Intermittent Fasting (IF) is a hot yet somewhat controversial topic right now. Many experts claim that fasting for a large part of your day (or only eating within a certain time frame) can help prevent against disease, make you live a healthier, longer life, and help with weight loss. For many Ancient traditions, regular fasting is a way of life. However, many other medical and nutrition experts caution against the potential negative effects on your hormonal balance, blood sugar levels, and regular eating patterns.
Here is my opinion: Based on my research and experience, I find that some degree of intermittent fasting can be highly beneficial to almost anyone. But I don’t mean drinking only water for 24 hours. (NOTE: there are more extreme versions of intermittent fasting that including fasting for 24 hours twice a week, or eating only 600 calories twice a week, but I personally caution against that unless you are extremely healthy and accustomed to fasting). Instead, I’m referring to a small degree of fasting, such as allowing for a 12 to 16 hour break between breakfast and dinner on a regular basis.
I personally have suffered from both digestive and hormonal issues, but feel my best when I practice daily intermittent fasting, allowing 12 hours between dinner and breakfast. And sometimes I'll allow for 15-16 hours between meals, about once a week.
Why is this so great for me (and most people)?
Fasting gives your body a rest from digestion and allows your body to fully assimilate nutrients, getting rid of what it doesn’t need, and instead, concentrate on healing.
Some benefits of intermittent fasting include:
- It allows your body to properly detoxify and efficiently eliminate waste.
- Raises levels of adiponectin, which tells your body to burn fat.
- Increases blood levels of Human Growth Hormone, which regulates bodily fluids, sugar and fat metabolism, and helps with bone and muscle growth.
- When fasting, blood levels of insulin drop, and your body goes into fat-burning mode.
- By limiting the time frame in which you eat, you’ll end up eating less calories.
- Intermittent fasting helps your body properly detoxify from the harmful effects of free-radicals, lowering what is known as “oxidative stress”, as well as inflammation.
Why and how does this work? In short - when your body is busy digesting and absorbing the food (a process that begins when you start eating until about 3-6 hours after), it’s hard for it to burn fat as your insulin is high. And at the end of your day, after dinner, when your body is digesting all the meals of the day, your body can take up to 8 hours to complete this digestion and assimilation process. Only after that time, when your body is no longer processing your meal, can it fully work on proper elimination and detoxification, and start the process of burning fat, as your insulin is low. This stage can take up to 4-5 hours. This is why allowing for at least 12 hours between dinner and breakfast is very beneficial. For people with slower digestion, regular bowel movements won’t happen the next morning unless they allow for a 12 hour fast overnight.
Even if your digestion is strong and you have regular bowel movements, allowing for a 16-hour fast once a week can be highly beneficial to increase your metabolism, burn more fat and fight both inflammation and stress. It’s a great tool for weight loss that doesn’t involve calorie counting nor restraint (in the way I am suggesting).
That being said, it only works if you are already eating a clean diet made of whole and unprocessed foods, including a lot of fresh vegetables, healthy proteins and fats.
If you are still eating a lot of sugar and sugar substitutes, unhealthy oils, a ton of animal products (especially non-organic, grain-fed) and packaged foods, then you need to FIRST clean up your diet, THEN give a shot at incorporating intermittent fasting to see if it works for you.
Also, if you have history of eating disorders, are underweight, pregnant, or have a medical condition, I would refrain from any type of fasting and/or consult with your doctor first.
For more questions regarding achieving a healthier, more balanced life, tips on nutrition and weight loss, shoot me a message!
Love and Fasting,