Intermittent Fasting and Breastfeeding
Okay so here I go again. I’m about 3 months postpartum and ready to actually make this pregnancy fat vacate the premises. I battle between being okay with it and miserable. But in the end, it’s my gluttony that wants it to be okay (and I can’t buy a new wardrobe anyway just to serve my love of poke cakes).
I began intermittent fasting once again about 12 days ago. In that time I have lost nearly 4 lbs. You can say this is water weight, but this “water weight” was not moving through days of clean eating and high intensity interval training workouts like Insanity. I have been stuck at a weight that I’d rather not say. Every time it would get below aforementioned unmentionable number it would bounce right back up. With this way of eating, I feel I have gained control of the scale AND my eating/cravings/gluttony/etc.
Okay so you can follow really any diet
. If you like to eat low carb, eat low carb. If you like to eat clean, do that. If you like donuts every “morning” for breakfast, you can do that (sort of- more on that later). I choose to eat a fairly large meal most days as my first meal and it usually consist of eggs. That’s really my only consistency.
This way of eating does not say what to eat. It says when to eat. You have a window of eating. In this time you eat nearly the same amount of calories that you normally would. It’s just that the amount of time that those calories are spread across is smaller so your meals are larger (and more satisfying). I also find that denying myself during those mini-fasts each day strengthens my self-control muscle. And shrinks my appetite. So, that when I have the option to “feast” I usually just eat normally. (This happened for me around day 7.)
I will add also that my chosen method of intermittent fasting is lean gains or 16/8. I don’t follow this strictly. In the beginning, I continue to shorten my eating window until I get the desired effects & weight loss. My sweet spot is about a 6 hour eating window. I usually eat between 1:30 and 7:30 or 8:00.
The Reason IF is a Good Diet for Postpartum Breastfeeding Moms
You are strengthening that will-power, self-control muscle. This is a muscle that along with your own physical muscles atrophies during pregnancy.
Feeling hunger and saying no for many hours strengthens this ability. It’s much easier to tell yourself no when “yes” is just around the corner…
Also, and along these same lines, you are able to eat more satisfying meals including dessert if you want. It’s difficult to eat 1500-1800 calories (the recommended caloric restriction recommended for breastfeeding moms that want to lose weight) if you spread those calories over 18 hours, 3 meals and 3 snacks. But if you are eating two large meals or one large meal, then we are talking 800-1000 calorie meals. That is a ton of food if it’s clean food! And a good-sized portion even if it’s not.
So you are sort of hitting it from both angles. But then there is another thing that happens. Because of the biological effects of fasting each day, your appetite and cravings change. You suddenly find that even though your eating window opens, you’re not really feeling that much urgency to eat. And you’re craving mango-topped tilapia and rice! Yesterday, for example, I was craving oatmeal with brown sugar and butter. So I had a big bowl for my first meal.
Another reason this works great for breastfeeding moms is the rate of weight loss. It is between 1 & 2 lbs per week which is completely healthy for baby.
Intermittent Fasting, Breastfeeding, and Hunger Hormones
And lastly… Intermittent Fasting helps you take charge of those dang hunger hormones!!!
And lastly… Intermittent Fasting helps you take charge of those dang hunger hormones!!! In pregnancy and breastfeeding there is an increase in the hunger hormone called ghrelin. There is also an increase in insulin-resistance (or lowering of insulin sensitivity). And although Human Growth Hormone is elevated by pregnancy and breastfeeding, there is evidence that the effect is compounded with fasting.
Ghrelin. This little devil is what makes you STARVING after a breastfeeding session. It definitely works against any fat loss goals during the first 6 months of breastfeeding. Usually ghrelin levels begin normalizing at around 6 months post partum, and this is why breastfeeding moms tend to lose the most weight between months 6-12 versus formula-feeding moms that tend to lose it sooner.
During the last half of pregnancy, your insulin sensitivity begins to plummet so that your body can beginning building up those lovely fat stores that will feed and nourish the coming baby. This causes you to crave sweets and simple carbs and at the same time causes your body to turn those simple carbs to fat faster. IF (intermittent fasting) will normalize your insulin sensitivity hence why your craving change. This will also affect how your body utilizes the simple carbs that you DO eat. (By the way, speaking of delicious carbohydrates…IF suggest eating these carbs at the end of your eating window, later at night which is when I normally crave them. It allows more time for the fasted stated to eat through those.)
And lastly, HGH or human growth hormone. Remember when people used to inject or ingest this and then starve themselves aka fasting to lose a massive amount of weight quickly. (Are people still doing that?) Well, I confess I actually haven’t studied the science on this one. It’s something about survival of the baby making the body release fat stores more readily. But I know that these levels are already elevated in pregnant and breastfeeding women. So, IF would only heighten these levels causing an even greater fat burning effect. Also, you are fasting every day so those hours would be optimized for fat burning.
Links on Hormones and Intermittent Fasting
Modern science has confirmed there are many good reasons for fasting, including:
- Normalizing your insulin sensitivity, which is key for optimal health as insulin resistance (which is what you get when your insulin sensitivity plummets) is a primary contributing factor to nearly all chronic disease, from diabetes to heart disease and even cancer
- Normalizing ghrelin levels, also known as “the hunger hormone”
- Promoting human growth hormone (HGH) production, which plays an important part in health, fitness and slowing the aging process
The entrainment of ghrelin is part of what makes the 16 hour fast so easy after a few days adaptation. ..”If you eat all the time, ghrelin secretion will not be well controlled,” said Silver, the paper’s lead author and the principal investigator of the study.”
Energy & Intermittent Fasting: Something all Breastfeeding Moms Need!
Right now I’m typing with one hand, rocking Kate with the other. Sofia is rustling from her nap. I need energy to keep up with these two! I guess every body needs extra energy, but breastfeeding moms especially whether you’re a new mom or two under two or mom of four. The times of fasting, you don’t have to devote to putting together a meal. One less meal every day really adds up to quite a bit more free time. Plus, don’t ask me why but there is an increase in natural energy, creativity, and heightened mood & awareness. These are very valuable weapons to add to your mom arsenal any mom will tell you. I usually break my fast after nap time and after I have prepared lunch and fed it to my toddler. It works out great.
Links to my previous posts on Intermittent Fasting and Breastfeeding
And another post on intermittent fasting and breastfeeding
I’m entirely too embarrassed to post my before and afters until my after gets a little back to pre-baby/normal. But in a couple weeks, I will most likely post an update which includes progress photos. I also plan to post some very necessary tips for success that I didn’t have time to post here now. I’ve got two babies screaming. Gotta go!