Is Intermittent Fasting Right For You?
"Intermittent fasting is a timed approach to eating that cycles between periods of fasting and eating."
Intermittent fasting is a way of eating that is getting a lot of press lately, with some pretty positive science behind it.
Watch today’s live with Dr. Nancy Lin, PhD holisitic nutritionist, and learn exactly what intermittent fasting is and how it works in the body. Dr. Nancy will go through the pros and cons to help you decide whether intermittent fasting may be right for you. Plus, she’ll share her tips and tricks to help you integrate intermittent fasting into your life easily and effectively, if you decide to give it a try.
- 4:51: What is Intermittent Fasting?
- 6:47: Brief History of Intermittent Fasting
- 7:57: Health benefits of Intermittent Fasting
- 9:49: How it works
- 12:01: Intermittent Fasting and Inflammation
- 14:46: Types of Intermittent Fasting
- 23:38: Pros and cons of intermittent fasting
- 31:02: Important things to note before starting an intermittent diet plan
- 31:48: How to get started
- 33:24: Wrap Up
What is Intermittent Fasting?
Intermittent fasting, or IF as it is sometimes called, is not a diet. It is a way of eating that’s gained a lot of attention and become very popular recently. Intermittent fasting is a timed approach to eating that cycles between periods of fasting and eating. It does not specify exactly which food you should eat but rather when you should eat. So timing here is really important.
Intermittent fasting is really adaptable to eating plans or diets such as paleo, raw, and vegan. You can eat any way you choose when you're intermittent fasting, but you make adjustments to the timing. It’s a departure from the standard "breakfast, lunch, dinner" way that most people eat. You can use it with Dr. Nancy’s recommended anti-inflammatory diet as well.
Brief History of Intermittent Fasting
This type of fasting has actually been around for thousands of years, not as a way to lose weight or intentionally improve health but just as a way of survival. Our ancient ancestors were hunters and gatherers who of course didn’t have supermarkets, restaurants, refrigerators, or even food available consistently year-round. They were nomadic, meaning they went where the food was. Sometimes they couldn’t find anything at all to eat for days and they were forced to go for long periods of time without eating. It turns out, the human body can function without food for extended periods of time; more than you would think.
Health benefits of Intermittent fasting
From that perspective, fasting from time to time is actually more natural than eating three or more meals per day. We’re actually able to hold our hunger for longer periods of time. In addition to forcing your body to access and burn its stored body fat and boosting your metabolism, intermittent fasting has a number of notable health benefits. For example:
- Intermittent fasting reduces inflammation in the body
- It has been shown to improve blood pressure, cholesterol, and overall heart health
- It improves cognitive function, meaning it can boost your brain function and improve mental clarity. This helps you to think more methodically and more clearly
- It helps to slow down the aging process and improve your quality of sleep, which is a major contributor to our overall health
How it works
When you fast, hormone levels in the body fluctuate to make fat stored more easily accessible. For example, Human Growth Hormone (HGH) goes up and insulin levels go down. When HGH increases, the body is able to burn more fat and build muscles at a faster rate. On the other hand, when insulin levels go down, you become less insulin-resistant and that’s when fats stored in the body become more accessible. This is great for your body. It begins to recognize that fat is an energy source and it burns it off instead of using glucose, which is typically used first for energy.
Also when you fast, cellular repair increases. This means that the cells are better able to get rid of protein build-up within the cells, which allows them to repair and strengthen at a faster rate.
Intermittent Fasting and Inflammation
Intermittent fasting has been shown to significantly reduce chronic inflammation. It does this in a few different ways which include:
- Autophagy Process – This is the body’s way of destroying old or damaged cells. Think of it like spring cleaning inside your body. This is a way for the body to repair and regenerate itself. All the damaged cells remaining contribute to chronic inflammation throughout the body. Intermittent fasting stimulates autophagy, helping the body to cleanse itself of the old and damaged cells, which reduces inflammation.
- Intermittent fasting also forces the body to use up all of its stored sugar or glucose, forcing the body to burn stored body fat for energy. This process produces a compound called B-hydroxybutyrate which blocks part of the immune system responsible for contributing to inflammatory disorders like autoimmune issues, metabolic syndrome, rheumatoid arthritis, and muscle and joint inflammation.
This is a big deal! Remember our equation of health, after all: Less Inflammation In + More Inflammation Out = Healthier you.
Types of Intermittent Fasting
There are several types of intermittent fasting. It’s a highly customizable way of eating which you can adapt and fit to your life and work schedule. Here are some examples of intermittent fasting plans:
This is the most popular eating schedule. If you follow this plan, you eat during an eight-hour window and then you fast for the remaining 16 hours of the day. The good news is that most people are usually asleep during a large chunk of that 16-hour window, so really you are fasting for eight or nine hours. With this schedule, you are essentially skipping your breakfast and breakfast really is just the break of the fast. It’s the first meal of the day. For example, let’s say you wake up around 7 or 8 in the morning. You can drink any non-caloric liquids, (nothing that has any sugar) like tea or water, but you wouldn’t eat your first meal until 11. This allows you to have a late lunch or dinner around 6 o’clock and then you stop eating for the rest of the day at 7. In addition to breakfast, this also means no late night snacking.
This is similar to the 16:8, but it allows 14 hours without food and gives you that 10 hour window to eat. This might be a better option for people who do like to snack or prefer to eat several small meals throughout the day. If you know that your energy crashes and you just burn through the food, then the 14:10 might be a better option for you.
