Fasting put simply – Fasting is the abstinence of food and drink. As we all know living in today’s world can certainly be very a confusing place. The advancements in 21st century science and medicine give us conflicting views on what is and isn’t good for our health. Perhaps you’ve have heard the saying that breakfast is the most important meal of the day? Or that eating late at night is a no-no?
The truth of it is, when it comes down to living a healthy balanced lifestyle; losing fat or maintaining shape it needn’t all be that complicated or confusing! This article gives you an introduction to fasting, how it affects our body systems and a step by step process how useful it can be done correctly as part of a healthy and balanced lifestyle.
The window of time
The process of fasting can come in many different forms but essentially it is a window of time we give ourselves each day to consume all the calories and nutrients our bodies need to work efficiently.
When we fast to reach a health goal e.g. losing weight, or burning fat stores. To begin with, It is important that we maintain the same intake of calories every day, and gradually incorporate this ‘window of time’ into our daily schedule, such that our bodies can reacclimatize to the changing conditions.
Experimentation may be needed at first… As your body functions around a 24-hour cycle, you will have overcome hunger pains, but so as long as you are fueling your body with the same calorific intake every day, you can slowly adjust this ‘window of fasting’ by regularly making incremental cuts day by day.
Initially, the body expends energy from the food we consume for the first 6 hours after our last meal. Between 6-14 hours the body releases energy from blood sugar stores. Finally, after this, your body enters a fasting stage where the body releases most its energy from the breakdown of fat stores.
To maximize fat loss, it’s important to plan exercise and work out times when the body is primed for this fasting stage.
Human Growth Hormone
Growth hormone is a hormone organically secreted by the pituitary gland.
It functions to: stimulate cell growth, cell development and cell regeneration. The hormone becomes active in the bloodstream momentarily before the liver converts it into growth factors that support the breakdown of the bodies fat stores, building muscle and increasing bone density.
Growth hormone is naturally produced in bursts. Greater levels are supplied during the fasting stage. Where growth factors break down fat stores into fatty acids that are metabolized to release energy.
The same process also applies to the bodies sleep cycle. Growth hormone plays a crucial role in the bodies restorative process during sleep.
A surge in growth hormone usually occurs during stage 3 deep sleep. Throughout the night the body usually completes four to five consecutive sleep cycles lasting approximately 90 minutes.
If the body is deprived of sleep, there is no surge in growth hormone being released to aid fat breakdown. Extra quantities will only be released when sleep is resumed.
Therefore, you want to be receiving a decent amount of sleep while cutting out food during the night, to boost fat loss.
Based on the guidelines above the table below will show an example of how you can incorporate an effective daily plan for fasting for the hours after 9pm. Again This can be subject to change, and may require a bit of experimentation.
Day – Monday – Based on a sleep staring from 9pm.
Time / Hours after 9pm
0-6 Fasting; energy expended from last meal.
6-14 Fasting; energy expended from blood sugar stores.
14-18 Fasting stage; optimum window of time to train; rest approx. 1 hour then eat
18-24 Window of time to rest and eat before next fasting session.
As you can see from the table, the margins of time available allow you to take quite a flexible approach to fasting. As a general rule it is important to train between 14-24 hours after your last meal was consumed. At this stage the body has entered the full fasting state.
If it wasn’t clear from the table, for a 9pm start you should aim to fast for around 14-15 hours incorporating sleep. This takes you to 12pm the following day. At this point train and rest for 1 hour before allowing yourself to eat again. Repeat the process again for the following day.
When fasting it is essential that the body is receiving the correct proportion of calories and nutrients. After the body has finished the fasting process, it will have abstained from food for a significant period of time. The very first meal after a fasting session is the most important.
Ideally you should aim for a healthy combination of protein, carbohydrates and vegetables. This will allow the body to refuel efficiently. In general, the diet plan should not be centered around how often we eat but again the amount of calories and how calorie dense each meal is that we include with a certain window of time.
The number of calories you restrict yourself to will be based on your bodies individual state and of course your goals.
I am always here to help.
If you’d like to chat more about a fasting plan that is tailored to your personal needs, contact me by clicking the button below!