How to Hack Intermittent Fasting

Intermittent fasting is one of the most effective, healthy, and sustainable ways to lose a lot of weight in a relatively short period of time. But how do you get over those insane cravings?

“silver fork and knife on plate” by Thought Catalog on Unsplash

For religious as well as dietary purposes, human beings have practiced fasting — periods of abstaining from eating food — for thousands of years. In recent years, a specific type of fasting called “intermittent fasting (IMF)” has become popular among dieters due to the media touting its benefits.

Indeed, research from highly respected medical institutions (e.g. Johns Hopkins) present scientific proof to support claims that fasting can help you lose weight, heal depression, lower your risk of developing diabetes, heart disease, Alzheimer’s and other degenerative brain diseases.

Altogether, these benefits can significantly increase your lifespan. So what’s the science behind IMF?

When you eat, your body uses the digestive process to pull energy from food in the form of glucose. This glucose is then converted into glycogen and stored in your liver. Glycogen takes about about 10 to 12 hours to be depleted. When glycogen runs out, your body goes into fat-burning mode — converting stored fat into ketone bodies, which are used by brain neurons as energy.

Ketones enter your bloodstream and spread throughout your whole body. Ever notice how your breath smells sort of sweet when you go without eating for a long time? Yup, those are ketones you’re smelling.

Ketones are important for memory, learning, and brain health in general. Keep in mind that your body only makes ketones after glycogen stores in your liver are depleted. So if you eat three meals a day with snacks in between, without giving your body adequate time to use up the glycogen in your liver, your body will not produce ketones.

This is where fasting comes in. Intermittent fasting works by keeping your body in that sweet spot — where it is both producing ketones and burning fat — much longer than normal. But how hard is intermittent fasting and, as any good millennial would ask, could it be made easier?

The science behind intermittent fasting may seem complex, but in practice it’s quite simple: skip breakfast, have a late lunch, and have dinner no more than 7 hours later. That’s it. It’s not rocket science and you don’t even need to buy a diet book. IMF is popular because it’s simple and it works.

Here is my personal IMF daily eating schedule:

Infographic created by author

However, just because it’s simple does not mean it’s easy. Adhering to the strict time restrictions on eating is crucial to the success of an IMF plan. For some people, especially breakfast lovers, this can prove to be challenging. Even people who normally skip breakfast, yet have late night cravings, can find it difficult.

Hunger and cravings are major hurdles to overcome for anyone embarking on a fast. So how does one deal with hunger without eating and breaking one’s fast? Easy. Drink water, plenty of water!

As mentioned in a previous article, drinking water is a great way to stave off hunger. Firstly, it satisfies one’s compulsion to eat. Many times we snack or eat not because we are hungry but because we are bored and crave the activity of eating — not so much the food itself. Similarly, a smoker may chew on a piece of gum not necessarily because he enjoys the flavor of gum but rather as a substitute for the physical activity of smoking.

Second, multiple studies show that if we drink two cups of water prior to a meal, we eat much less. Though it may not seem this way, water helps occupy space in your stomach which produces feelings of fullness. Drinking water is, without a doubt, the healthiest zero-calorie way to fight feelings of hunger.

Don’t like the taste of plain ol’ water? You could always drink green tea or black coffee (yes, that means absolutely no sugar or cream!) The caffeine present in both drinks has an appetite suppressing effect and can help you hold off a little longer until your next meal. These are great alternatives but you should try to drink pure water whenever possible.

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Sources: drinking-water-46a6908e5629