The alarm clock rings – it’s dark outside. We come home from work – dark again. It’s no wonder that when summer ends, athletes will try anything and everything to maintain energy levels and stay on track. And next on our list of energy-giving solutions: Intermittent Fasting. Although a method best known to help promote weight loss, fasting has also been said to boost energy levels. So if you’ve been looking for a method to beat both the winter blues and the winter weight gain, read on to find out why this lifestyle could do the trick for you:
What is intermittent fasting?
Intermittent fasting is where calorie intake (eating) is limited to a certain number of hours each day. Wait, what – limited? Only able to eat during a certain period each day? How can this be healthy, let alone provide you with enough energy? A secret you probably don’t know yet … you’re already fasting every day. Think about it: when you’re asleep you fast and when you’re awake you eat. Intermittent fasting is more or less the same, just with a few more things to consider.
With intermittent fasting, the window of eating is decreased and the window of fasting increased. Although you can fast for as long or as short as you like, certain regimens are more common than others due to their effectiveness and feasibility. The most common one is the 16/8 method. This is where you eat all your meals within an 8-hour time period and fast for the remaining 16 hours.
How does fasting change the game?
The big questions are…why fasting and what does it do? The main benefit from fasting is that it makes your metabolism work a lot more efficiently. During the longer fasting period, the body turns to existing excess fat reserves as a source of energy and burns these. Sounds awesome right? Who really wants excess body fat?!
How does it work? Usually, your body relies on the intake of carbohydrates as its primary source of energy. These are broken down into glucose and get released into the bloodstream. As a response to the blood sugar in the veins, the body increases insulin – the fat synthesizing and storage promoting hormone. Longer periods of not eating means you are depriving your body of a substantial part of its glucose intake, which previously served as an energy source. Glucose levels drop – insulin drops. This means your body looks for another source of energy and turns to burning fat for fuel. So, if you can control insulin levels through a decrease in carbs, you can actually control and actively stimulate fat burn.
What about our energy levels?
Apart from weight loss, the less-known benefit of intermittent fasting is said to be an increase in energy. Eating several times throughout the day means our metabolism goes through cycles of breaking down carbohydrates and turning them into blood sugar. Eventually it is used for energy or stored in cells for later. After blood sugar is consumed or stored by the body, it drops, taking your energy and mental performance down with it. This triggers a “hunger signal”, likely to make us eat and the whole process starts all over again. The constant up and down cycle of blood sugar throughout the day stresses our metabolism and results in overall lower energy levels and mental performance.
What’s the difference with intermittent fasting? When using fat for energy, fat is digested slowly and must be sent to the liver for processing (to ketones) before it can be used for energy. This process happens steadily and consistently with no up and downs, meaning we have more energy, feel better and our concentration levels and cognitive function is also higher.
Higher energy levels – reaching fitness goals easier – where is the catch?
As great as it sounds, intermittent fasting isn’t for everyone. Think of it as a new lifestyle that your body must first adapt to. In the beginning it’s normal to experience a loss in energy, extreme hunger and even dizziness. The benefits only appear after a few weeks. So be patient and don’t base your opinion on how you feel at the start. Stick in there and give your body the chance to acclimate to its new lifestyle. Overtime, the production of the hormone ghrelin which influences your feeling of hunger and satiety will decrease, making you less hungry and more energetic.
Give it a try before winter really kicks in and stay on top of your game no matter how dark, cold or dreary it is outside.