How does intermittent fasting work?

Intermittent fasting guidelines are simple, you only eat within a 5-8 hour period throughout the day (i.e. eat between 1:00-6:00pm.)  This typically results in 2 meals, skipping breakfast or dinner.  Most people who do intermittent fasting tend to follow a reduced carbohydrate diet simply because their body thrives on lower carbohydrates and due to the fasting cravings for starchy or sugary foods are reduced tremendously.

Why does intermittent fasting work?

Intermittent fasting has gained popularity due to its clinical success rates of long term weight reduction and its ability to improve and control the symptoms of chronic diseases like hypothyroid and type 2 diabetes. Those who train their body to use its own fat for fuel through intermittent fasting are also regulating hormone levels including insulin, and thyroid hormones. For most people the control over their appetite is what surprises them the most.  They thought they would be starving only eating within a small time window per day but the opposite happened.   They are able to think more clearly, the highs and lows of energy go away and they are able to control portions more easily.

The benefits include , increased longevity, improved brain function, increased insulin regulation, stronger resistance to stress, improved satiety, benefits of endogenous hormone production and increased mental clarity.

Is it a realistic diet for active people especially endurance athletes?

Fasted exercise can actually result in better metabolic adaptations (which mean better performance down the line), improved muscle protein synthesis, and a higher anabolic response to post-workout feeding.  This means your post workout meals will be used more efficiently to develop lean muscle then if you were not in a fasted state.

Studies on Muslim athletes during Ramadan show no effect on performance while fasting, as well as improved lipid values in those who exercise and fast rather than just fast. When you train in a fasted state, glycogen breakdown is blunted and more fat is burnt, leaving you more glycogen stores of energy in the tank for when you really need it and less body fat because you have trained your body to use that as its primary fuel source. For endurance athletes if they train their body not to rely on food for fuel, instead their own fat store this will reduce the likelihood that they will hit “the wall.” Intermittent fasting can be done a few days out of the week and can be adapted to fit into a training regimen, (i.e. no intermittent fasting on long run days.)

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