One of the best ways for me to maintain optimal health has been through the 16 hour fasting diet. Often referred to as the 16/8 fast is one of the most common forms of intermittent fasting. Reaching this milestone can be a challenge to many. However, the 16/8 fast is easy to do and its best to ease into it gradually – over a few weeks.
I have been doing the 16/8 fast for the past year and the results have been amazing. I feel a lot better throughout the day, my body is leaner than ever, my mind is focused and I am full of energy all day. I’ve coupled my fasting with an intense workout regiment (that is I workout on a fasted state) – this has done wonders for my body and mind.
The benefits of the 16 hour fasting diet are countless and I will attempt to highlight the key reasons for why I follow the 16/8, how to ease into it and some of the lessons I’ve learned to make the process easier.
The key benefits of fasting are that it gives the body a much longer time to focus on healing, removing toxins and waste. This allows the body to utilize energy more effectively thus allowing us to have consistent energy throughout the day.
It also repairs damaged cells and removes waste from them. Thus, preserving our health, reverse the damages from external factors (such as pollution & toxins) and slows down the process of ageing.
Another major outcome of intermittent fasting is that it allows the body to burn fat for energy/fuel. As the fasting process speeds up the metabolism, food is digested faster and the energy is utilized more effectively. This not only allows you to lose stomach fat but overall body fat.
Fasting also reduces the insulin levels in the body which also helps trigger the fat burning process in the body. The drop in insulin level is great for overall health as it helps prevent insulin resistance. Insulin resistance is the main cause of diabetes (type 2), heart disease and dementia. This also aids in maintaining a healthy weight and prevent unwanted cravings.
Growth hormones are vital for our development and growth. As we age, our body produces less and less of it. Intermittent fasting helps the body produce growth hormones naturally – as much as five folds. Growth hormones stimulate cell regeneration and reproduction. Thus keeping us healthy and young. They also aid in muscle growth resulting in muscle gain.
There is a way to produce even more growth hormones… read on 😉
Getting to 16/8
16/8 refers to the intermittent fasting where you fast for 16 hours and have an eating window of 8 hours.
It is best to reach this gradually. Start off with a 12/12 where you fast for 12 hours and have an eating window of 12 hours. After about a week, switch to a 14/10 where you fast for 14 hours and have a 10-hour eating window. Once you are comfortable with the 14/10 fast, move onto 16/8.
I usually do Monday to Friday 16/8 and on the weekends don’t worry about fasting.
For this to work…
For the 16/8 fast to work and to reap the full benefit, proper nutritional intake is vital. The key is to have a steady diet that meets your caloric and nutritional requirements. I have written in detail about how to calculate this on the following: Lose Stomach Fat Naturally – What Worked For Me! (I Didn’t Use Supplements).
By maintaining a proper diet and nutrition while intermittent fasting, you will gain maximum effect. This will also speed up the process of fat loss, and natural healing.
By consuming the right amount of food, the body will utilize energy much effectively. The cells will start to break down toxins and recycle damaged cells, resulting in a much healthier body and mind.
Things To Keep In Mind/Lessons Learned
Hydrate, Hydrate, Hydrate!
One of the first lessons I learned was to keep myself hydrated.
In the first few days, I was having dry mouth and my breath was pretty nasty (serious case of dragon breath). I soon realized my water intake wasn’t sufficient. So throughout the day, I increased my water intake – even during the 16-hour fasting window.
This solved the problem of dry mouth which caused bad breath.
Lack Of Salt
Salt is vital for our body to function properly. It is essential for the heart to pump blood, optimal cell to cell communications and transmission of never impulses to and from organs and the brain.
When fasting, insulin levels go down and the kidney secretes salt, thus leaving the body depleted of salt. This can lead to feeling tired, sluggish and lack of focus. The low sodium diet, with a daily recommended intake of 2,300mg, might be too low when fasting, for optimal body and mind function.
As my diet was low in sodium this was exactly what I experienced. Hence, during the days I fast, I increase my daily intake to about 4,000mg of salt. This alleviated the sluggishness, lack of focus and allowed me to have energy throughout the day.
Right Amount of Protein
Another reason that led to bad breath was the overconsumption of protein. When I was eating more protein than what my body needed, the digestion process during fasting resulted in really nasty breath and even keeping myself hydrated wasn’t helping.
After, learning that I was overdoing the protein, which was resulting in dragon breath, I sat down and calculated exactly how much was optimal for me. This resolved the bad breath issue. I have written a post on how to figure out the amount of protein required on the following: How Much Protein Should I Eat Daily? And My Top 5 Best Sources
While researching the effect of protein and fasting, I also learned that over-consumption of protein affects the autophagy process. Autophagy is processed by which the body recycles damaged cells and creating new raw materials to build healthier new cells.
The consumption of excess protein interferes with this process, thus resulting in less effective autophagy.
One of the fastest things I learned was that I had to be flexible. That is I couldn’t be so strict and stick to fasting all the time. That is why I decided to ensure I stuck to a strict fast Monday to Friday. On the weekends I ate (in moderation) and did what I want without feeling guilty.
I also planned my week ahead. If I knew I was going out during the week or there was an event I had to attend. I adjusted my eating schedule accordingly.
Being flexible and living life allows me to continue the fasting lifestyle without guilt and stick to it.
One thing that made adapting to the fasting lifestyle much easier was being consistent.
I scheduled my fasting time (4 pm to 8 am) and I stuck to this Monday to Friday. I planned my diet and prepared my meals in advance (usually on Sundays and Wednesdays). This made sticking to the fast much easier.
There is also the science behind this as well. By sticking to strict time, the body learns when the feeding window is and will only get hungry during this time. Thus, after a few days, hunger was not an issue during the fasting window.
Working Out To Speed Up Results
When I started to work out in a fasted state, the fat loss process was crazy. I lost fat fast without losing muscle.
Remember how I mentioned that there is a way to increase growth hormones production. Well, this is it! Fasted workouts help produce growth hormones. Which help build lean muscles and repair cells.
It was a bit difficult at first to switch to a fasted workout but within a week my body was able to adapt and I didn’t lose my strength. In fact, I was able to break through my plateau and get stronger. All the while being lean.
To Finish Off
Well, that’s a quick look at the benefits and the reasons I stick to a 16 hour fasting diet. As I learn more, I will update this post from time to time. Meanwhile, if you have any questions, please leave them in the comments below and I will get back to you.
PS: Here is a great video on intermittent fasting that I found very useful when I started: Intermittent Fasting & Hunger – What the Science Says