Intermittent fasting is currently becoming one of the most popular health and fitness trends. Intermittent fasting (IF) is being used to help lose weight, improve health, and to live longer. IF is not about following a diet, but more about following a diet pattern.
The idea of IF isn’t as far-fetched as one may think. Humans have evolved to withstand short periods of time without food. Our hunter-gatherer ancestors naturally fasted when they couldn’t find anything to eat.
The most common methods involve eating all your meals in an 8, 6, or even 4-hour window while fasting the rest of the day, or fasting for 24 hours, twice per week. Water, tea, and coffee without added sweeteners or milk are fine while fasting but no calories are allowed.
IF is not that difficult to achieve. Many people may already be doing it naturally without even realizing it. If you stop eating at 7pm and don’t eat breakfast until 10am the following day, you have already achieved 15 hours of fasting. Consider the term “break fast”. This refers to the meal that breaks your fast – which you already do daily.
IF is associated with many health benefits…..
- Lowers insulin levels and increased growth hormone levels which assists with fat loss and muscle gain resulting in weight loss. Lower insulin levels protect against insulin resistance and the development of type 2 diabetes.
- Increases the release of the fat burning hormone norepinephrine (noradrenaline). Short-term fasting may increase your metabolic rate by 3.6–14%
- Reduces levels of LDL cholesterol, triglycerides, and oxidative stress which all reduce the risk of heart disease and many chronic diseases (i, iii).
- Some studies in rats showed that IF can extend lifespan (ii). Although humans are not the same as rats, the results combined with the known benefits on other health markers are quite promising.
- Reduces Inflammation in the body
- Improves mental clarity and concentration
- Cellular repair: When fasted, your cells initiate cellular repair processes. This includes autophagy, where cells digest and remove old and dysfunctional proteins that build up inside cells.
- Another benefit of IF is that it simplifies our lives since there are fewer meals to prepare and to clean up and less meals to buy means more money left in your pocket at the end of the day.
For more information on the benefits of Intermittent Fasting… Check out this video from Dr. Axe :
Precautions with Intermittent Fasting
Not everyone will react the same to intermittent fasting. Listen to your body and pay attention to any changes you may experience.
Who should NOT fast?
You should not fast if you are:
- Underweight (BMI < 18.5)
- Pregnant – you need extra nutrients for your child.
- Breastfeeding – you need extra nutrients for your child.
- A child under 18 – you need extra nutrients to grow.
You can fast, but may need supervision, under these conditions:
- If you have diabetes mellitus – type 1 or type 2.
- If you take prescription medication.
- If you have gout or high uric acid.
Women in particular tend to respond differently due to metabolic and hormonal differences. IF can mess up women’s hormones and affect menstruation, fertility, and can worsen eating disorders. It should not stop your cycle or cause more stress. If you experience these changes, it is likely a sign that IF does not work for you.
Some women find fasting a few days a week instead of every day works best for them. For example, they would fast 16 hours on Monday, Wednesday, and Friday while eating normally on the other days. Experiment and see what works best for you.
People with diabetes, hypoglycemia and other blood sugar regulation disorders should also check with their doctor before trying IF.
After fasting, try easing into eating with a green smoothie to keep blood sugar from spiking. Try the recipe below:
- ¼ c frozen pineapple
- 1 c kale or baby spinach
- 1 tsp coconut oil or MCT oil
- Juice from 1/2 a lime (or to taste)
- 1 c almond milk or coconut milk
- Place all ingredients in a blender and blend until smooth. Add ice if desired.
i. “Effects of dietary restriction on adipose mass and biomarkers of healthy aging in human”
ii. “Influence of short-term repeated fasting on the longevity of female mice”
iii. “Fasting enhances growth hormone secretion and amplifies the complex rhythms of growth hormone secretion in man.”
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