Intermittent fasting - the simple process of not eating for anywhere from 24 hours to seven days before returning to normal eating - can bring some epic performance and health benefits. Here's 5 of the greatest intermittent fasting benefits
Why should you bother with intermittent fasting?
In short, because it is one of the quickest health and performance enhancers out there. Here's a quick snapshot of the benefits:
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Intermittent fasting benefits
1 Improve fat-burning abilities
With no calories coming in, your body will naturally turn to stored fat for its fuel. The more the body learns to do this, the more it will be likely to see fat as its go-to fuel source during exercise. Building an efficient fat-burning base is at the heart of all serious success in aerobic and distance sport.
2 Remember what hungry feels like
We often say we're hungry, but in the fortunate reality we live in where we're surrounded by an abundance of food 24/7, the reality is hunger isn't something we're experiencing often, if ever.
What we're more likely feeling is habit (it's 'time to eat'), or we're looking to break out of a mental rut and are are to use food - whether a snack or a meal - to do that by giving us a reason to move and think about something else.
By fasting, we get to reacquaint ourselves with actual feelings of hunger. Developing this relationship pays huge dividends on race day for our fueling as it allows us to more intimately interpret the signals our body is sending and to act far more accurately on them, meaning no more over-fueling, no more bonking.
3 Increase natural growth hormone production
When we fast, our bodies naturally increase growth hormone production. Studies have shown a five time increase in growth hormone production in response to just two days of fasting. With growth hormone playing a key part in muscular recovery and development, this is a great bonus.
4 Beat serious disease, improve immediate health
As University of South Florida professor Dom D'Agostino explains: "If you're over 40 cancer is one of the diseases with an 80% certainty of killing you. Fasting can reboot your body"
When you think about it, our bodies are permanently digesting and basically never get a break. That is a lot of energy being used for processing food. Taking a break by fasting gives the body an unparalleled chance to get to work fixing itself.
As an example, fasting can
- Increase insulin sensitivity, staving off diabetes
- Reduce cholesterol levels
- Lower body fat
5 Increase energy and brainpower
Boost brain power and productivity with intermittent fasting
By not eating, all that energy that would normally go into digestion is now free to be used elsewhere. And by not constantly having to decide what to eat, when to eat, what groceries to buy, and so on, you'll be amazed how much more time you have in the day to get serious sh*t done.
So, you're keen to try intermittent fasting - now what?
The biggest thing is to set yourself up for success. Make it incredibly easy to win at this fasting thing. What that means is taking baby steps, really slowly.
Leaping straight into a seven-day fast is an incredibly bad idea on every level. Fasting for any more than 24 hours is a serious mental challenge and will likely need plenty of research before beginning, and perhaps even medical advice.
At that point, you're getting tangled into the weeds of research as fasting becomes this giant demon taking over your life. Before you know it, the workload involved seems so insurmountable you've stopped before you even got started.
Instead, shoot for this: one 24-hour fast a month, for 3 months.
Simply commit to this, and try it. After that, if you dig it, you can work on building things up. Even these three short fasts will have great health and performance benefits and - most importantly, they mean you get going and avoid the mire of confusion that could hold you up.
24-hour intermittent fasting - how to do it
1 Book it in and get accountable
Put your first three fasts, one each month, in the diary and commit. Get accountability if that's a tactic that helps you by telling friends. Make sure to pick a day when you know you'll be likely to handle a fast, and when you'll be able to manage life and work intrusions. Fasting the day of a big family dinner or work event is only ever going to end badly.
Distractions like going to the cinema or anything else non-food based that keeps you out of the house (and away from the fridge) on the evening of your fast are a great help
2 Create a schedule for success
Personally, I find mondays work a treat and this is the schedule I've found to work best - adapt as needed for your own dates.
Saturday/Sunday: eat, train, and enjoy weekend life as normal, right the way through until a great dinner early on Sunday evening. Get to bed early
Monday: no food, water only, all day long. By lunchtime I'm cruising over the hill, by dinner time I've hit 24 hours and could eat again. Instead I usually aim for a second early night and cruise to an added 10 hours or so on my fast by sleeping. After all, you're not hungry when you're asleep!
Tuesday: breakfast is go and the fast is done. Winning! During training periods, I'll then always go for one of our 33Fuel Elite Pre and Post Workout Shakes for this breakfast blended up with almond milk and banana for the most delicious, power-packed hit of performance nutrients possible that's also super easy on the stomach.
Our Ultimate Daily Greens are the superb post-fast nutrient hit. Made with all natural ingredients, just one spoonful will flood your system with powerful alkalysers and antioxidants
3 A note on drinking and intermittent fasting:
It's water only, no soft drinks, no juice and ideally no tea or coffee either. The aim is to give the digestive system a total break and reboot. However, if you have a very serious caffeine habit and the idea of 24 hours without coffee freaks you out too much, increase your chances of winning at fasting by gently reducing caffeine fast-by-fast, rather than trying to tough out a double cold turkey in one hit.
Happy fasting and here's to your performance!