Everywhere you turn there is news about Intermittent Fasting (IF). Magazine articles, books, podcasts, summits, and more. So what is Intermittent Fasting? It is not a diet but a pattern of eating, and it is one of the hottest health and fitness trends today. If all the press has you curious, here are the basics of Intermittent Fasting. Start here, then check out some of the resources at the end of my post.
The Basics of Intermittent Fasting
Fasting has been used throughout history as an ancient healing tradition, in spiritual practices, and as a form of social protest. Because food was not always available, it's also the natural cycle of eating and not eating that our ancestors likely encountered. In contrast to today, food is constantly in supply and many people graze their way through the day. The science behind the health benefits of fasting in its variety of forms is impressive. You might also see it referred to as Time Restricted Eating (TRE) or Time Restricting Feeding (TRF).
It's About When you Eat, Not What You Eat
Intermittent Fasting is about when you eat, not what. There are different ways to implement IF such as:
- The 12:12 method, where you fast in a 12 hour window and eat the other 12 hours
- The 14:10 method, where you fast in a 14 hour window and eat the other 10 hours
- 16:8 method, where you fast in a 16 hour window and eat the other 8 hours
- The 5:2, where you eat normally for 5 days, then consume only 500-600 calories on 2 days
There are a few other methods, with the most popular being the 16:8 method. According to a new study published in the journal Nutrition and Healthy Aging.this method helps you lose weight and lower blood pressure. It's as easy as eating a late breakfast (or skipping it) and having an early dinner.
Choose What Works for You
Choose a window of time when you eat and when you don’t. Example, eat breakfast at 7AM and end dinner by 7 PM. As you get comfortable with IF, you can extend the window of not eating to 14 or 16 hours. The longer windows of fasting allow your body to burn fat, do internal cellular clean-up and repair, increasing fat burning potential and health benefits.
Another way to implement IF is to try a 12-hour window for a set number of days (Monday - Friday), then choose a few days (maybe the weekend) to do the longer windows. You may have a to plan a bit and adjust your schedule. One note on timed eating; don't eat within 2-3 hours of going to bed to get a better night's sleep.
In his book, The Scientific Approach to Intermittent Fasting, Dr. Michael Vanderschelden writes that Intermittent Fasting causes a high level of fat burning in the body because it changes the activity of your hormones to facilitate weight loss. When we eat, insulin is produced by the pancreas. When we fast, insulin levels decrease, facilitating fat burning. Insulin is sometimes called the fat storage hormone. IF also produces benefits for metabolic health, immune system support, gut health (and gut health drives all health), even longevity.
Some studies show IF may reduce cholesterol, blood triglycerides, inflammatory markers plus blood sugar and insulin resistance, all factors for heart disease. It’s also beneficial for our brains, increasing a specific brain hormone called BDNF, aiding the growth of new nerve cells and possibly protecting against Alzheimer’s.
But Let's Be Clear on One Thing
For optimal weight and good health, choose what you eat wisely. No matter what trend you follow, from Atkins to Zone or Paleo to Keto - the best plan starts with plenty of plants. Choose real, fresh, whole foods and keep it colorful. Enjoy lots of non-starchy vegetables and some starchy, and mostly low-sugar fruits. Skip processed foods, artificial anything and fake foods.
Minimize foods that turn to sugar quickly in your body like white bread, white rice, and white flour products. Say goodbye to soda and sugary drinks and drink plenty of clean, filtered water. Add healthy protein, whether plant or animal, and add some healthy fat with avocados, nuts, seeds, and healthy oils.
Is Intermittent Fasting for Everyone?
Simply put, no. If you are underweight or have a history of eating disorders, have diabetes, problems with blood sugar regulation, low blood pressure, take medications, or are a women trying to start a family, are pregnant or breast-feeding you should not fast without talking with your doctor. Additionally, it's not for kids and older adults.
The downside of IF can be hunger until your body adjusts to a new pattern of eating, resulting in less than normal energy and thinking clarity. The results of IF can be highly beneficial for those who it is safe for. Intermittent Fasting is a powerful, optional weight loss tool to consider. During the fasting window be sure to drink plenty of clean filtered water as hydration is critical.
10 Evidence-Based Health Benefits of Intermittent Fasting, from Healthline
What are the Benefits of Intermittent Fasting, from Medical News Today
Intermittent Fasting-Surprising Update, From Harvard Health Publishing
Tips for Safe Fasting, from Healthline