Intermittent fasting (IF) is a dietary practice that’s getting a lot of attention these days. In a nutshell, it involves fitting all your calories for the day into a condensed window of time and ‘fasting’ outside those hours.
Many intermittent fasters eat within an eight-hour window – for example, noon to 8pm – and fast for the remaining 16 hours of the day. The 8/16-hour ratio isn’t a hard and fast rule though; it can be adjusted to suit your needs and schedule.
Though intermittent fasting goes against what most of us have been told our whole lives (don’t skip breakfast!), there are several benefits to this way of eating. Our resident nutritionist Evian, who practices intermittent fasting himself, gave us the low down on what you need to know about IF – and how to do it safely.
5 Benefits of intermittent fasting
A TYPICAL IF DAY
For an example of what intermittent fasting looks like in practical terms, here’s a look at a typical day for Evian:
Wake up until noon: Fasting (no food; but drinking lots of water and coffee is ok too)
Noon: A big (healthy!) lunch
Sometime between 6 and 8pm: A big (healthy!) dinner
8pm onward: Fasting until bedtime (and overnight)
Evian is able to eat whatever and whenever he wants between noon and 8pm – there are no restrictions within the eating ‘window’ - though he tells us his meals are so filling he doesn’t usually need or want to.
And, to reiterate, the window can be adjusted – both in terms of length and timing. Many people find it easiest to skip breakfast and start their day with lunch (as Evian does) but you could stop eating at 6pm and begin again at 10am if that feels more doable and appropriate for you.
WHAT TO EXPECT AT THE BEGINNING
As is the case with most things, the transition into IF is the toughest part. Because your body is used to eating at certain times (ie: breakfast first thing), it releases a hormone (called Ghrelin) to signal hunger and make you want to eat at those times.
The first week or so is all about ignoring - and resetting - those signals. You WILL be hungry as you adjust – but Evian advises that you remind yourself that you’re not starving and that you’re hungry because your body is secreting Ghrelin. Within a couple of weeks your body will adjust to your new routine and you won't feel that same hunger.
During the transition – and beyond – you can consume coffee and other calorie-free drinks during your fasting windows. Drinking lots of water and the odd cup of coffee and/or tea is a good way to fend off hunger at the beginning.
If you want to try reducing your eating window to 8 hours but it feels like a big leap from where you are now, Evian recommends easing into it by decreasing your eating window gradually until you reach 8 hours (or the right number for you).
That said, it’s important to note that IF isn’t for everyone. Specifically, those with diabetes or hypoglycemia are not good candidates for this lifestyle because blood sugar levels can drop too low for their tolerance. And, as always, it’s best to speak with your health care provider before significantly altering your diet in any way.
The ketogenic diet is a very popular way of eating right now – that can lead to significant weight loss for some. As a result, many clients have been asking us what it’s all about and if they should try it.
So we asked our resident nutritionist, Evian Rodriguez – and here’s what he had to say about keto, its benefits (and drawbacks), and whether you should try it.
WHAT IS KETO?
Your body normally uses glycogen for energy (stored sugars from your diet that’s stored in your liver and muscles). When you deprive your body of carbohydrates and these sugars are not present to use as energy, your body begins producing ketones as a form of energy.
To get into this state – which involves a period of often unpleasant transition – you need to consume a high-fat, moderate protein, and low-carbohydrate diet. To get and remain in ketosis, most people need to limit their carbohydrates to 50 grams per day.
IS KETO RIGHT FOR ME?
A ketogenic diet can be beneficial and effective for someone who needs to lose fat (if you’re trying to bulk up or put on weight, it’s definitely not recommended as carbohydrates are an essential part of healthy weight gain).
Evian always recommends well-rounded eating as a first step towards fat loss – cutting out processed carbs, sweets and other extra/empty calories and replacing them with nutritionally dense whole foods in appropriate amounts. But for those having trouble losing the last few pounds – or who have reached a fat-loss plateau – it can be an effective short-term measure to reach a specific goal.
THE BENEFITS OF KETO
In addition to fat loss, keto can result in other positive effects including better overall health, mental clarity, improved digestion and more energy. That said, in order to feel your best you’ll want to make sure you’re eating more than bacon and salami – more on that below.
A healthy approach to keto
On a ketogenic diet, most people end up eating a lot of animal products for their fat content. So the first thing you want to do is make sure you’re picking yours wisely. Get the best quality meat you can afford – grass fed beef is best – and limit processed meats. Also, focus on consuming healthy fats like coconut oil, olive oil and avocado to help balance all that meat.
