Why Intermittent Fasting Might Be The Best (And Fastest) Way For First Responders To Burn Fat And Lose Weight
Many “fasting gurus” will tell you that black coffee or pure green tea is allowed during your fasting window, as it doesn’t break your fast. This is 100% false. They base this theory on the fact that black coffee and green tea have no calories. And they’re not wrong. I’m not gonna get super technical here so I’ll keep it simple.
When your body consumes anything other than water, it shifts gears to metabolize (process) it in a way which breaks it from the “fasting mode.” This is the mode your body MUST remain in in order to achieve the maximum results from fasting. So despite having minimal calories, coffee (and anything else aside from water) does break your fast. This is where the word “breakfast” comes from. Once again, this is not my opinion. This is a proven, scientific fact.
Now, many feel that the effects of black coffee are negligible when it comes to fasting; and they're not wrong. However, for fasting purists, according to the science, black coffee does physiologically break your fast.
So, in the previous example with my buddy, he "technically" broke his fast the second he took that first sip of delicious, hot coffee. Thus instead of a 15+ hour fast he, in actuality, only fasted for 12ish hours. Still not terrible...but not ideal. Why “not terrible?” I’ll explain.
Research has proven that simply limiting the window during which you eat helps reduce your total daily caloric intake (for most people). When you are in a caloric deficit, you can and may lose weight. Once again, this has been researched to the hilt. However, if you’re looking for the true “physiological” benefits of fasting, beyond caloric restriction, you must fast for beyond 16 hours. Not my opinion, just the facts.
Here's a quick hour by hour breakdown of what happens physiologically when you fast.
Blood sugars fall
All food has left the stomach
Insulin is no longer produced
Food consumed has been burned
Digestive system goes to sleep
Body begins healing process
Human Growth Hormone begins to increase
Glucagon is relaxed to balance blood sugars
Body has converted to using stored fat as energy
Human Growth Hormone starts to increase dramatically
Body starts to ramp up the fat burning
Human Growth Hormone starts to skyrocket
Drains all glycogen stores
Ketones are released into the blood stream
Autophagy 300% increase
Autophagy increases 30% more
Immune system reset and regeneration
Increased reduction in inflammation response
Autophagy maxes out
For those of you wondering what in the world is Autophagy, I'll save you a trip to Google: Autophagy is the natural, regulated mechanism of the cell that removes unnecessary or dysfunctional components. It allows the orderly degradation and recycling of cellular components. Although initially characterized as a primordial degradation pathway induced to protect against starvation, it has become increasingly clear that autophagy also plays a major role in the homeostasis of non-starved cells.
So what does this mean in English? Well, let's just list the benefits of Autophagy to make it simple:
- removing toxic proteins from the cells that are attributed to neurodegenerative diseases, such as Parkinson’s and Alzheimer’s disease
- recycling residual proteins
- providing energy and building blocks for cells that could still benefit from repair
- on a larger scale, it prompts regeneration and healthy cells
Research has proven that increased Autophagy can essentially turn back the body's clock. Autophagy declines as we age. Fasting has been proven to increase Autophagy, hence why many speak about the incredible anti-aging benefits of extended fasting. There are even some studies that show some anti Cancer benefits from Autophagy.
Now, that said, fasting for 16+ hours is not easy. If you're going to try intermittent fasting, start off with a 12 hour fast. Then take a couple of days off and go for a 14 hour fast...and work your way up slowly from there. Personally, I do a 24 hour fast at least once a month. Once you get used to 16 hour intermittent fasting, doing a 24 hour fast is surprisingly easy.
For first responders, shift work can be brutal on the body. However, you can exploit the schedule and have it work in your favor when it comes to intermittent fasting. Because of the craziness of work, many times I found that I was at the end of my shift and hadn't had a chance to eat any of the food I had brought with me. Sometimes you're just going from call to call and literally don't have time to eat.
Planning is key when it comes to first responders doing intermittent fasting. You want to make sure your energy levels are up so you are focused while on duty. This is why some of the people I have worked with chose to do extended fasts on their days off and stick to 12-14 hour fasts on the days they worked. This is a great option if you are just starting out with IF.
In the end, your health is the most important thing you have in life. Once your health fails, nothing else matters. Money, homes, cars and material things mean nothing if you don't have your health. And all the money in the world can't buy your health back once you reach the point of no return. So don't take it for granted.
If you're a first responder, you owe it to yourself, your co-workers and those you've sworn to protect to be in optimal shape. Disregarding your health and wellness is a slap in the face to all those around you. If you think being a fat mess only affects you, think again. Stop making excuses and start making changes. Intermittent fasting is a great way to get things started because it doesn't limit what you can eat; only when you can eat it.
So for now, don't change what you're eating, just change when you eat it. Restrict your eating to certain blocks of time and see what happens. As time goes on, and you begin losing weight, I assure you that you will automatically start making better decisions when it comes to what you put in your mouth.
Start with this and see what happens. You never know...you just might save your own life.