Intermittent Fasting has become very popular amongst health advocates over the past few years touting many metabolic health benefits.
So, exactly what is Intermittent fasting and why the buzz?
The Intermittent Fasting Diet or IF is basically an eating pattern in which you cycle between periods of eating and fasting. The premise behind this type of eating is that humans have been fasting for years out of necessity due to lack of available food. In evolutionary times days, weeks, even months would pass when food was scarce. We are biologically adapted to suit this style of eating where there isn’t a constant food supply i.e. If you didn’t have a successful hunt, then the food just wasn’t available. Eating patterns remained this way until the dawning of the agricultural revolution. In fact, it is thought that eating breakfast only started with the majority of social classes partaking in the 17th century.
These periods of lack of food proved to be biologically beneficial as they provided beneficial stressors to our bodies in the absence of calories. We are talking about life-sustaining protective genes that are needed for cellular repair and protection are being activated during a fast.
The bulk of the research in and around the Intermittent Fasting Diet has been performed on laboratory animals, although human trials are on the increase.
Some of the Intermittent Fasting Benefits from the research include:
- Improvements to blood sugar and insulin levels, increased human growth hormone.
- Weight loss particularly in obese individuals. IF targets and reduces visceral fat, the dangerous internal fat that is packed deep around our organs specifically in the abdominal region.
- In a 2015 review participants shed on average 4.5kg in a 10 week period.
- Improved metabolic health, with some research stating that IF may help protect against cardiovascular disease, type 2 diabetes, cancer and Alzheimer’s disease.
- Boosts protein, fat & glucose metabolism helping you to burn calories more efficiently throughout the day, even at rest.
- Inflammation is decreased including inflammatory markers leptin & brain derived neurotropic factor (BDNF) and anti-oxidative defences are increased.
- Protection against memory loss and neurological disorders.
- There may also be some psychological benefits, with time restrictive eating enabling you to push through the mild discomfort of hunger to discover more clarity. This in turn can change your food relationship, enabling you to take time by enjoying and savouring food.
Intermittent fasting does not involve fasting for prolonged periods of time, and over the past few years different methods of Intermittent fasting has evolved, some of these include:
Time restricted feeding in which you skip breakfast eating your first meal at midday and your last meal before 8pm. You can eat as many meals as you like over the course of 8 hours however, most benefit is gained by ensuring that you eat healthy food during this time. During the fasting period there is no food allowed however you can drink water, coffee, tea and other non-caloric beverages.
Eat Stop Eat
Where once or twice a week, individuals will not eat anything from dinner one day until dinner the next day, basically a 24 hour/1 day long fast.
Made popular in a documentary by Dr. Michael Mosley. The 5:2 diet refers to an eating pattern in which you eat normally for 5 days, then for 2 days you consume only 500-600 calories.
Extends the fasting block to 20 hours and shrinks the eating window to 4 hours, specifically 4 hours a night. The Warrior diet doesn’t strictly prohibit fasting completely for 20 hours; however, it does encourage some snacking throughout the day on raw fruits and vegetables and a large dinner at night. It is important to point out that this style of IF does lack scientific studies.
Whole Day Fasts
Fasting for a period of 24 hours for as little as once or twice a month or for as much as once or twice a week.
Alternate Day Fasting
Promotes fasting every other day
This is an example of what a Fasting Day may look like:
On Waking – Large glass of water
12.30pm – protein and salad
3.30pm – protein smoothie or smoothie bowl
5.30pm – dinner – protein with salad or vegetables
7.00pm – snack fruit with nuts
There should also be an emphasis on green vegetables throughout the day to ensure that you are getting the nutrients needed to fuel your body. It is also imperative to drink water! This will help reduce hunger pains, as well as keeping your cells hydrated.
If you intend to incorporate IF into your current lifestyle it is important to choose the method that feels right for you, this may mean trying a few variations at first to see which one suits your lifestyle best.
If weight loss is the goal, ensure that you stick with eating healthy meals during your non-fasting periods to speed up weight loss. Eating too much or the wrong kind of foods will slow things down considerably.
Which intermittent fasting method is best for weight loss?
The 16:8 intermittent fasting plan, coupled with the hCG Diet drops and eating plan, is an ideal combination for weight loss. You can practice IF daily, or ease into your intermittent fasting weight loss journey by starting off with one day per week and building up from there.
Manage your stress levels. Many of us tend to overeat or overindulge during times of stress, this will have a negative impact on the results that we want to achieve when practicing time restricted eating. Manage stress through meditation, ensure that you are getting enough sleep and exercise approximately 30 minutes a day if possible, these practices are an integral part of stress management.
Adv Dip Health Science Naturopathy, Nutrition