Intermittent Fasting. Is it right for you?
There’s a lot of buzz these days around intermittent fasting. What is intermittent fasting? Is it right for you? Which form of fasting do you choose? And most importantly, what are the health benefits? We know you have questions so we’re going to dive right in and break it all down for you.
Also read: Smoothies and Intermittent Fasting
What is intermittent fasting?
Intermittent fasting, or time-restricted eating, shouldn’t be considered a diet but rather an alternative eating lifestyle. What’s great about intermittent fasting is that you can ease in slowly and there’s infinite variability. IF (intermittent fasting) means restricting the period of time in which you eat to a set number of hours each day. Typically confining all of your eating into a 12-hour, 10-hour, 8-hour, 6-hour, or 4-hour window, and fasting the remainder of the day.
The Different Types of Fasting
It’s important to identify your goal before choosing which fasting type will ultimately work best for you. Intermittent fasting can offer a wealth of benefits but knowing what you hope to achieve from fasting will help you to pick the best plan.
You’ll see these ratios in each of the fasting types described. It’s quite simply a formula, 16-hours of fasting with an 8-hour eating window. The 16:8 is probably one the most popular fasting types. You could start eating at 12 noon and finish your last meal by 8pm, or, you could shift your hours and have late breakfast at 10am and finish your last meal by 6pm. As long as you’re eating within an 8-hour window and fasting for 16-hours you’re good to go. This type of fasting is associated with weight loss and decreased fat mass while maintaining muscle mass.
Yep, you guessed it, this one is a bit more challenging. You’re now confining your eating window to 6 hours. You could start eating at 12 noon and finish your last meal by 6pm. We recommend eating two meals during this window (as with the 16:8) that includes plenty of leafy greens, fruit, protein, healthy fats and yes, even a square or two of dark chocolate. If your ultimate goal is weight loss and you possibly plateaued on the 16:8, this may be a logical next step. It’s suggested that the 18:6 helps your body burn through stored carbs more quickly so that you can start burning fat (in the form of ketones) for fuel.
This fasting type is certainly not for everyone and is definitely not for beginners. You’re essentially breaking down one meal a day and allowing yourself an 8-hour eating window. We’ll let you play around with the math but the 20:4 suggests that you are able to burn more fat, lose more weight and experience greater autography (aka cellular clean-up associated with longevity).
There are other types of fasting like 24-hour, 36-hour, alternate-day (eating every other day), once-a-month (refraining from eating for 24 hours once a month), etc., but in this post we’re focusing on those mentioned above.
If the thought of intermittent fasting is daunting to you, maybe consider easing in with a 12-hour fast every other day. Work your way up to a 16:8 and maybe do that every other day until you decide what works best. Consulting your physician is always a good idea.
How Long Do I Intermittent Fast?
This is entirely up to you. Intermittent fasting can be challenging in the beginning but after a few days your body will adjust. The hunger will subside and you’ll begin to experience the benefits highlighted below. Many people adopt intermittent fasting as we said earlier, an alternative eating lifestyle that helps to promote longevity.
The Health Benefits:
- Balance blood sugar
- Reduce insulin levels
- Improve gut health
- Improve heart health
- Reduce inflammation
- Increase cancer-fighting properties
- Increase longevity
- Stimulate growth hormones
- Improve brain health
- Weight loss
Weight loss may be experienced during intermittent fasting because of the reduction in insulin levels which helps to push you into a ketogenic state. When your body settles into a ketogenic state, or ketosis, you start to burn stored fat for fuel. This can help to stabilize blood sugar which may have an appetite suppressing effect.
How To Break a Fast
Before we discuss how to break your fast, let’s highlight a few important topics like coffee and supplements and the Dos and Don’ts.
Most fasting types allow for a small amount of calories during your fasting window, typically 50 calories. Calorie-free drinks like water, herbal tea, black coffee, sparkling water are widely permitted. If you just can’t wrap your brain around black coffee, a splash of milk likely won’t hurt but do not over-indulge.
Another important topic is supplements. Some supplements are fine but others like fish oil, vitamin A, D, E and K which are all more fat-soluble should be taken during your eating window. As a good rule of thumb, just take your supplements during your eating window.
Okay, so breaking your fast… your body is more than likely in a ketogenic state and insulin and blood sugar levels are low. You do not want to race to the pantry and inhale ALL THE CARBS. Not that you would do that (wink) but be extremely mindful of what you’re consuming as you ease into your first meal of the day. As we mentioned above, it’s all about a balanced meal full of fresh veggies, possibly a piece of fruit, and of course protein and healthy fats.
You Shouldn’t Fast If…
If you’re pregnant or breastfeeding intermittent fasting is a no no. Fasting promotes fat burning and when you’re pregnant or breastfeeding you should be storing fat, not burning it. You should also avoid fasting if you have history of an eating disorder. The goal of fasting is improved overall health but for those who have struggled with an eating disorder, fasting can act as a trigger for relapse.
Again, we can’t emphasize enough that it’s always a good idea to consult a physician before embarking on a new alternative eating lifestyle that your body has never experienced before.
Intermittent Fasting – Final Thoughts
Despite the fact that it seems strange to go against the golden rule we were all taught of breakfast being the MOST important meal of the day, intermittent fasting is here to stay and for most people, it’s certainly worth exploring.
It’s important to listen to your body and follow your gut intuition. Intermittent fasting can offer you a wealth of health benefits but allow yourself to ease into it slowly. Also be mindful of the fact that it’s not going to be a “quick fix” for every health concern. You should look at intermittent fasting as a tool in achieving optimal health and wellness.
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