What is intermittent fasting?
Have you heard of IF? If weight loss programs based on intermittent fasting are crowding your newsfeed as they are mine, maybe you’ve scrolled past thinking: that sounds awful. (I raise my hand!) Or maybe you were intrigued.
When most people hear the phrase “intermittent fasting” they recognize it as a diet. Or maybe something that sounds like starvation. It is actually not a diet at all, but more of an intentional eating pattern and ideally, it’s not to be accompanied by excessive hunger. The stereotypical word “diet” indicates a set of rules and guidance for foods you should and should not eat whereas intermittent fasting is a method to to dictates when you eat. Intermittent fasting just means eating intentionally within a certain window of time and fasting when the window is closed. In fact, it’s something we do each night while we sleep, but there are several more methods gaining traction for their health benefits.
Types of Fasting
Popular Intermittent Fasting Protocols
Below are some of the most common intermittent fasting protocols.
Based on Dr. Satchin Panda’s research, you would start fasting as close to sunset as possible for at least 13 hours.
Restrict your daily eating period to 8 hours and fast for the 16 hours in between. For example, begin eating window at 9:00AM and stop eating or end window at 4:00PM. Another example would be to begin eating at 12:00PM and stop eating at 8:00PM, but it can flex to whenever is most convenient.
Fast for 24 hours, once or twice each week. For example, stop eating at 6:00PM and don’t eat again until 6:00PM the next day.
For two days of the week, eat 500-600 calories. Eat normally the other 5 days. Be sure that the two low calorie days are non-consecutive days.
Eating within 5 consecutive hours, and fasting for the other 19 hours. Popularized by Dr. Bert Herring.
Fast every other day by consuming no calories during your fasting days and eating normally the other days. If this feels extreme at first, try eating only 100-500 calories on fasting days and work up to 0 calorie fasting days. For example, you could choose to eat part of an avocado or add coconut or MCT oil to your tea, as the overall goal is to keep insulin levels untouched by the food intake.
Popularized by Dr. Jason Fung, the author of The Complete Guide to Fasting: Heal Your Body Through Intermittent, Alternate-Day, and Extended Fasting.
Fast during the day, and have one large meal every night. Alternatively, you can have small amounts of vegetables and fruits during the day and have a large meal at night.
Skip 1-2 meals when you aren’t hungry or don’t have time to eat. This method is less structured but will likely feel the most natural. Not for someone who wants to start intermittent fasting and likes structure.
Why would you do it? Benefits of Intermittent Fasting
At this point, we all know that calories aren’t everything. Caloric quality is just as (or more) important as caloric quantity. That doesn’t mean that calories don’t count – a caloric deficit can still work for weight loss in many people. Intermittent fasting gives structure to your eating pattern and allows you to consume your food in a shorter time period. This might make it easier for you to consume less calories than you would have in a longer time period.
When trying to lose weight and burn fat, lowering your blood sugar is important to avoid pre-diabetes, diabetes, insulin resistance and most importantly becoming overweight. If your goal is weight loss or fat burning, you should consider lowering your blood sugar to avoid conditions like pre-diabetes, diabetes, and insulin resistance. These conditions are obviously poor for your health, but can also lead to weight gain! Intermittent fasting causes lower insulin levels, higher growth hormone levels (which are associated with weight loss) and higher amounts of norepinephrine (a neurotransmitter that is released from the sympathetic nervous system in response to stress) in the body. Intermittent fasting can even improve your insulin sensitivity.
"Insulin sensitivity is the relationship between how much insulin needs to be produced in order to deposit a certain amount of glucose. You are insulin sensitive if a small amount of insulin needs to be secreted to deposit a certain amount of glucose, and insulin resistant if a lot of insulin needs to be secreted to deposit the same amount of glucose."
What is fat oxidation? It is your body’s ability to use stored fat for energy or fuel. Intermittent fasting enhances hormone function to facilitate fat loss and allows that fat to be used for energy. In other words, your body is more likely to use stored fat for fuel closer to the end of your fasting hours.
Using similar logic that applies to weight loss, it is easier to maintain your weight once you have the structure of a shorter eating window and a longer fasting window. The structure of intermittent fasting allows for more predictable digestion, which is great for weight maintenance!
Reduce inflammation in the body.
Oxidative stress and inflammation are two of the top drivers of aging--like wrinkles and chronic illness, like cancer. Intermittent fasting can both reduce inflammation and enhance your body’s resistance oxidative stress in the body.
Intermittent fasting turns on a process in the body called autophagy. Autophagy is the body’s way of “taking out the trash” the cells in the body initiate a cellular “waste removal.” Autophagy maintains the body’s homeostasis by protein degradation and turnover of the destroyed cell organelles for formation of new cells.
Less meal prep. Less packing. Less eating. For example, if you chose to follow the 16/8 method, you would likely be eating two large meals instead of three. Not only is that one less meal to prep, but it’s one less meal you have to sit down and eat! Imagine what you could accomplish with that time! If you’re doing a 24 hour fast, that’s even more time you get to reclaim for your day!
Imagine going to the food store and not having to buy food for breakfast! Following the 16/8 method? If you’re eating between the hours of 12:00PM – 8:00PM, then you only need to purchase food for two meals instead of three.
This article does not take the place of tailored advice from your healthcare professional. See the disclaimer in the footer below for more information.
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Dr. Bert Herring – Appetite Correction, Intermittent Fasting, Fast-5 Diet and More. (n.d.). Retrieved June 05, 2017, from http://www.fast-5.com/
Fung, J., & Mercola, J. (2016, October 16). The Complete Guide to Fasting: A Special Interview With Dr. Jason Fung. Retrieved June 02, 2017, from http://articles.mercola.com/sites/articles/archive/2016/10/16/complete-guide-fasting.aspx
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Pilon, B. (n.d.). Intermittent Fasting For Weight Loss and Health: Top 8 Benefits. Retrieved May 31, 2017, from http://www.eatstopeat.org/intermittent-fasting-for-weight-loss-and-health-top-8-benefits/
Patel, E. K. (2012, November 01). How do I increase insulin sensitivity? Retrieved June 05, 2017, from https://examine.com/nutrition/how-do-i-increase-insulin-sensitivity/
Patrick, R. (2016, June 30). Dr. Satchin Panda on Time-Restricted Feeding and Its Effects on Obesity, Muscle Mass & Heart Health. Retrieved June 05, 2017, from https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-R-eqJDQ2nU
The Beginner's Guide to Intermittent Fasting. (2017, May 17). Retrieved May 23, 2017, from https://www.nerdfitness.com/blog/a-beginners-guide-to-intermittent-fasting/