It’s impossible to peruse today’s health and wellness research without coming across the words: intermittent fasting. This approach to eating seems to have completely taken off in the “wellness world”, especially for people whose main goal is body fat loss. Settle in with a large glass of water, (that I know you’re drinking after last week’s post), and join me as we explore exactly what intermittent fasting entails. Why are people incorporating this into their weight loss plan and could this be something you could implement to reach YOUR health goals?
Let’s start with the basics.
WHAT IS INTERMITTENT FASTING AND WHERE DID THIS IDEA COME FROM?
Most of us live quite opposite of the way historical hunter gathers did. We eat whenever we feel hungry (and sometimes when we don’t!) and food is very easily obtained. Most of us do not need to perform any kind of search for our food, nor do we need to perform exercise in order to secure food. (Thank you, Trader Joe’s, Whole Foods, etc.) As society has developed, we’ve grown far away from the natural lifestyle pattern that hunter gatherers lived. Due to modern-day technology like electricity, and every day accessibility to grocery stores, farmers’ markets, etc.,we no longer have to revolve our eating habits and mealtimes around the sun or food scarcity/abundance. Technology and conveniences of modern-day life have multiple implications on our health and wellness. This is where intermittent fasting comes in.
Intermittent fasting, broken down simply, is the practice of alternating specific periods of fasting with specific periods of eating during one’s 24 hour day. The idea behind this is to align your eating schedule with your body’s natural, hormonal rhythms and sleep/wake cycles. Why is this important? (Glad you asked.)
WHY DO IT?
Regimented fasting periods combined with earlier mealtimes, allows our bodies to follow its natural hormonal rhythms and sleep/wake cycle, thus promoting a healthier metabolism. In other words, our bodies operate very differently when we are “feasting” as opposed to when we are “fasting”. When you consume food, your body spends several hours processing it. It uses the meal (read: FUEL) you ate as readily-accessible and easy- to-burn energy, as opposed to using stored fat for its energy source. In contrast, when we are “fasted”, your body doesn’t have that available energy source so it must pull from fat stored in our bodies. Helllllooooo fat-burning zone!!! (aka ketosis). Not only does intermittent fasting teach your body to use food more efficiently, but it also teaches it to burn fat as fuel when in the fasted state. This was benefit enough for me, but believe it or not, there’s more.
HOW WILL THIS BENEFIT ME?
Intermittent fasting can help you reach your weight loss goals. We know that not all calories are created equal. (Check out “Fed Up” on Netflix this weekend). However, we must create a calorie deficit in order to lose body fat. When you fast, you are making it a bit easier on yourself to restrict calories by having a specific eating period and a specific fasting period.
It’s also made this mama’s life a bit easier. Instead of preparing breakfast, a mid-morning snack, etc., I simply start my eating window around lunch time and thus am faced with a few less decisions to make and a few more moments of time for my family, work, etc. One client of mine does not enjoy breakfast, so by implementing intermittent fasting into her health plan, we have taken that job off the table and allowed her to spend her morning doing more enjoyable things (sleeping in, meditating, working out before work, etc.). I, for one, love breakfast, so I usually still "break my fast" with traditional breakfast-y foods like eggs, bacon, sweet potatoes, etc.
Intermittent fasting also provides numerous benefits for the brain. More and more research is emerging showing that a regimented eating schedule improves memory, generates new neurons, elevates mood, and lowers the risk of the cognitive decline associated with aging.
Intermittent fasting improves blood composition and decreases oxidative stress. When you have a regular eating schedule, your body is better able to regulate your blood sugar levels, blood pressure, cholesterol, and insulin levels, which decreases the oxidative stress put on your body (less inflammation).
HOW DO I GET STARTED?
Most people start with a 12:12 schedule: 12 hours of eating followed by 12 hours of fasting. If you find this schedule easy and feel well (not irritable or short-tempered), you could slowly take away one hour from your eating window and add one hour to your fasting window. Finding what works with your current schedule is important, along with other factors like your workout schedule. From my experience, most women do well with an eating period of 8-10 hours and a fasting period of 14-16 hours. Men seem to be able to stretch their fasting periods a bit longer. Additionally, it’s important you check with your doctor before adjusting your eating schedule, especially if you have issues with blood sugar regulation, hypoglycemia, diabetes, etc.
We’ve just barely skimmed the surface of intermittent fasting, but hopefully this gives you a basis of the general ideas behind it and also its many benefits. It's just about 12pm and that first meal is calling, so gotta run!
Disclaimer: Results may vary. These are my opinions and statements based on the latest, educated research and are not to be intended to replace the advice of your doctor. The views and nutritional advice expressed by Fueled and Fit Wellness are not intended to be a substitute for conventional medical service.
Bair, Stephanie. "Intermittent Fasting: Try This At Home For Brain Health." Stanford Law School. N.p., 2017. Web. 18 Apr. 2017.
Group, Dr. Edward. “Everything You Need to Know About Intermittent Fasting.” Web. 20 June 2017.
Martin, Bronwen, Mark Mattson, and Stuart Maudsley. "Caloric Restriction And Intermittent Fasting: Two Potential Diets For Successful Brain Aging." Aging Research Reviews 5.3 (2017): 332–353. Web. 18 Apr. 2017.