While working at home, it can be especially tempting to snack more periodically on unhealthy foods when the kitchen is in close quarters. However, the problem with constant snacking (especially late at night) is that we fall out of a routine. Studies have suggested that eating excess calories late at night, particularly those high in refined sugar or trans fats, could potentially lead to weight gain overtime. Therefore, planning our meals throughout the day can help us avoid mindless eating and establish a healthy energy balance of calories consumed versus calories expended through exercise. Having more time at home means we can cook healthier meals with quality ingredients.
F45 Nutritionist Kim Bowman highlights the importance of structuring a healthy eating routine at home—“just as we need to provide structure to our at-home work schedule, we also need to bring structure to our daily eating habits. While working at home, an intermittent fasting approach may help us be more mindful of our food choices and hold us accountable to staying on track.”
Intermittent fasting is a growing trend in the health and fitness industry and has demonstrated a number of health benefits.
What is intermittent fasting?
Intermittent fasting is an eating pattern that cycles between periods of fasting and eating. It doesn’t require macronutrient restriction (protein, carbs, fats) but instead focuses on meal timing. While “Yo-yo dieting” can be unsustainable and may only lead to short-term weight loss results, the goal with intermittent fasting is to develop lifestyle changes. The mind is connected to our eating habits. Developing an eating routine that incorporates meal timing automatically creates an internal sense of awareness about our food choices. Planning meals throughout the day makes us more conscious of the types and portions that we select.
By practicing cycling through periods of fasting and eating while consuming wholesome, substantial meals with quality ingredients, we start to lessen cravings for foods high in sodium or refined sugar. In fact, studies have found that intermittent fasting has numerous health benefits, not only for maintaining a healthy weight but also for improving blood sugar levels, cholesterol profile, and reducing inflammation within the body [5, 7, 9]. Fasting has also shown to increase levels of the human growth hormone (HGH), promote lean muscle development, and improve body composition and metabolism .
Additionally, intermittent fasting protocols have shown promise for those with pre-diabetes or type 2 diabetes, as indicated by reductions in waist circumference and improvements in insulin sensitivity .
How does intermittent fasting work?
Complex carbohydrates, particularly refined grains, are broken down into sugar which our cells use for energy. Insulin, a hormone made in the pancreas, brings sugar into fat cells and keeps it there. While fasting, the body adjusts hormones to make fat more accessible. Specifically, there is a reduction in insulin to facilitate fat burning and utilize stored fat for energy. On the other hand, during the eating window, insulin levels are high as the body is digesting and absorbing food—this lasts about 3 to 5 hours.
The key difference between a fed and fasted state is that sugar can only enter our cells with insulin. Therefore, a period of fasting has shown to allow insulin levels to drop low enough so that we enter a period of fat burning (so as long as we achieve an overall energy deficit). While there are a range of beneficial physiological processes that occur when intermittent fasting is done correctly, the success of weight loss stems from the energy deficit that is created. There are a number of different intermittent fasting protocols in the research with the 16:8 and 14:10 methods being the most common. This protocol typically involves cycling through an 8 to 10-hour eating window followed by either 14 to 16 hours of fasting.
What are the key benefits of intermittent fasting?
- Weight loss
- Improvements in blood sugar
- Improvements in high blood pressure
- Improvements in cholesterol
- Whole-body detoxification
- Reduction in oxidative stress and inflammation
It’s important to note that while there is recent research that highlights the short-term benefits of intermittent fasting for weight loss and overall health, the long-term effects of intermittent fasting are unclear. More evidence is needed on the long-term effects of intermittent fasting before it can be prescribed for clinical use . Therefore, the best health strategy is to develop a healthy eating routine that works for your lifestyle while also incorporating regular exercise. Additionally, for elite athletes while intermittent fasting may be beneficial during particular training blocks, it is always recommended to consult your Sports Dietician or Physician prior to starting.
Intermittent fasting tips:
- Plan your grocery shop for the entire week.
- Optimize food quality by fueling with predominantly wholefoods (fruits, vegetables, beans, lean proteins, and healthy fats) while avoiding sugars and refined grains.
- Prepare your own comfort food! Having healthy snacks or sweets will minimize cravings for sugar and processed foods.
- Avoid snacking late at night while incorporating snacks rich in quality protein and dietary fiber between meals to help manage appetite.
- Avoid sugary beverages and diet sodas.
- Stick to lots of water, black coffee, or an americano within the fasting window.