I was recently asked the following series of questions - "What's the difference between starvation and fasting? What happens to the body during the fed state vs fasted state? What are the weight loss benefits of fasting?" I was fascinated by the questions but unwilling to provide immediate answers as I felt a blog post would serve more people with similar unanswered questions. So, here we are. I have from time to time taken on the no food after 6pm challenge and heard others attempt it as well in a bid to accelerate the weight loss process. The popular no food after 6pm challenge is intermittent fasting at play which I wish to explain.
What is intermittent fasting and how can you do it?
It is voluntary abstinence from eating food or drink (or both) for a set period of time. The 16:8 fasting protocol is the most popular way to intermittently fast and involves fasting for 16 hours and eating during an 8 hour eating window. You can set it up in a way that's suitable to you and your situation. Prudence would encourage the adoption of healthier food items during your eating window because intermittent fasting doesn't necessarily issue you with a permit to eat garbage when the opportunity presents itself. You don't have to follow the 16:8 program, you can do less i.e. 12:12 but those with fat loss interests should strive to stick to it and exceed it if they have the capacity to do more. 16-24 hours of fasting is the sweet spot for weight loss seekers as fat burning typically begins after 12 hours of fasting and peaks between 16 and 24 hours of fasting. During your eating window try to eat more vegetables 🥬🥒🍆🥦🥕, fruits 🍏🍊🍇🍓🍍 and nuts 🥜 as you continue to eat the things that you normally like to eat. You shouldn't only be eager to eat these things when you're in hospital looking to be discharged. Don't treat your body like toilet where you just dump anything in there. During your fasting window stick to water, black tea, black coffee and green tea without any sugar, honey🍯 or sweetener and avoid consuming any food. Personally, when I'd intermittently fast I'd do so from 6pm to 10am, and eat between 10am and 6pm. I did this for two reasons. First reason was to avoid attending the vitumbuwa parties that take place at the office early in the morning and secondly I just don't feel very hungry in the morning. For beginners, fasting is challenging for the first few days but after 3-4 days your body adjusts and your mental capacity to suffer a little improves so endure. It will get better. Note: You don't have to practice intermittent fasting every day, you can do it on alternative days where one day involves a full day of regular eating patterns and the next involves intermittent fasting. Find what works for you and know that even a few days of intermittent fasting per week will provide you with some benefits.
What happens to the body during the fed & fasted state?
Fed state is when you consume food and wa kuta. The body moves in to process the nutrients and absorb what it needs. At any given time your body has energy needs (to walk, talk etc.) and you eat food to meet those energy needs. The body will use what it needs, store what it can as glycogen (stored carbohydrate) in your muscles and liver for future use and the rest becomes body fat. During a fasted state your body starts to use glycogen to meet your energy needs and once that's depleted it moves on to use body fat for fuel to keep you going in a process called ketosis. This is where weight loss seekers want to be. Starvation on the other hand is the complete absence of basic nutrients required to support minimum level health for a prolonged period. The difference between fasting and starvation is the severity of symptoms. A mismanaged fast can starve the body and you'll know real quick when you're starving because your body will start shutting down. Fasting can be uncomfortable but it shouldn't be a punishing experience so keep that in mind.
What are the weight loss benefits?
Losing weight during intermittent fasting is no different to losing weight through other dietary interventions. Best way to lose weight is the method that's most comfortable and sustainable for you. People tend to drop weight quickly when they intermittently fast and as explained earlier this is due to glycogen depletion which is your body's stored form of carbohydrate. Additionally, each gram of glycogen holds water (3g for every 1g of carbohydrate) so that gets drained as well. Put together you'll experience a quick shift on the scale that will put a smile on your face. However, this is all temporary. When you resume the banana munching🍌 that weight is coming back. The magic of intermittent fasting with regards to weight loss is in its inherent ability to reduce overall food intake.
Other notable benefits:
Who is intermittent fasting meant for?
Assuming you don't have a preexisting health condition (i.e. diabetes) then anyone that can naturally endure not eating for an extended period of time. If you're considering it then I recommend that you download the Life Fasting App from the App Store to help you track progress and understand what's happening to your body at any given time during a fast.
Intermittent isn't about denying yourself certain foods or 'starving', it's about delaying when you consume whatever it is that you want to eat. It is an effective protocol because when you shorten the eating window you tend to eat less food overall. Less food consumed than energy used through movement and activity ultimately results in weight loss.