Fleeting Fad or Powerful Tool?
Why intermittent fasting can be a powerful tool for your health
Intermittent fasting has been trending for quite some time now. Is it simply hype or is there science to back up the claims of weight loss and improved overall health?
Before we get into the details of intermittent fasting, it’s important to lay the foundation: no fasting or weight-loss program in the short term can undo the effects of a poor diet. Meaning, intermittent fasting can be a powerful tool for your overall health, but a nutrient-dense diet of whole foods will always be your best bet. The most effective way to boost your long-term health is to maintain a high-quality diet while staying hydrated and moving your body. With that being said…let’s get into it.
Simply put, intermittent fasting happens when an individual goes extended periods with little or no food intake. There are varying degrees to which one can practice intermittent fasting, but ultimately they fall into two categories: time-restricted eating and whole day fasts.
With time-restricted eating, you shrink the window of time during which you eat each day. Typically, that involves extending the duration of your regular overnight fast, anywhere from 12 to 20 hours, by skipping either breakfast or dinner. Some popular variations of this are 16:8, in this example your fasting window would be 16 hours and your eating window would be 8 hours. So maybe you would skip breakfast, have lunch at noon and finish up dinner by 8pm. Another popular example is 18:6 where you would fast for 18 hours and have a 6 hour eating window. I think a great way to get started is to go slowly, starting out with a 12:12 or a 14:10 fasting/eating window and see how you do with it. In the end it is important to listen to your body and do what feels right for you.
Whole-day fasts are just as they sound, where one will fast for 24 hours, as little as once or twice a month or as much as once or twice per week. In this type of fast you would go from dinner one night to dinner the next night (or breakfast to breakfast, or lunch to lunch). If you are interested in giving this a try occasionally it may be something you should work your way up to slowly.
- Intermittent fasting has been shown to be a powerful tool for health in a variety of ways, such as decreasing inflammation, reducing cravings, improving efficiency at fat-burning, and supporting healthy blood sugar levels by making your cells more sensitive to the hormone insulin (a key player in regulating blood sugar)
- Studies have also found that certain cognitive changes occur during the fasting period, including increased alertness and increased mental sharpness.
- Ultimately, intermittent fasting gives your body time to reset. When you take a break between meals, your body needs to produce less insulin, your blood sugar levels are able to to stabilize, and your body has a chance to clean up shop — all of which can support major benefits like weight loss and longevity.
- If you’ve never done a fast before, and you are not quite ready perhaps you can start by avoiding snacks during the day and avoiding eating anything after dinner.
If you are considering intermittent fasting, make sure to discuss it with your healthcare provider. Skipping meals and/or severely limiting calories can be dangerous for people with certain conditions. For example, people with advanced diabetes or who are on medications for diabetes, people with a history of eating disorders like anorexia and bulimia, pregnant or breastfeeding women, and children shouldn’t attempt intermittent fasting unless under the close supervision of a physician who can monitor them
So, if you’re looking to lose weight, lower blood sugar, or improve how sensitive your cells are to insulin, intermittent fasting may be the perfect health strategy for you! Always remember that the ultimate foundation of optimal health will be a nutrient-dense, whole food diet. Happy fasting!
Chris Frisch, Nutritional Therapy Practitioner
Updated: Aug 28, 2020
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