Every week I hear another expert or influencer sing the praises of intermittent fasting or time-restricted eating. They say it's the key to getting lean and it'll extend your life. Although some or even all of these claims may be true....some are true in humans and some only in mice.
How do you know if it’s right for you?
Well, that was the question I wanted to consider. With all of the benefits and potential drawbacks, what type of person would succeed with this strategy, and what type of person would find it as just another fad that ultimately distracts you from what you really should be focused on.
The first question to consider is...
01: When do you work out?
Are you the type of person who likes working out in the morning? Or do you prefer late morning or evening? Your answer to this question is critical when trying to figure out how you would implement this fasting strategy. Most people implement this strategy with a 16-hour fast and an 8-hour feeding window. The bulk of this fasting window is used to sleep and then wake to get a few things done like working out. For example, if I were to eat my last meal at 6 pm, and go to bed around 9 or 10, I'd then eat my first meal the next day at 10 am. If I’m waking up around 6 or 7 am, I could work out in the morning, then by the time I shower and get a few tasks done, I would be at or near this feeding window. This all works great. Well, if you typically workout at 10 am or later then you would be feeding yourself prior to your workout which may make your workout uncomfortable. Or maybe you’re the person who likes to work out in the evening. If you’re eating the appropriate amount of food, you’ll probably be stuffed for that workout as well. For most people, working out in the fasted window makes the most sense and if the fasted window doesn’t fall neatly in your daily schedule then fasting may not be the best route for you.
So, let’s say morning workouts are your jam. What’s the next question you should consider?
02: How are your sleep and stress management techniques?
Reducing your feeding window may bring some stress to your life. You’re creating unneeded boundaries to a problem that could be solved much easier using other methods…which brings stress. Some people, though, may think that this may relieve stress because you know you don’t have to worry about making breakfast or eating during the fasting window. However, as we mentioned previously. if you’re feeding yourself appropriately, you’ll just be shifting the stress from early morning to your feeding window. It’s not resolving the stress, it’s transferring the stress to another time of day.
This is where asking about your sleep and stress management techniques really make sense. If you’re not sleeping 7-9 hours a day and really managing your stress well, you’re missing out on one of the biggest health benefits we have. The aspect of your health journey that you should be focused on isn’t reducing your feeding window, it should be getting enough sleep and managing the overall stress on your body. Not sleeping enough or managing your stress will cause your body to hold onto fat.
This leads us to the last and most important question to ask yourself before considering intermittent fasting.
03: Is your nutrition already dialed in?
The most important factor in your health journey will be the food you consume. Ensuring you’re eating the right amount for your goals in a normal day is critical BEFORE you restrict your feeding window. Think about it. Why do you tend to binge on certain foods? For most people, it’s because they didn’t feed themselves properly earlier on in the day. I skip breakfast, I binge on chips and cookies at lunch. I didn’t eat enough fiber, fats, and proteins earlier in the day, I binge on carbs later in the day. We think, "well if I reduce the amount of time I would be eating, I'll eat less." Even though that may be true, it doesn't mean you'll be getting the appropriate amount of vegetables, fats, proteins and carbs that your metabolism needs to function optimally.
Reducing your feeding window doesn’t solve the underlying problem of poor nutrition. And high volumes of poor nutrition is what causes poor health.
Maybe these questions help guide you a little better than choosing to fast simply because you don’t want to hassle with breakfast anymore.
Plus, as added info, adding in a small meal within the first hour of waking will let your body know to start burning calories and gets the digestive tracts moving and metabolism revving.
If you can say, "yes!" to all of these questions and feel intermittent fasting is right for you, then go for it. For us, we're just going to put this in the diet fad category until we see some more reliable statistics. Until then, we're going to stick with what we know works for 99.9% of people.