08 23 intermittent fasting weightloss healthOne blogger tries the latest diet craze: intermittent fasting.

For those keeping tabs on the latest diet crazes, chances are you’ve heard of, or read about, Intermittent Fasting (IF). While there’s a number of variations to IF, proponents argue it’s the most powerful way to shift your body from accessing its energy from glucose (stored as glycogen) to fat stored in your tissues.  Essentially, IF forces your body to burn more fat while storing less over time. 

Talk about an ideal shift for weight loss and overall health.  In fact, some studies show IF may also help reduce sugar cravings and promote longevity.

Recently I put three different IF plans to the test. While weight loss wasn’t my number one goal, overall I found IF to be effective. Here’s a look at three plans worth trying:

Plan 1, created by leading health expert, Dr. Mercola: Eat between the hours of 11:00 AM and 7:00 PM

The plan: Eat a diet of mostly lean proteins, tons of vegetables and healthy fats including olive oil, avocadoes and nuts. Reduce and/or eliminate most grains, dairy and fruit (except berries). Don’t eat past 7pm and say good-bye to breakfast. Sounds easy enough right?

The low-down: Days one to three felt rough without coffee and my usual smoothie and toast - but I plowed through the mental fog and occasional stomach pangs the best I could, knowing that at 11:00 am I could break my fast and eat. By day four, my energy was better, I no longer craved coffee and my mental clarity improved too. Along with a mid-morning snack, I ate a healthy lunch and one afternoon snack without a problem. Dinner on the other hand involved careful planning, as I don’t often finish work until close to 7:00 pm. Most nights I was able to make the cut-off – including a glass of red for good measure.

Results: By day seven, I felt good and my energy was high. I can’t say I lost much weight, but didn’t expect to. For real fat loss, I’d recommend trying this plan for at least 10 days. And while I won’t be giving up my breakfast any time soon, I was happy to try something new and push my body into an alternative gear to source its energy.

Plan 2, The Fast Diet: Significantly Reduce Caloric Restriction 2 days per week

The plan: Taking my lead from the international best-selling book The Fast Diet, I fasted for two days (consuming approximately 800 calories per day), and ate regularly on the remaining five. There are many pros to this plan– namely you only have to worry about two days of restrictive eating. There’s also a ton of helpful information online, including meal plans and a calculator tool to determine your caloric needs.

The low-down: Choosing a Tuesday and Thursday as my fasting days, I definitely experienced hunger. I also missed my usual exercise-induced endorphins since I didn’t work out on my fasting days. Knowing I could resume eating normally the following day made the temporary pain worthwhile. My fasting meals were relatively easy to make and tasty too, and consisted mostly of fish, vegetables, greek yogurt and nuts, along with lots of water and sparkling green tea. 

Results: I lost a pound or two, which is normal for one week. Overall, I felt good and would try this again. It’s easy to follow and can be practiced for weeks or months at a time. It’s also customizable, meaning if you want to lose more weight, simply add another fast day. If weight loss isn’t your goal, subtract a fasting day and/or increase the number of calories on your fasting days. 

Plan 3, Precision Nutrition created by Dr. John Berardi’s: Randomly Skip 2-3 Meals every week

The plan: Modeled after our ancestor hunter-and-gatherer days, this IF-styled diet promotes a paleo-friendly diet (mostly protein and vegetables, no dairy, grains or anything processed) with occasional meals such as breakfast or dinner skipped. The premise being -when food wasn’t always available, we humans had to adapt while still remaining active.

The low-down: Following this plan for seven days was actually quite easy. My work days are typically very busy so giving up lunch on two occasions wasn’t so hard.  By 2:30 pm, I could reach for a handful of nuts, a cup of tea and keep going until dinner. On the other three days, I gave up one breakfast and two dinners. Of all the meals to skip, dinner was the hardest. Since my work days can be so hectic, I see my evening meal often as my ‘reward’. To alleviate my pain, I went for a walk instead - and accepted going to bed feeling a bit hungry.

Results: No significant weight loss but I definitely felt lighter on the days I missed a meal. Overall, I really liked this plan as it forced me to think less about eating and more on the foods I choose to eat. If you follow a paleo-diet, you soon realize how well your body performs when relying on protein, veggies and healthy fat. Sugar cravings end quickly – and so do the energy-crashes that come with them.