Jenifer Aniston has just revealed that she follows 16:8 fasting to stay in shape at 50 – and we are all very intrigued.
The eating plan means there is an eight-hour window where Jen can fill up on healthy, nutritious food. She then goes 16 hours without eating anything, and she says it makes a huge difference to her overall health and wellbeing.
But 16-hours without any food at all sounds pretty challenging, so how do you cope if you’re prone to getting hangry between every meal?
The former Friends star also loves a good sweat session. She reportedly works out five times a week (imagine having that kind of time), and she does all of that while fasting. We need to know how.
Intermittent fasting can be challenging enough, but when you also throw punishing workouts into the mix, it can be hard to know how to maintain your energy levels and recover safely using your diet.
So we asked a performance nutritionist exactly how to maintain a healthy, safe, effective fitness regime when following intermittent fasting.
‘Intermittent fasting (IF) has become a very hot topic in recent times as more and more people advocate its use,’ explains performance nutritionist Dean Coulson.
What is intermittent fasting?
Intermittent fasting is an eating plan, not a diet.
All it means is going without food for a period of time. We all fast while we’re asleep – this regime usually just extends the period of time where we not eating anything.
The amount of time you choose to fast for is up to you – Jenifer Aniston chooses 16 hours, but you could go shorter. Some people do it every day, and others choose one or two days in the week to fast.
It’s supposed to be an easy and effective way of getting lean without having to go on a diet, with some studies even saying it can increase life expectancy and slow ageing – but the benefits aren’t conclusively supported.
‘I don’t believe that one way of eating serves all, but since I use IF myself and with clients, I’ll let you decide for yourself if it’s something that would fit with your lifestyle and help you reach your goals.’
Dean says there are a number of different approaches to applying IF. Some involve 24-hour fasts a few times per week, while others suggest fasting using the 16:8 protocol where you fast for 16 hours per day (essentially skipping breakfast).
‘The 16:8 approach works well especially when you work out regularly and have fat-loss or gaining muscle goals,’ says Dean.
‘Intermittent fasting still allows you to maintain a moderate to intense workout load while still maintaining your energy and metabolism.
‘Many people think that IF drains both of these aspects, but the opposite has proven to be the case. You often have more energy and a higher metabolism while engaged in this type of fasting, making it the best of both worlds.’
Can you still workout while intermittently fasting?
Dean says intermittent fasting is good practice to include in your workout plan.
‘It has beneficial aspects to it: You will have more energy and increased strength and endurance as the body isn’t dealing with digestive stress at the same time.
‘But there are also benefits that are a little less easy to see, like a cleansing of your system that takes place with any fast, as your body adjusts to less content being put into it.’
Benefits aside, is it actually safe to workout while following IF? Dean thinks it usually is, but individual circumstances need to be taken into consideration.
‘Essentially 16:8 intermittent fasting is like skipping breakfast and starting to eat at lunch time,’ says Dean.
‘Of course, there may be instances that it does not suit some people suffering from health conditions, or suffering from eating disorders or a bad relationship with food and so these would need to be addressed before embarking on something like IF.
‘However, for people who are looking to optimise their health, I invite you to consider we have more than enough stored energy to see us through until eating begins at the end of the fasting period.
‘There is ample evidence to support intermittent fasting as a good lifestyle choice as long as the principles set out below are followed.’
How can you refuel properly while following intermittent fasting?
Recovery is done when you sleep, but refuelling your body after a workout is also really important.
‘The best way to fuel your workouts is to eat your starchy carbs – such as sweet potatoes or Jasmine rice – as the last meal of the day,’ suggests Dean.
‘That way, you are fully fuelled for the next day’s workout. It also has the added benefit of making eating with family or friends much easier and convenient in the evening.
‘Focus on nutrient dense foods. Having an eight-hour window to eat allows you to have two-four meals in that period, depending on your goals.
Nutritional tips for intermittent fasting
- If you can’t kill it, pick it or grow it you should avoid it.
- Eat real, whole foods as much as possible.
- Seafood must be wild caught, never farm-raised.
- Chicken and eggs should be organic and free roaming.
- Avoid processed foods, fake foods, food additives and agricultural chemicals.
- Drink 1 litre of water per 50lb of body weight.
- Limit fruit consumption to 1-2 servings per day.
- Limit alcohol consumption to once per week.
- Limit consumption of common inflammatory foods i.e dairy (except for eggs), wheat, white flour, fried foods, trans fats, soy and sugar.
- Rotate foods. Don’t eat the exact same thing on a daily basis.
- Eat as many green vegetables as possible.
- Break your fast with a greens drink to boost your nutrients and 1 cup of warm water with the juice of an entire small lemon squeezed into it.
- Get most of your fat intake from animal protein – grass fed beef, salmon, egg yolks, etc.
Dean Coulson, performance nutritionist
‘IF allows the body to rest, turn to the body to burn fat as its primary fuel source instead of sugar, helps balance hormones, and gives you more energy for your training without compromising strength,’ says Dean.
‘If you are on the fence give it a go.’
Don’t forget, taking on any new kind of diet or eating plan isn’t a good idea if you have a history of disordered eating. If you have any concerns about your relationship with food you should speak to your GP straight away.
But if you do decide to start intermittent fasting, it’s important that you eat really well.
Make sure you’re hitting all of your food groups, not denying yourself anything and hydrating and sleeping well too.
Health is holistic and it’s a combination of diet, exercise and self-care that will really improve your overall wellbeing.
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