This is a form of intermittent fasting that works by allowing you to either fast or eat very little throughout the day, and then eat a huge meal at dinner time. This diet was created by a soldier who served with the Israeli Special Forces. He actually studied how ancient warrior societies like the Spartans lived and noticed warriors would spend the bulk of their time hunting and fighting, which left little time for eating. So not only were the warriors fasting for most of the day, but they were physically active as well, they were always on the move and fighting and in that space of active movement, meaning they were burning major calories with not a lot of gas in the tank. If you want to you can give this a try and eat like a Spartan warrior.
Alternate Day Fasting
This is another option and one that has shown several positive health results in studies. It works exactly like it sounds; you fast every other day. Some people avoid food completely on fasting days while others sustain around 500 calories which is equivalent to a bagel and a half. Like the warrior diet, alternate day fasting is a bit hardcore and more intense and might not be the best intermittent fasting option for beginners.
This is also called the 5:2 method. This eating method is based around findings that fasting for 24 hours a day, two times a week, while eating whatever you want (within reason) the other five days can yield several positive health benefits. You’re actually supposed to eat something every day with this plan. For instance, if your fasting starts at 9 A.M. you would eat something before 9 A.M. and then you wouldn’t eat until you break fast at 9 A.M. the next day.
Pros and Cons of Intermittent Fasting
- Studies have shown that intermittent fasting can prevent or reduce symptoms associated with a number of health issues like heart disease, cancer, metabolic syndrome, arthritis, autoimmune issues, and diabetes.
- No more calorie counting. If you are doing strict intermittent fasting, then calorie counting and monitoring, which is challenging and very time consuming, will have to go out the window. However, on your non-fasting days, it is important to eat healthy, nutrient-rich foods. If you’re new to this, you might restrict yourself so much that you binge and you might have some triggers that cause you to overeat or eat unhealthy foods. For this reason, we advise staying away from any of the foods that may trigger unhealthy behavior patterns. You have to have enough self-control to avoid these foods.
- Although intermittent fasting is not a diet, many people lose weight do while following this plan, which is awesome
- Sleep and energy levels can improve
- This plan will also lessen the different inflammatory responses in the body, including chronic inflammation. We also advise taking Smarter Curcumin daily to further reduce the inflammation from your body.
There are also some drawbacks associated with intermittent fasting, such as:
- Intermittent fasting is difficult to maintain. Food is everywhere; at our fingertips and in front of us, at every event, and it is marketed very strategically. If you do not have a good program and good willpower, you could end up giving up. It’s difficult to maintain but it’s not impossible.
- It can also be lonely, especially if you do not have a good support system or anyone doing it with you. Our society loves to eat and a lot of our social interactions involve food in some capacity. Many people report intermittent fasting works best when you work with others or a team, all following the same plan. Otherwise office lunches, dinners with friends, and other social gatherings may be difficult.
- Some people who try out intermittent fasting methods, especially the warrior diet or the eat-stop-eat method, where you’re basically eating one larger meal per day, have reported feeling possibly worse instead of better during the process. This might not be the plan that you want, because sometimes one large meal on an empty stomach, can cause bloating. You have to see what your body responds to best and go with that. It’s going to take some trial and error, so be patient with yourself and experiment with different options.
- Others participating in intermittent fasting occasionally report feelings of low energy. You might get hungry, or lightheaded and have difficulty focusing.
- Some people report that they binge on their non-fasting days, and this negates most of the benefits of long-term intermittent fasting.
Important things to note before starting an intermittent diet plan
There are a few things that are important to note before you get to start an intermittent fasting plan. If you suffer from high blood pressure or any type of heart condition, intermittent fasting may not be for you. The same goes for those who have diabetes. We always recommend talking to your healthcare provider before you decide to take an intermittent plan out for a spin.
How to Get Started
Once you get a go-ahead from your doctor and you are ready to start an intermittent diet plan, here is how to get started:
- Pick your intermittent fasting method. For a beginner, you might want to start with the 16:8 or the 14:10 method. Pick your eating window, or the time that you would like to eat; what’s going to be easiest for you, your daily schedule and your lifestyle. Check which option works better between eating earlier in the day and then stopping earlier or eating later and then stopping right before bed. Planning is really important.
- Drink lots of water to stay hydrated and help you feel satiated while fasting.
- When you do eat, make sure you consume healthy, nutrient-rich foods: foods that are rich in antioxidants, fiber, and omega-3 fatty acids such as nuts, seeds, and lean proteins, avocados, dark leafy greens, and organic fruits and vegetables. Include all of these in your diets when you’re intermittent fasting.
Intermittent fasting is not a diet but a way of eating that allows you to eat for a particular window of time and then fast or consume very few calories for a particular window of time. This depends on your body type, your goal, and your plan. There are a number of benefits, including improved energy levels, improved heart health, balanced blood sugar levels, and reduced inflammation throughout the body.
While the main goal of intermittent fasting isn’t necessarily weight loss, many people do lose weight as a byproduct. On the other hand, some people report not feeling well throughout the intermittent fasting. Sometimes, you might feel dizzy, lightheaded, weak, shaky, or even develop headaches.
The most common types of intermittent fasting are: 16:8 and 14:10; where you fast for 16 or 14 hours and then you eat during the period of 8 or 10 hours respectively. Other intense forms of intermittent fasting include the warrior diet, alternate day fasting, as well as eat-stop-eat. These forms of intermittent fasting typically involve fasting for up to 24 consecutive hours. If you do opt to experiment with intermittent fasting, it may be easiest to start with the 16:8 or the 14:10 method.
However, before giving intermittent fasting a go, make sure that you do consult your doctor, your nutritionist, or your healthcare provider.