Intermittent Fasting or Why Skipping Breakfast Could Be a Good Idea

Intermittent Fasting or Why Skipping Breakfast Could Be a Good Idea

As I get older, I realise some things I always thought were true are now being questioned, especially when it comes to health & nutrition. For example: “You need dairy to get enough calcium”, “You need to eat meat to get enough proteins”, “Never skip a meal” or even “Breakfast is the most important meal of the day”, etc. Really? I’m not so sure anymore… After all, some doctors used to recommend their patients to smoke cigarettes in the past! Wouldn’t it sound crazy nowadays?

With time, research keeps improving and we’re constantly changing our minds on various things, but in the meantime the end consumer is vulnerable to wrong information. Everyone has a different truth so maybe the only way to find out what works for you is to monitor your own health and not believe everything the food industry tries to put in your head so they can maximise their profit.

As a simple rule, don’t eat when you’re not hungry

That, to me, might be the only thing that should be universal. Having the ability to listen to your body and know when you need “fuel” is the best way to avoid putting on weight. The problem is we’re only human and it’s a very difficult skill to master. We’re all susceptible to use food for comfort, to compensate boredom, when we feel stressed or simply when we have food easily available (out of sight, out of mind!). But what if not eating when not hungry meant skipping breakfast? Not so easy, as everyone will encourage you to by telling you that “breakfast is too important to skip”. I love breakfast food but if I’m completely honest, I never feel hungry when I wake up. In fact, I only start feeling hungry 4-5 hours later. I’m not sure why but it has always been the case.

When I was a teenager, I remember I used to struggle to get out of bed in the morning and my grandma never understood it, she once said to me: “When I feel tired in the morning, I get up anyway, just because I know I’m going to have breakfast and that’s a good enough incentive to me! Why don’t you try this approach?”. Bless her. I miss her quite often, even though she used to believe everything the TV said. I just never felt that way about breakfast… Could it be because it is NOT necessarily the most important meal of the day for everyone? Who decided we needed at least 3 meals a day anyway? I’m pretty sure I don’t.

It doesn’t mean you have to starve yourself

When people hear the word “fasting”, they freak out, with or without the word “intermittent” beforehand. Understandably, because it sounds like a sacrifice or something people would only do as a religious practise for example. But what if it was a natural way to give more time for your body to digest better all the food it constantly has to process? What if we ate too much, too often? No one has ever died from starvation because they didn’t eat for more than 12 hours.

Actually, that’s what most of us naturally do every day (unless you wake up at night craving for food, but that’s not common). Maybe the reason why we eat so often without necessarily feeling hungry and why we struggle not to fill our plate too much comes from something that is hardwired in our genes: the fear of starving, leading our body to develop amazing survival mechanisms. Historically, our ancestors would have starved in times of scarcity, but let’s face it, we’re a lot less likely to experience this in the Western world nowadays. I guess what I’m trying to say is that doing intermittent fasting means forgetting about that anxious feeling of lacking food, as realistically, it’s not going to happen. We’re currently going through a worldwide pandemic and the main thing supermarkets have been running out of was toilet paper… Just saying.

Why Intermittent Fasting (IF) is the solution for me

Of course I can only talk about what I know, from my personal experience. It was a big revelation for me when I first heard about it and did some research. I found out more and more scientists agreed this eating pattern had many health benefits, including weight loss/maintenance. I wonder if forcing myself to eat breakfast when I was never hungry was the main reason why I always struggled to maintain a healthy weight. I’ll never know for certain but all I can say is IF seems to be working great for me.

I have 1 or 2 full glasses of water when I wake up, I eat at the same time every day (it gives me a lot more consistency) and I even enjoy going for a long walk just before breaking the fast, during the weekend. My fasting window is usually about 19 hours every day, but I would find it harder to push it to 20 hours. I started with the 16:8 method though, which means fasting for (only) 16 hours. I might have to go back to it after lockdown because it will be easier to maintain in the long term. Don’t forget you can be flexible and adapt your fasting schedule around your routine if need be. I encourage you to read my previous posts on this topic if you haven’t already:

What happens to your body when you fast

I think that imagining my body repairing itself when I give it the time to do so is also making me feel better mentally. I’ve been doing IF for almost 14 weeks now and I believe it has allowed me to be consistent with my weight loss (roughly 800-900g per week). I’ve been using a fasting tracker app that helped to start with and I still find it useful to make sure I drink enough water. It tells you about the steps your body goes through:

