Fasting is an ancient practice. Some fast for religious purposes, while others are aimed at detoxifying the body. Lately, there’s been a lot of talk surrounding intermittent fasting (IF) and its health benefits. Fasting requires you to go for a period of time without food. Intermittent fasting, however, offers a bit of flexibility because you can make it personalized based on your metabolism and lifestyle.
With IF, you cycle between a time of fasting and non-fasting during a defined period. In other words, you restrict the time you are eating to a specific number of hours. For example, you may dedicate a 12-hour window between dinner and breakfast the next day, so if you ate dinner at 5pm, you would not eat again until 5 am. Another common time-slot is a 16-hour window, so if you ate dinner at 6 pm, you wouldn’t eat breakfast until 10 am the next day. With the latter method, your eating window would be shorter. During that window of eating, you’d eat a normal diet of healthy proteins, produce, fats, and carbs. Restrictions like this can be done a few days a week or could become your new schedule of eating.
Another option for intermittent fasting is the alternate day plan and its variation called the 5:2 plan. The alternate day plan allows you to eat only 25% of your normal caloric intake one day followed by a “feed day” where you eat whatever you want. On the 25% day, you are only allowed to eat protein, veggies, and some healthy fats, no sugars or starches. This may seem a bit extreme for some and has led to binging on foods on the following “feed day.” The 5:2 variation is a little less extreme because you eat normal five days a week while on the other two, you eat only 500-600 calories. And yet again, the focus is still on a whole foods diet including proteins, healthy fats, and produce.
So, after all these options, we still need to know why people are purposely restricting their diets! What are the benefits? In general, fasting is thought to help with obesity, type 2 diabetes, cancer, brain fog, mitochondrial dysfunction, gut health, and arthritis and joint inflammation. Intermittent fasting may help with losing weight, balancing blood sugar, lowering inflammation, improving cognitive function, decreasing sugar and food cravings, boosting athletic performances, and even increasing energy levels! Sounds great, right?
Intermittent Fasting and fasting can be good for some but it isn’t meant for everyone. People who should not fast are pregnant or breastfeeding women or those with a history of eating disorders. Also, if you have gut issues, food sensitivities, sleep problems, anxiety, or chronic stress, you should exercise caution. Sometimes restricting your body of food can trigger your fight or flight response, so it’s crucial to be in tune with your body.
Lastly, if you are considering trying intermittent fasting or any of its variations, talk to your health care professional first and keep them in the loop with your journey. Happy eating!