Most of us have heard the words “intermittent fasting” by now. This umbrella term may one of the buzziest in the health + wellness realm ( a quick fix for longevity?!). Although intermittent fasting isn’t a magic pill - it does show promise for:
- efficient autophagy [clean up of cellular damage]
- increased insulin sensitivity [better blood sugar regulation]
- better energy,
- weight management.
Intermittent fasting is a loaded term - there are many different ways to fast and “intermittent” can mean a variety of things.
Intermittent Fasting or “IF” can be broken down into either time-restricted eating or alternate-day fasting. The latter means you take a whole day off of eating - consuming no calories. A popular method for alternate-day fasting is known as the 5/2, which means fasting 2 non-consecutive days of the week and enjoying your normal diet + foods the rest of the week.
I am in the camp of time-restricted eating as it is the form of IF that is usually much more accessible and sustainable.
In time-restricted eating, you limit calorie consumption to a certain window of time in your day. Usually, this means eating all of your meals within 8-10 hours. When this window starts and ends is up to the individual. However, adopting more of a circadian rhythm in your fasting aligns with age-old traditions of eating while the sun is up and resting/digesting when the sun is down. Remember that trick of not eating after 6pm? Well, here it is again in different form with more research + interest.
So, what would an IF day look like? Let’s say you had dinner at 7pm. Ideally, you wouldn’t have your next meal until 11am (“breakfast”) then another at 3pm and dinner again at 7pm. Waiting until 11am may certainly be challenging when first starting. A much more gentle way of giving IF a try would be a 12 hr overnight fast - eat dinner at 7pm and then first meal at 7am.
Depending on who you ask, black coffee and green tea are okay during your fasting window. This certainly makes waiting for your first meal a lot easier and more pleasant (I, for one, love my hot beverage ritual in the mornings!).
When we give our digestive system a break, we allow our bodies to be more efficient in the way we deal with cellular damage, use energy, and metabolize nutrients. IF is at the very beginning of its research life - most studies have been done in animals. My personal anecdote is that gentle fasting has helped with my energy levels and mental clarity.
Intermittent fasting isn’t a quick-fix and the quality of food you are consuming is MUCH more important than when you are consuming them. IF is just another tool in the holistic health toolkit to consider for feeling better, feeling well, and doing well.
There are people who shouldn’t fast, including: pregnant women and those who have a history of disordered eating.
As always, working closely with your doctor and a nutritionist can help you get the most out of your holistic health toolkit - including intermittent fasting.