What if losing weight, or even maintaining a healthy weight was less about what you eat, and more about when you eat? That’s the idea behind one of the world’s most recent health and fitness trends. You don’t have to look far to find someone who practices intermittent fasting. Fasting has been around for millennia for both spiritual and health purposes, but has been popularized recently as a weight loss aid. What exactly does it mean to practice intermittent fasting and are there really benefits to doing it?
What is intermittent fasting?
Intermittent fasting is more than just not eating food. It’s actually more like an eating pattern. If you’re practicing intermittent fasting, you choose periods of time when you’ll eat, and periods of time when you’ll fast. For example, one popular form of fasting, also called early time restricted feeding (eTRF) is the 16/8 method. You fast for 16 hours, and keep your eating to an 8-hour window. You already exercise some kind of fasting every day when you sleep. Intermittent fasting essentially just extends the that time a few hours longer.
Can I eat or drink anything while fasting?
The whole point of intermittent fasting is to abstain from food and caloric drinks. This gives your body a chance to rest and use stored energy (fat) instead of digesting. Because of this, it’s recommended that you don’t eat anything. You can drink water, coffee, tea or other non-caloric beverages.
Although you’ll probably experience some kind of hunger in the beginning, most people who regularly practice intermittent fasting find that their hunger goes away after a few weeks. It might seem difficult, but for most people, intermittent fasting gets easier after your body adjusts to skipping a meal or two.
What are the benefits of fasting?
When your body isn’t busy digesting food, it has as chance to do other things. Here are some benefits to regularly practicing intermittent fasting.
- It can help balance blood sugar levels and improve insulin resistance.
- It can fight the effects of aging. Intermittent fasting does this by prompting an increase in human growth hormone (HGH). This helps with cellular repair, which in turn can boost your brain health and the appearance of your skin, hair, and even your nails.
- Weight loss. When you skip a meal, you will automatically eat less throughout the day.
- It can help protect against diseases like type 2 diabetes, heart disease, cancer, and Alzheimer’s disease.
- It’s an inexpensive way to lose weight and improve your health. There are no books, exercise equipment, or supplements to purchase. You just start skipping breakfast.
- It’ll save you time with meal preparation and eating.
How do I start intermittent fasting?
There are several different methods of intermittent fasting. Choose one that picks your lifestyle the best and try it for a few weeks.
- Eat-Stop-Eat. Choose one or two days a week to fast from dinner of one day to dinner of the next. This constitutes a 24 hour fast.
- 5:2. Choose 2 days during the week to only eat 500-600 calories.
- 16/8 Method. Fast for 16 hours and follow that fast with an eating window of 8 hours. This is typically done by fasting from 8pm until noon the next day. Eat during your 8-hour window and then repeat. You can also adjust your eating window so it is longer (10 hours) or shorter (6 hours). Adjust the length of your fasting time until you find something that will work for you.
- Alternate day fasting. Every other day, reduce your caloric intake to 500-600 calories. On your non-fasting days eat normally.
Remember, it’s important to still eat a balanced diet even while sticking to an intermittent fasting eating pattern.
Is intermittent fasting right for you?
Although most of us could practice intermittent fasting with no ill-effects, it’s not for everyone. You should not try intermittent fasting without talking to your doctor if:
- You have, or have had an eating disorder.
- You take medications that impact your blood sugar.
- You are pregnant or breastfeeding.
- You take medication that needs to be taken with food.
Intermittent fasting can be a helpful tool to lose weight and improve your health. If you have questions or concerns, talk to your doctor before you begin intermittent fasting.