I wouldn’t call myself a masochist, but when it comes to my health I sometimes end up getting myself into some interesting situations. For example, you’ll typically find me taking cold showers in the morning, and the type of exercise I instruct and partake in is predicated on completely fatiguing my muscles – it gets results, but it doesn’t feel too good. The reasons I do these things are for another article. For today, I’m going to bring up another healthy, sometimes uncomfortable, yet beneficial health hack.
It’s called intermittent fasting (IF).
IF is a dietary protocol which you restrict calories for generally 16-20 hours per day. As much as this is counterintuitive from what we used to hear about breakfast being the most important meal of the day, some research has brought some potentially interesting health benefits such as increased fat burn, HDL reduction, hormone regulation, and even possible reduction in cancer, diabetes, heart disease and neurodegenerative diseases. Again, this is new and budding science, mostly only conducted through animal studies, but the research looks promising. And hey, there are masses of people on the web singing the praises of IF for weight loss (1).
There are many different ways to approach a healthy IF protocol. I tend to just skip breakfast and eat two larger meals each day. I don’t stress too much about calories. The more important component is eating high quality, organic, whole foods that are minimally processed.
I also work out in a fasted state. By working out with an empty belly, your body is forced to empty your glycogen stores more effectively, which increases body fat oxidation for energy (2).
Try it out and see if it works for you. As with any dietary experiment, I recommend trying this method for at least 30 days before making any additional changes.