Updated: Jan 25, 2021
Many people cringe when they hear the word “fasting”, associating it with long periods of going without food and the discomfort of hunger. But did you know there are many different forms of fasting? In this article, I will discuss one type known as “intermittent fasting”. Depending on your health goals and lifestyle, you may want to give intermittent fasting a try. In fact, you might already be intermittently fasting and not even realize it!
What is intermittent fasting?
Intermittent fasting (IF) is an eating pattern in which you cycle between periods of fasting and eating. IF allows you to focus on what you can eat during a specified amount of time rather than what you cannot eat. This will make you feel better during fasting time because you do not have to starve yourself. There are many forms of IF. Here are 3 examples:
Overnight Fasting. This form of IF involves fasting for12-14 hours between the end of dinner and the next day’s meal or snack. For example, you might stop eating at 8:00 PM in the evening and resume eating at 8:00 AM the next morning. This is my preferred method because it is easy to implement and no meals are skipped, especially breakfast. Breakfast is an important meal for anyone who wants to achieve healthy eating for life. To learn more, download My Healthy Eating Guide.
16/8 or Time-Restricted Fasting. With this method, you fast for 14-16 hours/day and restrict what you can eat within a selected 8-hour eating window. For example, if you wake up at 8:00 AM, you skip breakfast, start eating at 12:00 PM, and stop eating at 8:00 PM. This method of fasting may not be ideal for someone whose schedule frequently changes or likes to socialize late at night with friends.
5:2 whole-day fasting: This form of fasting requires fasting two days of the week, with no food restrictions the other five days. On the fasting days, individuals will typically consume 500-600 calories or 1-2 very small meals.
There are other variations of IF, but the main idea is to give the body rest from the constant digestion of food, and a chance to regenerate and expend energy elsewhere.
What are the benefits?
Studies have shown intermittent fasting have numerous benefits. Here are 3 possible ones:
Lowers risk of type 2 diabetes. Intermittent fasting has been shown to help with controlling the amount of glucose circulating in the blood and offers significant protection for people who have prediabetes(1).
Reduces body weight and fat. IF helps individuals lose weight and belly fat. During intermittent fasting you to eat less food which eventually leads to weight loss. And if you fast long enough, your body will begin to switch from using glucose (because there is not enough of it) and start burning fat (2).
Possibly enhances life span. Studies show that rats who fasted lived more than 40% longer than those who did not fast (3).
Who should not fast?
Fasting is not for everyone. Factors such as genetic makeup and environmental and personal preferences should be considered. If you are someone that gets shaky, dizzy or irritable when meals are skipped (characteristics of hypoglycemia), then you should avoid fasting.
It may also not be advisable for those with type 2 diabetes who need to maintain steady blood sugar levels. A recent randomized controlled trial on intermittent fasting, showed that there was an increase in the rate of hypoglycemia in people with type 2 diabetes (4).
If you have type 2 diabetes, are underweight or pregnant, have a history of disordered eating such as anorexia and bulimia, or take certain medications, it is essential that you talk with your healthcare provider before implementing a fasting plan.
Intermittent fasting can offer numerous benefits, from weight management to longevity. More and more evidence-based studies are indicating that this form of fasting is not just a new lifestyle hack or fad. For some individuals, intermittent fasting can be a powerful tool to keep the body healthy. Committing to this type of eating pattern can lead to lasting improvements in your health.