HOW WILL KETO AFFECT MY WORKOUTS?
Muscles need glycogen (the source of energy provided by carbohydrates) in order to perform at a high level. So those who do high-intensity/Olympic/very heavy weight lifting will likely notice a reduction in their performance.
But the average person doing in-home workouts will likely be just fine, once the transition to keto is complete…
BE PREPARED FOR THE KETO FLU!
Be warned that the transition into keto is not pleasant for most people. Expect three to seven days of withdrawal-like symptoms (like headache, tiredness and a foggy feeling) as your body and brain adjust to their new reality. This keto flu will take place every time you come out of and re-enter a ketogenic state (though the first one is usually the worst).
We hope you find this primer helpful! As always, if you have questions – or want to book a free first workout anywhere in Toronto – you know where to find us!
At Nielsen Fitness, we work with a lot of busy professionals who, despite being short on time, understand the importance of fitness, and want to make it a part of their lives.
Our November client of the month, Martin Gangadeen, is one of these clients. He’s been training with us for five years, and is a pro at setting mini goals for himself to stay motivated and on-track. Here’s his story:
Generally speaking, we don’t believe in one-size-fits all solutions – but there are some things that will pay off for virtually anyone when it comes to losing extra/unwanted fat:
Even if you know you should exercise and that you’ll reap major lifestyle benefits because of it, it can sometimes be hard to envision what those will look like.
To help you along – and do some celebratin’ while we’re at it – we’re pleased to introduce our new ‘client success’ profiles. One client (just like you) every single month. Sharing their journey, experience with NF, and the new heights they’ve reached.
So without further ado, let me introduce you to Ardith Engel. Read more about her fitness journey, wins, and plans for the future below!
This is embarrassing to say but, even though I own a fitness company, I haven’t always been the fittest looking guy.
A decade ago, working out was my life. I dabbled in strongman training and got to a point where I could deadlift 725lbs and held a record in the 800 pound tire flip.
Even after my dreams of being the next Magnus ver Magnusson waned, I remained firmly committed to fitness and strength training. But, as it does for so many people, life got busy. Kids came along, my business grew and demanded more of my time and energy and, somewhere along the way, I stopped prioritizing my own fitness.
The Body Mass Index - or BMI - is an algorithm of weight and height that was created by insurance companies many decades ago to help determine a person's risk for disease or mortality.
Fast forward to the present day and it's commonly used as a measure of health - but it shouldn't be. From a fitness perspective, this simply doesn't make sense because it doesn't factor in muscle mass or bone density. A person who is lean and muscular but has big bones could have a very high BMI. And on the flip side, someone with a healthy BMI can be 'skinny fat' and unhealthy. (Here's a detailed article about its shortcomings, if you're interested in more detail.)
So if the BMI isn't reliable, what IS a good measure?
This has been a sleepless week in the Nielsen household as our youngest, 2.5-year-old Grant, has been under the weather with croup. Normally though, we're a family that takes sleep very seriously - hitting the hay early (by 10) and waking up with the birds.
So this week, which we've spent feeling grumpy and agitated, has been a good reminder of just how important sleep is to our basic functioning. It also plays a more significant role than most people realize when it comes to fitness success, and fat loss.
Every month, our team gets together for a professional development session where we share knowledge and increase our skills so we can better serve clients.
Recently, team member and recent graduate of the Canadian College of Naturopathic Medicine Kamala Sivasankaran led a very informative session about stress, hormones and weight gain. This is an important topic to understand if fat loss is one of your goals. So we thought we'd share some of the key points of her talk with you here.
I was talking to a client this week who came to us because he had a significant amount of fat to lose He's motivated and making great progress towards his goal. As is often the case, many of the people in his life are also overweight. He told me that they often make comments to the effect of "oh you're still on your diet" when they see him eating his healthy food. (Which is not at all uncommon, BTW).
Poul Nielsen is the President and Owner of Nielsen Fitness, Toronto's leading team of in-home personal trainers. He has 20 years' experience in the fitness industry, and loves to empower people's lives through physical fitness. He's also Certified dozens of trainers through his Trainer Education Program.
In addition to exercise (obviously), he loves spending time with his family, playing the guitar, strong coffee - and dark chocolate!
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