Updated: Jan 18
Have you heard about Intermittent Fasting? There seems to be a lot of chatter recently about this way of eating. Are you wondering if it is something you should try? Then this guide is for you.
What Is Intermittent Fasting?
Let’s start with the basics of what Intermittent Fasting is: alternating periods of fasting and eating and there are many different ways to attain this. For example, one way is alternate-day fasting. An alternate day fasting plan would have you eat one day and then not eat the next day. Another is compressed food intake, where you restrict eating to a particular time frame (also known as time restricted feeding).......let’s say six hours. This could look something like a feeding window from 12PM to 6PM. I find this the best and most convenient way for most people to do intermittent fasting. Alternately you could expand your eating time to 8 hours with a fasting window of 16 hours (eat only between 12PM and 8PM).
According to Jason Fung, M.D., fasting expert and author of the book The Complete Guide to Fasting, when it comes to fasting "there's actually infinite variability. It can be any time. Any time that you don't eat—that's fasting. It's the flip side, the B side of eating. It's really that simple."
Benefits of Intermittent Fasting
Studies show that intermittent fasting is an effective weight loss tool. It’s been shown to improve insulin sensitivity, reduce inflammation and oxidative stress, promote healthy brain function, increase athletic performance, increased longevity and energy levels.
These are not the only benefits and most likely the one that should be getting the most attention regarding IF is that it is a hormetic stressor. This means that IF is a positive stressor, which is something that causes hormesis…. something that contributes to positive adaptations. Without going in to too much detail and getting too sciency, it basically promotes a process called cell autophagy, which is a cellular repair process. This is your body’s way of cleaning itself, it makes us more efficient in getting rid of the faulty parts. Which is probably why it helps with the symptoms listed above.
Fasting gives your body a break from digesting and allows it to focus on other things. According to Dr. Gundry, this is especially important when it comes to the brain. "The brain needs huge amounts of blood flow. Digestion is incredibly energy-expensive and we divert all of our blood flow to our digestive system when we eat."
Who should do Intermittent Fasting?
Someone who suffers from the following issues may benefit;
fighting a chronic infection
has a weakened immune system
is trying to lose weight
Other good candidates would be, those who have type 2 diabetes or other metabolic problems, or neurological issues.
Or you may just be someone who is trying to optimize longevity.
Is there any reason not to do Intermittent Fasting?
Since there are so many benefits, is there anyone who should not try this way of eating? The first group of people that should not do IF would be pregnant and nursing women. The key focus at this time should be to nourish a growing baby.
Another group of people that may not be the best candidate for IF, are people who are suffering from adrenal fatigue, better known in the functional world as Hypothalamic-Pituitary Axis Dysregulation (HPA-D). These people are more prone to hypoglycemia, most likely have low energy, may not sleep well, or feel tired even after a good night’s sleep, basically a feeling of being worn out. Typically a person in this situation already has more than one stressor, so instead of IF playing a beneficial role, it can become another strain on the body, which can further them in the wrong direction.
How to do intermittent fasting?
The following are bullet points to help you:
It is best to start on a day that is low stress; or at least not on a day you do a hard workout in the gym!
During fasting periods, consume only water, tea, or black coffee.
If desired, a small amount of ghee or coconut oil in a hot beverage is permitted during the fasting periods.
Start with a 14- to 16-hour fast three to four times a week. This means all food is consumed within an eight- to 10- hour window, i.e., 10 a.m. to 8 p.m. or 10 p.m. to 6 p.m. each day. (Women tend to do better with slightly shorter fasts when compared with men.)
You can try to progress to a 16-hour fast each day of the week where all food is consumed within an eight-hour window each day.
If desired and tolerated, you may add a 40-hour fast once or twice a month. For example, if you eat between 12 and 8 p.m., you would finish your last meal on Friday night at 8 p.m. and not eat again until Sunday at 12 p.m. This is a more advanced strategy and should only be done by those who already have experience with fasting.
It’s important to listen to your body and only fast on days when you feel up to it. You must take other life stressors into account and recognize that intermittent fasting, while often beneficial, is another stress on the body. When background levels of stress are low to moderate, this can be beneficial, but when they are high, intermittent fasting can cause problems.
It’s also important to monitor sleep, energy levels, and cognitive function. If any of these start to decline, it may be time to reconsider how often to fast.
Finally, while fasting is great, keep in mind that the way you break your fast is just as important. It's completely counterproductive to fast and then immediately binge on unhealthy foods. In other words, don't break your fast by going through the drive-thru or eating a bunch of processed foods. Create a meal that has protein, fiber, vegetables, and healthy fats to break your fast. Your body will thank you!