet-trend [Accessed 19 Apr. 2018].

 

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