The Skinny On Intermittent Fasting: Skip Breakfast and Burn Fat?

July 30, 2015

To eat or not to eat, that’s the breakfast question. There’s lots of contradictory information out there about the first meal of the day, but research shows that fasting for a few hours can give you more energy, help you burn fat, and even boost your immunity.

If the idea of eating breakfast in the morning is totally unappetizing, or if you think you can go until 1 p.m. without food (and without turning into a hangry monster), you might be a perfect candidate for intermittent fasting. Yes, we’ve been told for ages that we should eat small meals throughout the day to boost our metabolism, but there’s evidence that intermittent fasting is just as good for fat burning and muscle building as eating a few small meals daily.

Intermittent fasting involves cycling your eating so that for a short period of time—anywhere from 16 to 24 hours—you don’t eat anything. You naturally fast for about eight hours while you’re sleeping, so you’re already more familiar with intermittent fasting than you think!

When you don’t eat for an extended period of time, your body begins to make changes in order to use energy more efficiently. Your insulin levels decrease when you haven’t eaten for a few hours, and when that happens your body is able to burn fat more efficiently. In fact, subjects that tried fasting lost an average of four to seven percent of their waist circumference, which tells us that they lost belly fat simply by fasting.

Human growth hormone, which also helps your body burn fat and build muscle, has also been proven to increase five times as much when your body is in a fasted state. That’s really good news if you’re working out and trying to lose weight—the results of your hard work will can be magnified if you simply skip breakfast. One more perk of intermittent fasting? It can protect you against chronic diseases, like diabetes, heart disease, and even cancer.

If you’re ready to say ‘Adios!’ to your daily huevos racheros breakfast, wait just a second. Intermittent fasting might not be for you if you’ve got any sort of adrenal or hormonal dysregulation, and if fertility is an issue for you it’s best not to mess with fasting. The same goes for those with adrenal fatigue or chronic fatigue, as fasting might exacerbate those issues and make you feel even worse. If you’re going through a stressful time in your life, it may be best to hold off on a fasting regimen until things are a little more normal, because you can’t be sure that fasting will affect you positively until you try it.

So your adrenals are in tip-top shape, you’re getting eight hours of sleep a night, and you’re relatively stress free? Then you can definitely try out intermittent fasting and see how it feels. There are a few different types of fasting, but most common is the 16/8 Method.

With this method of intermittent fasting, you’ll be sleeping for half of your fast—which makes it way easier to bear—and basically skipping breakfast. Then you’re free to eat normally from 1 p.m. to 8 p.m., when you stop eating and start over in fast mode. You can try this method once or twice a week, or if you really like it you can eat every day like this. Advocates of intermittent fasting remind first timers to eat healthy meals; just because you didn’t eat breakfast doesn’t mean you can binge on junk food and expect to see the pounds melt off.

If you ace the 16/8 Method, you can try fasting for a full 24 hours, but if it leaves you feeling awful, then you certainly don’t need to stick to it. Intermittent fasting works differently for everyone, so don’t feel badly if you can’t go as long without food. There are a few other ways to fast, including periodically skipping meals when it’s convenient or eating one huge meal for dinner. At the end of the day, it’s really up to you to figure out if fasting works for you, or if you work better when you have breakfast in the morning.

As always, consult a doctor if you’ve any preexisting health conditions, and if you feel lightheaded or faint it’s probably a good time to cut your fast short and nosh on something of sustenance. But intermittent fasting has some pretty unbelievable (and totally legitimate) benefits, so it’s worth playing around with different protocols until you find one that works for your body.

Photo credit: Dominik Martin via Unsplash

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Michelle Pellizzon

Certified health coach and endorphin enthusiast, Michelle is an expert in healthy living and eating. When she's not writing you can find her running trails, reading about nutrition, and eating lots of guacamole.

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