  • 0h-2h: Blood sugar rises
    • You feel pretty normal during the first hours of fasting because your body is going through the regular process of breaking down glycogen. Your blood sugar rises, your pancreas releases insulin to break down glucose for energy and stores the extra glucose for later.
  • 2h-5h: Blood sugar falls
    • As a result of the effects of insulin, your blood sugar decreases to near normal after spiking. And it typically doesn’t continue climbing because insulin is immediately delivered into your circulatory system after eating.
  • 5h-8h: Glycogen reserve drops
    • Your stomach is reminding you that it’s been a while since your last meal, however you’re not actually that hungry. You’re not going to starve to death, shrivel up and lose your muscle mass… Actually, your glycogen reserves will begin to fall and you might even lose a little body fat. You body will continue to digest your last food intake. It starts to use stored glucose for energy and continues to function as if you’ll eat again soon.
  • 8h-10h: Gluconeogenesis
    • 8 hours after your last meal, your liver will use up the last of its glucose reserves. Now your body goes into a state called gluconeogenesis, which indicates that your body has switched into the fasting mode.
  • 10h-12h: Little glycogen left
    • Your glycogen reserves are running out! As a result, you may become irritable or “hangry”: sign that your body is burning fat. With little glycogen left, fat cells (adipocyte) will release fat into your bloodstream. They also go straight into your liver and are converted into energy for your body. You’re basically cheating your body into burning fat in order to survive.
  • 12h-18h: Ketosis state
    • Now it’s the turn of fat to fuel your body. You’re in the metabolic state called ketosis. The glycogen is almost used up and your liver converts fat into ketone bodies – an alternative energy source for your body. Fat reserves are readily released and consumed. For this reason, ketosis is sometimes referred to as the body’s “fat-burning” mode. Ketosis produces fewer inflammatory by-products, so it provides health benefits to your heart, metabolism and brain.
  • 18h-24h: Burn fat
    • The longer you fast, the deeper into ketosis you’ll go. By 18 hours, your body has switched into fat burning mode. Research shows that after fasting for 12 to 24 hours, the energy supply from fat will increase by 60% and it has a significant increase after 18 hours.

I would just advise you not to be put off right away by the word “fasting” and try it for yourself, monitoring constantly any side effects you may (or may not) experience. You can read more about different types of intermittent fasting here. Note: you shouldn’t do intermittent fasting if you’re under 18, you’re pregnant, breastfeeding, you’re underweight, you have a history of eating disorders, you’re diabetic and/or need medication at regular intervals to be taken with food.

Have you ever experienced any type of fasting in your life? Is it something you would consider trying yourself to see the benefits?

Big Girl x

Why I Decided to Adopt Intermittent Fasting

intermittent fasting

When it comes to weight loss, it’s important to choose the right diet for you. I mean “diet” in a broad way, the kind of eating habits that will not frustrate you or make you feel miserable. You get it, the best way to succeed and reach your goals resides in the “how” you’re doing it.

Intermittent fasting doesn’t focus so much on what you eat but more on when you eat and how your insulin levels respond to the voluntary abstinence of food. It doesn’t mean you can binge-eat during your feeding window though. I still stay on top of my calorie budget because it’s an easy way for me to control my intake, until I’m able to listen to what my body needs without checking calories. I’m on my fourth week and the adaptation period is roughly 4 weeks so I’m already nearly there. I haven’t found it hard at all so far, but I’m staying home without any obligations to go out so that probably helps a lot (thanks covid).

What is intermittent fasting and how does it work?

There are different ways to fast, here are seven methods of intermittent fasting but I’m going to focus on the 16:8 method as it’s the most popular and the one I’m doing myself. I only eat between 12.00pm and 8.00pm, fast for the remaining 16 hours of the day (I sleep during most of the fasting window and I’ve never really felt I needed breakfast to kick start the day anyway).

I like the fact that no food group is banned and the restriction resides mostly on the eating pattern. You can adapt your feeding window based on your own lifestyle but it’s best to stay consistent every day as much as possible if you don’t want to confuse your hormones and make it harder for you to stick to the program. While you’re fasting, it’s very important to stay hydrated. Some say you are allowed diet soda and sweeteners in your tea/coffee but if you want a clean fast I would recommend to only drink water, tea or coffee and nothing else.

What are the health benefits?

Fasting increases the body’s responsiveness to insulin, which regulates blood sugar and helps control hunger. Lowering levels of insulin dramatically when fasting makes stored body fat more accessible, improving fat loss and limiting the loss of lean body mass. It also gives more time to body cells to initiate important repair processes, reduces the risk for type 2 diabetes, stroke, and certain types of cancers. Many studies have been done and if you want more information I suggest reading this article from Huel or this article from Healthline which explain further the evidence behind these benefits. Fasting works better when you eat the right food and get the right amount of sleep.

Are there any side effects?

Well, if you’re used to eat “breakfast like a King”, you may experience excessive hunger before lunch time, which is not a pleasant feeling. Fasting can also trigger eating disorder behaviour, and binge-eating during your feeding window will not give you any benefits. It could also give headaches, light-headedness or dizziness, but it should be temporary as your body needs some time to adapt your new meal schedule. I’m unsure how fasting would work with intensive workouts, I haven’t tried it myself but the type of food you consume would have an impact on your energy levels. Also, a number of studies have suggested that intermittent fasting doesn’t work as well for women than for men (especially those trying to conceive) with a risk of irregular periods or even infertility. Here’s some advice especially for women who want to try intermittent fasting.

Is it a good method for everyone?

Shall I start by saying it’s not suitable for children, teens or anyone underweight? It’s also not recommended for anyone who has history of eating disorder, as well as pregnant women or breastfeeding mums. If you are diabetic or require medication at specific intervals with food, this is also not for you. Intermittent fasting has been studied mostly for overweight or obese adults who are otherwise healthy. I’m not a doctor so you should definitely seek professional help to find out what would be the best weight loss program for you.

Have you ever tried any Intermittent Fasting’s method? What do you think about it?

Big Girl x