Intermittent fasting is something that I get asked about a lot. Almost every single client of mine has asked me “should I fast?” “Does it work?” “Can it help reduce inflammation?” “What about weight loss?” So today I’m breaking down intermittent fasting into what it is and the different types that you can do.
What Is Fasting?
What exactly is fasting? Fasting is essentially where you stop eating anywhere from around 12 to 40 hours. In reality, fasting can be any period of time where you abstain from eating. Usually, beverages are okay as long as they don’t have any calories. The goal of fasting is to not eat for an extended period of time.
What Are The Benefits?
There are several benefits that come with fasting. This has been studied very extensively because fasting has been around for centuries. People used to do it for religious reasons back in the day, and more and more people are starting to do it for health reasons.
- One of the main benefits of fasting is that it does improve your metabolic health, which is how well your body metabolizes, or uses energy. It helps your body become much more efficient at metabolism.
- The second thing that it does is it can actually support weight loss. There are several studies that point to the fact that intermittent fasting does help accelerate weight loss in some individuals.
- It can lower blood pressure
- Studies have shown that fasting can improve blood sugar
- It has been shown to repair damaged cells so it helps the body to repair and mend things that are broken
- Fasting can protect and support brain health
As with anything that we do for our health, there are always downsides. Some of the downsides of fasting include:
- It can go against intuitive eating. I am a huge proponent of intuitive eating. Intuitive eating is where you listen to your hunger and fullness cues. Fasting can actually interrupt those hunger cues. When you fast, you ignore those hunger cues. Therefore, fasting may cause you to lose that connection of eating for your hunger and satisfying your body with food when your body actually needs it.
- The other thing it can do is it can affect your mood. If you’re fasting for a long period of time, people tend to get “hangry” and that can affect how you feel and how you act around others.
- It can actually raise your cortisol levels. Fasting definitely putting stress on your body. Anytime there’s stress in your body, your cortisol levels, which is your stress hormone, will start to rise. If you are someone who has chronic stress or you have issues with your HPA axis, you may not want to fast because it could just throw you further into that deficit.
- It can affect women’s menstrual cycles and affect fertility because again, it is stressful on the body.
Are There Different Types of Intermittent Fasting?
There are several different types of intermittent fasting. The first one that I’m going to talk about is called time-restricted eating. This is very popular and most people are following this fasting regimen. Time-restricted eating is where you fast for 12 or more hours and then eat within a specified window. The most popular way to do this is called the 16:8 method. With this method, you fast for 16 hours and then you eat within an eight-hour window.
Some of the benefits that come with this type of eating include weight loss. It also helps support our circadian rhythm because we don’t overeat before bedtime. That being said, it also depends on the window in which you choose to eat. Research has shown that if you eat earlier in the day that is more beneficial than if you push your calories to later in the day.
The second type of fasting is called the 5:2 diet. This is where you eat normally for five days a week and then you restrict calories to 500 to 600 calories on two days.
Eat Stop Eat Method
The eat stop eat method is where you do a 24-hour fast one to two days per week.
Alternate Day Fasting
You can also do an alternate day fasting where you fast every other day.
The Warrior Diet is where you eat small amounts of fruits and vegetables during the day and then eat one large meal at night. This is probably the one that I would recommend the least because if you eat too close to bedtime and you have a large meal right before you go to bed that may disrupt your sleep. The other downsides to this way of fasting is it can negatively affect your blood sugar as you’re sleeping, and it can affect your cortisol levels as well.
So which fasting method is right for you?
My advice is to pick the one that fits best into your life. Some of these are not ideal, especially if you have a family. Think about your family meals when you all eat together. If you’re doing a 16:8 fast, the easiest way to accomplish this is to eat lunch and dinner so you can have dinner with your family. The downside of that is you are eating a larger meal closer to bedtime, which may disrupt your sleep.
I recommend doing whatever makes you feel the best. Fasting is definitely not for everyone. Everyone’s body is different. Everyone responds to certain things differently. So if you try to fast and you just feel awful, and you’re not really seeing any benefits, I would stop doing it. In my personal experience, I tried this 16:8 fast it really didn’t work for me. It was too stressful for my body at that specific point in time when I was trying it. So I stopped doing it. I do adhere to around a 12 to 13-hour fast overnight because that works for me and that works for my schedule. I feel pretty okay doing it and it’s not disruptive to my life. I’m not starving. I’m not ignoring my hunger cues. So for me, a 12-hour fasting window is great. You can still get benefits from doing a 10 to 12-hour fast.
My other advice with starting a fasting routine is to start off slow and work your way up to whatever your fasting goal is. Your body does need some time to adjust. If you hit the ground running with a straight 16-hour fast, you’re probably going to be pretty miserable. So I would start with an overnight fast and see how that goes. Then slowly work your way up to the goal that you’re hoping to hit. And then again if you’re not seeing the benefits, stop doing it.
Fasting can be a great eating pattern to incorporate into your daily life. It can help manage weight, reduce inflammation, improve blood sugar and lower blood pressure. However, there are some downsides to fasting, and it is not for everyone. If you need more help managing your inflammation, your autoimmune disease your digestive issues. I would love to chat with you. I love helping people feel better by using food and lifestyle. So please reach out to me to schedule a free Discovery Call.