When I was younger all the advice I was given was about eating a healthy well balanced diet and the lack of need for supplements etc, at no point ever was fasting mentioned.
Obviously we are all aware that younger athletes are subject to forms of eating disorders and so yes, promotion of a healthy diet is paramount. However, those amongst us who want to be performing to the best of our ability and remain active for as long as possible are hopefully wise about eating disorders, and wont take risks we are not well versed upon.
I first became aware of intermittent Fasting for Athletes through a chance conversation on an athletics forum, with Craig Pickering (UK Elite Athlete, Sprints) In which he fully explained the reasoning and his practice. Of course I read and participated in this conversation but like most I took no action.
Now many years later, I am more and more aware of my body, my blood sugar management and of course our naturally dwindling hormone levels. And so back in the mind comes the practice of Fasting.
There is a lot of research around about fasting in many forms, from the Low calorie diets proved to be somewhat anti-aging (who would have thought that gluttony would be life shortening).
And the research with which I focus on, the mechanisms that fasting can and does increase our natural levels of HGH.
As we age our levels of HGH naturally decrease, and this is seen in the number of injuries Masters Athletes get, the elasticity in our skin and the time it takes for us to recover from training and competing.
How does Fasting work?
When we fast for certain lengths of time our body gets a sensation of hunger, this releases a hormone in our body called Ghrelin this in turn aids the trigger in the body to produce HGH our self preservation method for the body to ensure its has enough blood sugar levels (that’s a lesson to far for this blog) It is this mechanism that elevates the HGH levels in our body and the resulting benefits of Fasting.
Here is a LINK to a study discussing this very thing
Here is another LINK to a study regarding the amount of HGH increase during Fasting
As you can see between the 12 and 19 hour marks there is a spike that is Double the normal levels of HGH in the body, and this is why the 8/16 Fasting method is used by most who wish to fast, as this is a very easy method to adhere to and one that I myself actually do (though perhaps not as often as I would like, but I will be increasing this throughout the 17/18 winter training).
In order to achieve this 16 hour ‘break’ I eat at 9pm in the evening after training, skip breakfast and have lunch after 1pm. This very easy method if you plan your morning to be a little busy. Of course I wouldn’t be doing this everyday but rather just 2 days a week seems to be the going method, I have done Monday and Thursday with ease in the past and will be doing the same again this year.
I will keep you posted on my success and or issues as I go.
Of course I am no Dietician or Dr so please make your own decision on the benefits of fasting and if this is for you.
So in brief:
- Benefits of fasting for just 16 hours include
- Increased HGH
- Stem Cell regeneration (another article discussing this is HERE)
- Weight Loss
- The “fast” can include your sleeping time.
- You can eat your normal amount of calories during the 8 hour window, but as its a shorter time, you will naturally reduce your calorie intake (the key to fat loss).