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Intermittent Fasting, Part 3

Assessing The IF/IER Plans: The Big Picture

The last two weeks we have discussed briefly the science behind IF/IER. That said, we also want to reiterate that:

  • The available evidence on IF/IER is not definitive.
  • Almost all controlled-calories studies show some benefit
  • A bit of IF or IER might be good, but more isn’t better.
  • The best results come from a variety of changes, along with the support and coaching.

As you can see, before we tell you to stop eating…think. Use what works best for you based on physical, emotional, environmental, relational, existential and mental well-being.

Remember, there is no “best plan”. There are many types of IF and IER protocols.

When selecting one, look at the big picture instead of the details. Focus on the on the underlying ideas and practices that make them work.

Each person is different, what may work for you, may not work for someone else. Match the plan based on your lifestyle.

Now, let’s get to the sample plans!

Plan #1:

Goal: Wait until you’re truly physically hungry, then eat slowly, to “80% full”, or just satisfied.

At first, this can feel weird or frustrating for many people, especially if they’re used to schedules and prescribed amounts of food. But, with practice, most people get used to it, at least a little bit.

Who might this work for?

  • people who are learning the basics of their hunger and fullness cues;
  • people who are exploring learning to deal with occasional hunger or a less regimented eating routine;
  • people who want to learn to eat more intuitively, with fewer “rules”; and/or
  • people who are looking to lose weight/body fat.

Who might this NOT work for?

  • people who cannot, for various reasons (such as a history of disordered eating), identify their hunger and fullness cues at all;
  • athletes who need a higher energy intake, but might feel less hungry because of intense training;
  • people who need or benefit from a regular meal schedule (e.g, type 1 diabetics); and/or
  • people who want to gain mass (since most people eat less on this protocol).

Plan #2

Goal: Skip a meal. Sometimes, don’t eat a meal you’d normally eat.

For instance, if you’d normally eat dinner, and you’re actually hungry for it…don’t. (Note, however, the emphasis on “sometimes”. This is a once- or twice-a-week kind of option). Notice what happens, and how you feel.

Who might this work for?

  • people who like to keep things relaxed and open-ended;
  • people who are exploring learning to deal with occasional hunger or a less regimented eating routine;
  • people who might have a busy schedule and appreciate the freedom or calm that an occasional “skip a meal, it’s no big deal” might bring;
  • people who want to learn to eat more intuitively, with fewer “rules”; and/or
  • people who are looking to lose weight/body fat (especially while keeping lean mass);
  • people who are active and want to eat normally on days that they’re training or competing;
  • people who are able to eat normally after skipping a meal (i.e., who don’t binge or compulsively overeat later).

Who might this NOT work for?

  • people with a history of disordered eating, for whom this might be a “gateway” back to binge-restrict cycles;
  • anyone who needs a consistently higher energy intake everyday (such as people doing heavy manual labor, or high-level athletes during an intense training period);
  • people who compensate for a missed meal by over-eating later; and/or
  • people who need or benefit from a regular meal schedule (e.g, type 1 diabetics).
Plan #3

Goal: Intermittent energy restriction. Loosely structured days of less eating.

As we’ve seen intermittent energy restriction (IER) involves eating normally some days, and then significantly less energy on other days.

What defines “significantly less energy” can vary. Studies have used many options ranging from around 20% of normal intake to 70%.

What defines “some days” can also vary. Studies may use alternating days of energy restriction, or somewhere between 1-3 days/week. Start small, and find your “sweet spot”.

Who might this work for?

  • people who like to keep things relaxed and open-ended;
  • people who are exploring learning to deal with occasional hunger or a less regimented eating routine;
  • people who might have a busy schedule and appreciate the freedom of less meal prep or time spent eating on some days;
  • people who are looking to lose weight/body fat (especially while keeping lean mass);
  • people who are active and want to eat normally on days that they’re training or competing;
  • people who are looking to improve their metabolic health; and/or
  • people who are able to eat normally after lower energy days (i.e., who don’t binge or compulsively overeat later).

Who might this NOT work for?

  • people with a history of disordered eating, for whom this might be a “gateway” back to binge-restrict cycles;
  • anyone who needs a consistently higher energy intake everyday (such as people doing heavy manual labor, or high-level athletes during an intense training period);
  • children/adolescents, elderly people, and/or pregnant and lactating women;
  • people who compensate for a lower energy intake by over-eating later; and/or
  • people who need or benefit from a regular meal schedule (e.g, type 1 diabetics).

Plan #4

Goal: Eat, Stop, Eat. 24-hour fast, 1 or 2 times per week.

On this plan, you fast for a full 24 hours once or twice per week, eating sensibly (minimally processed whole foods, higher protein, etc.) the rest of the week.

It’s flexible. You can choose whichever 24 hours you want.

Who might this work for?

  • people who like to keep things fairly simple and straightforward;
  • people who might have jobs or lifestyles where fasting for a day here and there is OK;
  • people who might have a busy schedule and appreciate the freedom that an occasional day without eating might bring;
  • people who are looking to lose weight/body fat (especially while keeping lean mass);
  • people who are active and want to eat normally on days that they’re training or competing;
  • people who are looking to improve their metabolic health; and/or
  • people who are able to eat normally after lower energy days (i.e., who don’t binge or compulsively overeat later).

Who might this NOT work for?

  • people with a history of disordered eating, for whom this might be a “gateway” back to binge-restrict cycles;
  • anyone who needs a consistently higher energy intake everyday (such as people doing heavy manual labor, or high-level athletes during an intense training period);
  • children/adolescents, elderly people, and/or pregnant and lactating women;
  • people who compensate for a lower energy intake by over-eating later; and/or
  • people who need or benefit from a regular meal schedule (e.g, type 1 diabetics).

Plan #5

Goal: Time restricted feeding. Daily fasting and feeding “windows”.

Time restricted feeding (TRF) combines a fasting window (during which people don’t eat, or eat much less than normal) with a feeding window (during which people may eat normally, or potentially more than normal).

If losing bodyfat, learning to manage hunger, and improving metabolic indicators are goals, bear in mind that TRF protocols also “work” because it’s simply harder to eat more calories in a shorter time.

Who might this work for?

  • people who like structure and routine;
  • people who want to eat relatively normally;
  • people who enjoy a large post-workout meal and/or want to boost the post-workout anabolic effect of food
  • people who might have a busy schedule and appreciate the freedom that periods without eating might bring;
  • people who are either great with logistics and self-management, or people who have strong coaching support to help organize the process;
  • people who are looking to improve their metabolic health; and/or
  • people who are able to eat normally after lower energy days (i.e., who don’t binge or compulsively overeat later).

Who might this NOT work for?

  • people with a history of disordered eating, for whom this might be a “gateway” back to binge-restrict cycles;
  • anyone who needs a consistently higher energy intake everyday (such as people doing heavy manual labor, or high-level athletes during an intense training period);
  • children/adolescents, elderly people, and/or pregnant and lactating women;
  • people whose existing dietary habits and quality are poor (and who thus might use the eating window for a “junk food blowout”);
  • people who compensate for a lower energy intake by over-eating later; and/or
  • people who need or benefit from a regular meal schedule (e.g, type 1 diabetics).
Need Further Help?

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