Shocking - there’s another trend in the nutrition and diet world. I know. Calm yourself, it’ll be okay. We will get through this.
It’s called Intermittent Fasting, and it theoretically promises weight loss, reductions in inflammation and a sharper brain.
But is it too good to be true? TWIST - it’s actually not. If done correctly.
And it’s not new either.
As humans, ‘fasting’ is part of our heritage - our cavemen ancestors went sometimes days between meals. Religious groups of many kinds practice a variety of fasting rituals. And, unconsciously, sometimes we go 12 hours or more between dinner and breakfast. (Breakfast literally means “breaking the fast”).
So the concept of fasting isn’t exactly new, but applying it strategically as a lifestyle is new for many of us.
So what is Intermittent Fasting?
Intermittent fasting (IF) is an eating pattern that cycles between fasting times (no eating; only non-calorie liquids) and non-fasting times (eating).
How to practice IF
There are many different ways to go about this. Options:
16/8: Fasting 16 hours per day, with an 8-hour eating window. Ex. Eating window is 12-8pm.
18/6: Fasting 18 hours per day, with a 6-hour eating window. Ex. Eating window is 2-8pm.
Fast one day per week for 24 hours. Ex. Stop eating at 6 pm. Fast until the following day at 6pm when you would have a healthy dinner.
When fasting, allowable liquids include: water (lots of it), black coffee, caffeinated or non caffeinated tea.
**If this is a complete 180 concept for you, but you want to try this out for size, start small with say a 13 hour fast, then work your way up. . . try it a few days a week and see how you feel.
What are the benefits of Intermittent Fasting?
Weight loss - when you fast, stored fat becomes more accessible and is used as fuel by the body. Also, in general, when you limit your eating window to less time, you tend to consume less calories overall. (1)
Improved insulin sensitivity (how easily your cells respond to insulin’s signal)
Cellular repair - when you fast longer than 14-16 hours approximately, your cells go through a process called autophagy, where cells digest old damaged proteins that build up within cells. (2)
Reduces inflammation in the body (3)
Human Growth Hormone increases - a hormone related to muscle retention, and anti-aging. (4)
Improves brain health by increasing a protein called Brain-Derived-Neurotrophic-Factor (BDNF), which helps grow new nerve cells and synapses.
Right, so it’s not a free-for-all when you eat.
You might read on some blogs and sites that this way of eating is spectacular for weight loss because it doesn’t restrict any food on the non-fasting portion of your day - AND you’ll still lose weight. But this isn’t necessarily the case. If you want optimal health - then there are some guidelines to follow for your meals (typically 2 meals per day).
Be sure to include at every meal (at its core!):
A protein source (deck of cards roughly size of good meat, fish or non-meat source like tempeh)
A TON of non-starchy veggies of all colours (unlimited)
Good fats like olive oil, coconut oil, avocado, grass-fed butter, raw nuts and seeds
And then add on starches as you wish (sweet potatoes, squashes) while trying to limit dairy and gluten-containing foods if you realllllly wanna be good.
A word of caution for all you stellar women.
Intermittent Fasting is a wonderful hack, but some women do NOT thrive on a fasting lifestyle. For some women, fasting side effects include hormonal imbalance, missed periods and irregular cycles, and blood sugar imbalances (ironically). The reason for this is evolutionary; women, more so than men, are highly attuned to external changes (like lack of food all of a sudden when it’s used to breakfast in the morning!) because the female body has to consistently gauge whether it’s safe to bring another life into this world.
If you’re a woman and are wary, but want to try IF. Try Non-consecutive Intermittent Fasting: Practice a 16 hour fast, 2-3 times per week (not consecutive days).
Example. If you fast “Wednesday” : Tuesday night, stop eating at 6:30, consuming only water after. Break the fast Wednesday morning at 10:30am. Then repeat again Friday, and if you want to do three days, Sunday.
You should NOT try Intermittent Fasting if:
You’re pregnant (side note congrats)
You have a history of eating disorders
You’re going through a stressful time and are emotionally stretched thin.
You have a history of hypoglycemia
You have an autoimmune thyroid disorder (mixed reviews on this - approach with caution and always check with your health care practitioner if in doubt but want to try).
I’ve been applying this to my own life, and I’ve got to say I love it. I sometimes have a bulletproof coffee in the morning (it's a super cool hack that I will speak of in another article, stay tuned!). It’s takes a mental adjustment not to have breakfast every day, but once you’re used to it - it’s a huge convenience. If it’s something you’re curious about, I encourage you to try it on for size for a week or two and see if it works for your constitution. It might not, and that’s okay - but give it enough of a shot so you know for sure.
Till next time you wonderful one.