What's the deal with Intermittent Fasting?
Currently one of the most popular health and fitness trends, intermittent fasting (IF) is being used to lose weight, improve health, and live longer. IF is not about following a diet, but rather about following a diet pattern. There are various ways in which this can be achieved. 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.
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.
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.
IF is associated with many health benefits. Lower insulin levels and increased growth hormone levels 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. Reduced levels of LDL cholesterol, inflammation, oxidative stress, blood sugar, and blood triglycerides, all reduce the risk of heart disease and many chronic diseases. Some studies in rats showed that IF can extend lifespan. Although humans are not the same as rats, the results combined with the known benefits on other health markers are quite promising. Another benefit of IF is that it simplifies our lives since there are fewer meals to prepare and to clean up.
Not everyone will react the same to intermittent fasting. Listen to your body and pay attention to any changes you may experience. 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. IF 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.
“Effects of dietary restriction on adipose mass and biomarkers of healthy aging in human”
“Influence of short-term repeated fasting on the longevity of female mice”
“Fasting enhances growth hormone secretion and amplifies the complex rhythms of growth hormone secretion in man.”