There's nothing like stumbling out of a holiday season or after a let-it-all-rip vacation to motivating a dietary overhaul. The thing is, no matter what path you choose, you have to go all in. Whether it's intermittent fasting, Paleo, or the Whole Foods plan — you must commit. Find an approach that addresses what you want to accomplish with realistic goals, and also suits what you know you can take on. Here, get our guide of bedrock principles you can use to overhaul your diet once and for all. Plus, we dive deep with our expert dietician to talk intermittent fasting, what it means for endurance athletes, and how to try it safely.
Study Up on These Tips for Effective Weight Loss
The fundamentals for effective weight loss should not be overlooked. They may not sound snazzy, but the thing is? They work. If you have excess fat you want to shed, this is where you start.
Decide on a Dietary Approach
Paleo, keto, Zone, Ancestral, Intermittent Fasting...all of our diet choices are confusing to say the least. The good news? Just about any one will help you net an improvement (by simply eliminating bad foods). But matching your goals and discipline levels with the right diet can be a powerful step. Intermittent fasting may be too hard to take on for some. For others (who don't like cooking anyway) it may be the easy path.
Intermittent Fasting: So, what is it, exactly?
Caloric restriction, fasting, intermittent fasting... no matter what you call it, fasting has been associated with fat loss and longevity. According to Jonathan Valdez, Owner of Genki Nutrition and Media Spokesperson for New York State Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics, intermittent fasting is a lifestyle choice in which people refrain from eating or drinking in various amounts, for a specific duration of time throughout the day. There are different ways to fast intermittently, most commonly: consuming zero food and water, consuming just water, or consuming restricted calories. "[In their off hours] they then eat during very specific times during the day," says Valdez. "It is often thought that intermittent fasting can alter body composition as well as blood pressure and cholesterol."
Intermittent Fasting: Can Endurance Athletes Benefit from It?
Unfortunately, there isn’t much research when it comes to elite athletes and intermittent fasting. However, one study published in the Journal of Sports Science observed Muslim athletes during Ramadan to see the benefits, if any, they received from intermittent fasting. "There were a few issues with this study in that it wasn’t merely observational and not perfectly controlled," says Valdez. Keeping that in mind, researchers found that as long as athletes still consumed the same amount of calories and fluids during their eating periods, they didn’t experience any setbacks. In essence, it's important athletes are not refraining from getting the calories they need. "It’s always extremely important to listen to your body, as fasting doesn’t work for all athletes and the research is limited in both time and number of people studied," says Valdez. "However, with the current research that is available, intermittent fasting can cut down on fat mass while increasing fat-free mass."
Intermittent Fasting: How to Do It
Without the research and intel we need, it's impossible to say what really works when it comes to intermittent fasting. Athletes all have different nutritional demands depending on their metabolism, calorie intake, sleep and stress levels, among many other variables. "It might be a little bit of trial-and-error for each individual athlete in terms of figuring out the most efficient route to take when it comes to their specific sport and body," says Valdez. "When it comes to intermittent fasting, the athlete should see a spike in energy as well as a decrease in fat mass if it is working for them."
AVOID THIS MISTAKE: DEHYDRATION
As you play with different fasting periods and caloric intake to figure out the best intermittent fasting methodology for you, it is essential that you stay hydrated — no matter what. "If [the athlete] becomes faint at any point, they may need to fuel themselves to keep their blood sugar from dropping too low," says Valdez. "Again, it’s all about figuring out what works for you, but the most important thing is that this is done safely. When it comes to metabolism, you are more metabolically active in the morning versus in the evening time. Athletes need to listen to their bodies to determine if fasting works best for them, as it isn’t going to be the same for everyone."