Intermittent fasting (IF) is the latest health trend people are buzzing about. Although it’s a controversial health trend, intermittent fasting is actually an ancient technique. Intermittent fasting is not purely a modern day fad of weight loss (though that has been shown to be one of the effects), it has been used for centuries to improve metabolic health, protect against disease, and possibly even to live longer.
My Take: If you practice IF correctly, in my opinion, there’s no cutting calories involved. It’s intended to give your digestive system a break, not to make you lose weight. You should be eating the SAME amount of calories as you normally would, just in a shorter time frame throughout the day.
I don’t think it’s “good” or “bad”. There are plenty of benefits, but do I think it’s for everyone? Not at all. If it’s triggering for you, causes obsessive food thoughts or you use it as a way to simply skip breakfast and cut calories.. it’s absolutely not for you. Do not do IF if you’re pregnant, have had a history of disordered eating (like me.. read more about that here), or if you take medication that impacts your blood sugar.
Only try after you have consulted your doctor to see if it would be beneficial for you. If you have a healthy relationship with food and find it beneficial — go for it! Some days I find myself unintentionally practicing IF. If I want breakfast, I eat it. if I’m not hungry, I don’t.
Let’s get into the technical stuff
What exactly is intermittent fasting?
The phenomenon basically involves alternating periods of fasting and eating. It’s different than any other diet or eating plan you’ve tried before, because it doesn’t tell you what to eat, it tells you when to eat. If you’re anything like me, the word “fast” is enough to make you stop reading altogether and run to the cabinet for your favorite snack… cheddar chex mix anyone? Intermittent fasting might be easier than you think. And don’t worry about being hungry– many people report feeling better and having more energy.
Why do intermittent fasting?
People who swear by the technique say it has helped them lose weight, gain muscle, and improve their overall health. In many studies, people who practiced fasting lost more fat than people who didn’t. But beyond just weight loss, there are many other possible health benefits.
A 2007 study in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition found that IF may help prevent chronic ailments like type 2 diabetes or heart disease. It also starts an increase in the human growth hormone, which promotes cellular repair. This is good for everything from brain health to anti-aging benefits of the skin.
How do you fast safely?
Putting it simply, you cannot eat anything during the fasting cycle. You can drink water, tea, and coffee (you don’t have to give up that first-thing-in-the-morning cup!) and take supplements during the fasting period, as long as they’re all non-caloric (which means skip the cream and sugar). In determining when to fast and when to eat, there are a variety of methods, but I find the most approachable and reasonable to be the 12-13 hour fast.
While this isn’t a technical intermittent fasting technique, it’s the easiest way to reap some of the benefits and try out if fasting is right for you. For years, doctors have been telling us that our body needs 12 hours of fasting to be able to completely digest and cleanse itself. It’s also pretty attainable to eat during the window of 9am-9pm, or 7:30am-7:30pm. Once you get used to this form of fasting and eating periods, you can add an hour of fasting by either eating dinner earlier or breakfast later, and work up to the 16/8 method, or Eat-Stop-Eat method.
Is intermittent fasting right for you?
IF is not for everyone, nor is it something you have to do in order to be healthy. If it fits into your lifestyle and you know you can still get all the proper nutrients for your body, it might be worth trying.
Fasting is not a means to binge on junk food during the eating period. You have to be confident you will fill your eating cycle with healthy foods so that you’re getting enough nutrients, vitamins, and macronutrients that your body needs to function at its best. So the practice may be right for you if you already eat healthy and are interested in finding alternative ways to make your body even healthier.
Remember: IF is a method that has been used for thousands of years for a number of different reasons, including health — not a trendy, passing fitness fad to lose weight, quick. When treated as such, it could have amazing benefits. Happy fasting!