Intermittent Fasting (IF) is a hot topic at the moment, so I get lots of questions from people asking what exactly does IF mean?
What is the 16 8 diet?
Do I have to go a long time without food?
Is this the right strategy for me?
Should everyone be doing this?
I thought breakfast was the most important meal of the day?
What are the intermittent fasting results?
Is intermittent fasting for women?
Any of those questions sound familiar? Well I thought I would put together some of the research as well as some of my suggestions on how you might like to incorporate the research into practical day to day life.
So What Is IF?
The idea is that for thousands of years, humans have been fasting for a variety of reasons. During times of famine, people have been forced to fast in order to regulate the consumption of limited food resources. Religious beliefs also play an important role in the practice of fasting.
And so our bodies are adapted to these periods of time without food, in fact it’s kind of a rest and restore time for our digestion and it allows that energy to be spent restoring and repairing other parts of our body.
Now take note that when I talk about intermittent fasting I am not talking about a diet plan, but rather a specific eating pattern. Although sometimes these meal plans are called diets such as the 16 8 diet. Intermittent fasting is the conscious act of eating meals during a specified time window.
There are many variations of intermittent fasting. By far, the most practiced and easiest to follow is the 16 8 diet method. The 16 8 diet is where you only eat two meals within an 8 hour window and then fast for the other 16 hours and you let your body fast while sleeping. The 16 8 diet tends to be the easiest way to implement intermittent fasting. Skip breakfast, eat a healthy lunch and dinner. Another method is the Stop-Eat-Stop. This is where you eat a full meal then fast for the next 24 hours. Another practice is the 5:2 diet plan. Eat normally for five days in the week then reduce your calorie intake to about 500-600 calories for two consecutive days. The Warrior Diet is also another variant. Fast for 20 hours and then eat a large meal for dinner.
Wait! Isn’t breakfast the most important meal of the day? Doesn’t eating a healthy breakfast kick-start the metabolic process for the day? Yes, and No. Keep reading 🙂
What Are The Potential Benefits – What Is The Research Saying?
Since the 1930’s studies have been done to explore the effects of less caloric intake by skipping meals. Studies done on mice and fruit flies have found that significant reduction in calories have resulted in longer and healthier lives.
You see when you fast, the following changes occur in your body at the cellular and molecular level:
- Your body changes hormone levels and insulin levels drop which makes stored body fat more accessible for energy
- IF also increases the levels of the Human Growth Hormones (HGH) which helps build muscle mass, burn fat tissues, increase exercise performance, enhances the immune system and has powerful anti-aging properties.
- Fasting has been shown to signal your cells to initiate repair and can actually influence gene expression, which can influence longevity and protection against disease.
- IF has been shown as well to increase a brain hormone that aids in the growth of new nerve cells in your brain.
IF such as the 16 8 diet have beneficial effects when it comes to inflammation and hypertension. For those suffering with arthritis, it has been found that fasting for extended periods can help however; the condition seems to return when fasting is halted. Intermittent fasting, therefore, helps reduce the inflammation brought about by this condition.
Intermittent fasting also may help lessen or reverse features of metabolic syndrome – a group of risk factors like elevated blood sugar, hypertension, abnormal cholesterol levels, insulin resistance and high abdominal fat. These factors largely contribute to conditions such as diabetes, obesity, stroke and heart diseases. By doing intermittent fasting, our body experiences increased insulin sensitivity, melts unwanted fats in our body and reduces blood pressure. Further, glucose metabolism also improves when undergoing intermittent fasting. This add to the great intermittent fasting results.
Should Everyone Be Intermittent Fasting?
Unfortunately everyone is different. Check out what I think about bio-individuality HERE.
There are some people who want to lose body fat that can certainly benefit from solid intermittent fasting results. Fitness enthusiasts who want to build up muscle mass and increase calorie burn rates can also include intermittent fasting in their training regimen. And many other people who just want to be fit and healthy may benefit from an intermittent fasting program such as the 16 8 diet. As mentioned above, it is like a reset button to fight the different dysfunctions and diseases that affects your body. It can put your body into a repair mode at the cellular level and restore hormonal function.
However intermittent fasting Is NOT for everyone!
Who Is IF NOT For?
Intermittent fasting is definitely not for everyone. Aside from the obvious side effect of being hungry, people who have a history of eating disorders, diabetes or problems in regulating blood sugar levels, low blood pressure, taking medication and underweight must first consult with a medical professional before giving this a try. Also, there is some evidence that intermittent fasting for women may not be as beneficial as for men but again everyone is different. So if you are going to try the 16 8 diet, take it really carefully and give it a miss if you are trying to start a family, if you are pregnant or breastfeeding.
The other issue with IF is that fasting can elevate cortisol levels. Cortisol is one of our stress hormones and too be honest we all have too much of this hormone being released each day as it is. Without IF adding to it. One of cortisol’s effects is that it raises blood sugar and with many people already having some blood sugar regulation issues increased cortisol simply makes it worse. If you have any blood sugar regulation issues then eating regularly to keep blood sugar stable will likely do you more good than something like the 16 8 diet.
Also intermittent fasting does not mean eat whatever you like for the other two meals. Eating McDonalds for 8 hours of the day rather than 12 hours is still eating McDonalds and is not going to be good for your health.
I often read that it’s not normal for our biology to eat so regularly. While I agree it’s probably a good idea to give after dinner snacks a miss and let your digestion have a rest while you sleep. It’s also not normal for our biology to be so stressed out by emails while sitting in a chair, or have a 45 minute commute to work each day or work 2 jobs while also caring for a family and so we need to adapt and work out what eating strategy works for your unique lifestyle and situation. As well as health goals (If you want to set up a FREE 15 minute chat where we can talk more about your specific situation click HERE).
Also Just a note Intermittent fasting is the planned skipping of a meal for the health benefits. It does not include I was too rushed to make breakfast and so just grabbed a coffee at the drive through.
Lastly, again intermittent fasting results may vary for every person. Factors affecting intermittent fasting results is based on the IF method, initial body condition, mind conditioning your lifestyle and health goals. To know if IF is working for you, it is best that you keep track of all the results after you start this practice and gauge your progress or if you want to chat a little more about your specific situation click HERE to schedule in a FREE 15 minute call.
So, Where To From Here….
If you have quite a lot of weight to lose or have any adrenal issues or you know that perhaps stress is impacting your ability to meet your health goals or you are a woman where some of the above issues may be relevant than I would maybe instead try making sure you are eating a really healthy breakfast with some good source of protein and no refined sugar as opposed to IF. Also if you’re not currently eating a healthy whole foods based diet then I would focus on cleaning up the foods you are eating before trying intermittent fasting.
However if have already cleaned up your diet and are looking for a more advanced strategy to take your health to the next level then maybe intermittent fasting is something you look into a little further to see if it might be right for you. I would suggest starting with the 16 8 diet as the easiest way to introduce the idea of fasting into your lifestyle.
But overall listening to your body always has to be the number one strategy.
So if you’re hungry then have something to eat, if your not maybe wait a couple more hours and if your already stressed out or doing lots of training that is also stressful to your body then maybe don’t add intermittent fasting as another stressor to the load.
Hope this helped, any questions or comments I would love to hear from you in the comments below! And again, everyone is different and so if you want to talk about your situation specifically, schedule in for a 15-minute call.
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