Why Intermittent Fasting is the ONLY Fitness Hack I Actually Encourage

Coffee can really be all you need in the morning.

Photo by Tirachard Kumtanom from Pexels

“Start the practice of self-control with some penance; begin with fasting.” — Mahavira

EDITORIAL DISCLAIMER: Any advice or recommendation given in my writing is what works for ME and may not be the best regimen for you based on your psychological or physiological makeup and stability. Please consult a doctor when making decisions about your health.

There are a number of different diets out there that will profess to help you lose tons of weight in a short amount of time. In my opinion, many of them are not the type of practices that I would say would yield long-term success.

Whether you are trying to get into ketosis and burn fat with the keto diet or drop 20 pounds in 30 days using Tim Ferris’s slow-carb diet, any diet that promises amazing results in a short period of time typically is not something that is probably good for you long term.

In fact, anything that would fall into the category of a “hack” (originally a trick of some type evolving from the term game hack that would allow you to bypass difficult levels to get rewards without having to put in the work), typically is not something that an individual should continue to do for a long time.

Now, the term has somewhat evolved and is more related to any idea or concept that can make something a bit easier or more efficient without a lot of work.

For the modern interpretation, there are a lot of different things called a hack related to weight loss and working out that seem to come out every day. Some work and some don’t, but they all seem to promise great results without a lot of work…something of which I’m always immediately 100% skeptical.

For me, however, the one hack that I actually do follow and think is sustainable long-term is something that has gained momentum over the past few years and now has a decent amount of followers subscribing to it because of its numerous benefits:

Intermittent fasting.

What is it?

Intermittent fasting is simply not eating for a certain period of time (fasting) to give your body a break from eating. You can do this in a number of different ways, as there are a number of combinations that could potentially work.

There is the 16/8 dietrelated to restricting your window of eating to only 8 hours and fasting for 16.

There’s the 5:2 diet in which you eat normally for 5 days per week and then restrict your calorie intake to 500–600 calories for 2 days of the week.

There’s the Eat-Stop-Eat diet that involves fasting for a 24 hour period once or twice per week.

And the list goes on and on.

Based on the fact that there are no specific things that you cannot eat during your eating window, the practice is probably more of a pattern of eating than an actual diet per se.

Why does it work?

The concept of fasting goes back to our prehistoric times in which humans would go for long periods of time without eating.

If you were lucky enough to find something edible that wasn’t going to kill you, there was no telling how long it would be until you were able to eat again.

Therefore, in the past, humans were more apt to take long periods of time between eating because food just wasn’t as plentiful and ready to be consumed as it is now, and this is an ability that our bodies still possess as a survival instinct.

When we fast, there are a number of changes that our bodies go through that are related to preparing us for a long amount of time without food to ensure we can still function optimally to be able to do what is needed to survive.

There is as much as a 5-fold increase in our HGH (human growth hormone) that helps dramatically with fat loss and muscle gain. Next, our insulin sensitivity improves and our insulin levels drop, which makes fat more accessible and tends to lead to weight loss.

Lastly, there are enhancements to our cellular repair and gene expression that can lead to the removal of old and dysfunctional proteins (a process known as autophagy) to fight against various types of diseases and lead to a longer life.

Outside of those benefits, naturally, it helps you eat less by reducing the time in which you are allowing yourself to consume food.

By reducing the window in which you’re eating, you should naturally eat less food unless you are overeating during the window, something that will automatically kill any benefits of doing this.

By keeping your meal portions their usual size, you should reduce the number of calories you are consuming daily by 1/4 or 1/3 — an amount that will add up over time if you are consistent.

Why you should try it?

With so many different diets out there that require you to make a complete lifestyle change, the reason I really like this one is that it is probably the least complex and time-consuming of all the diets.

With most diets, you have to completely change the way you eat and somewhat live to always monitor something specific in regards to what types of food you eat or how much of one kind of food you consume.

With intermittent fasting, you don’t have to worry about any of that.

The only thing you have to do is not eat during a certain window, and you’re good. Once that window starts, you can eat whatever you desire, as long as you don’t overeat to try to “make up” for not eating earlier.

Now some of the different types of diets mentioned above could probably prove challenging, as I honestly don’t think I could go without eating for 24 hours or any longer.

However, the 16/8 method is an easy method to follow once you get used to eating, and the only thing you really have to get used to is skipping breakfast each morning.

By skipping breakfast each morning, you automatically maintain your fast from the night before. If the last time you ate was 8 pm, and you wake up at 6 am each day, you only have 6 more hours to go until you would be in the clear to eat whatever you want.

And for me, since I love to beat the crowds at most restaurants, I change my diet to the 15.5 / 8.5 split by eating lunch at 11:30 am instead of noon. The extra 30 minutes doesn’t make that much of a difference, as long as I don’t eat a lot of extra food during the extra 30 minutes during the eating window.

To overcome my natural hunger when I wake up, after working out, I drink a cup of coffee to settle my stomach to prevent it from growling as the day goes on.

Most days this is enough to keep me settled until the 11:30 am lunch bell rings, but if I am really hungry, I might have a second cup of decaf coffee (I limit my cafeine to two cups a day) around 9:30 am / 10 am to just get me through that last little push.

By the time the clock turns around to 11:30 am, I will admit I am VERY hungry and need to eat at that time to prevent getting hangry and not being an overall pleasant person to be around.

However, doing this is one of the reasons that I’m able to keep my caloric intake so low and not feel as if I’m starving myself on a daily basis.

This helps me control my weight pretty easily, as well as get the benefits of having a clear head each morning to attack the day, as there is no chance of getting a food coma without consuming any food.

And while I must admit the constant hunger is something that will take a bit getting used to at first, you will in a short order and will also find yourself VERY excited about where and what you’re going to have for lunch every single day because of it — something that will add your own personal little bonus to the middle of each work day.