Intermittent fasting is one of the top health trends with regards to nutrition.
Rather than it being about what you are eating, it is about when you are eating. There are many benefits of intermittent fasting to your health. Research has shown that when intermittent fasting is done properly, it can help with the following:
Weight Loss – because you are eating less calories overall, you should lose weight due to the reduced caloric intake. Moreover, intermittent fasting lowers your insulin levels and in turn your hormone levels which can facilitate weight loss. Lastly, your body becomes its own fat burner due to the hormone of norepinephrine being released. Studies have shown a reduction in belly fat is also very common for those who are doing intermittent fasting properly.
Reduces inflammation. Inflammation has been connected to various chronic diseases. Intermittent fasting has been shown to reduce this overall.
Heart health. Intermittent fasting may reduce your LDL cholesterol, insulin resistance and lower your blood sugar. This is all great news for your heart health.
Cancer prevention. Studies have linked intermittent fasting to cancer prevention. This could be tied to the reduced inflammation, belly fat and heart issues.
Anti-aging. Intermittent fasting has shown in studies on animals to extend life span.
I have done intermittent fasting two ways over the last five years. The first way that I did intermittent fasting was to fast for a 24-hour period once a week. I chose the same day every week – Thursdays because for me that was a busy day that I felt my mind would be initially off the fact that I was hungry. I would eat normally on Wednesday, go to bed and not eat again until Friday morning when I woke up. It is technically of course more than 24 hours, but sleep time is not included. Throughout the day you can drink water, coffee and tea. Try to avoid putting any sugar in your drinks. Coffee works as an appetite suppressant so I found it quite easy to make it through the day without any food. By 4pm I would typically get hungry, but it really is mind over matter. By Friday morning I was definitely ready to eat. I did find that my caloric intake on Friday was reduced in comparison to other days, mostly because my body had adjusted to the fasting concept.
I have read that some people who do the 24-hour method allow themselves a maximum of 500 calories in the day. I don’t think there is anything wrong with that especially in the beginning. Just be sure to only eat nutrient dense calories. After doing this for about three months, I dropped about 8-10 pounds. That is quite a bit on my frame, so I can definitely attest to it working for weight loss. In terms of working out, this was my day of the week I opted out of working out. I found it too difficult to workout and not eat after.
The second method of intermittent fasting that I have done is called the 16 and 8. This method has you fasting every single day for 16 hours, and eating for eight. Here is how it works. Upon waking up, you do not eat until about noon. You can have coffee, tea and water in the morning. I find coffee again to be a great appetite suppressant and helpful on the mornings I felt famished. Some days I wait until 1 or 2pm to eat, simply because I am not hungry yet. Once you start eating, you can eat for the next eight hours. You eat the same amount of meals as you would if you were eating all day, but in a reduced time frame, and most likely a reduced caloric intake. I still eat three meals a day – breakfast at noon, lunch at 330 and dinner at 6. I would then have a snack again around 8pm. Chances are your meals are smaller – especially your lunch and dinner. Breakfast is definitely your largest meal of the day. Grazing all day does not work. Then nothing again until the next day after 12pm. I have done this method of intermittent fasting for over two years. I love it. It really works for me. I notice my energy levels are higher and my muscle tone has really popped. I work out around 5pm every day so I have no issues with energy before or after a workout. I have read that if you workout during your fasting time (for example in the morning) it allows your body to become even more of a fat burner due to its release of norepinephrine. I do that on the weekends, and enjoy it as well.
The initial reason I started intermittent fasting is what I learned about how it cleans your cells. The concept is this – when sleeping, our body is working very hard at cleaning our cells, our organs, our brains. We wake up in the morning and go to the bathroom almost immediately because our body wants to get rid of the waste it collected together over night. Typically, people then start eating right away. When this happens, our body shifts focus from cleaning to digesting. And most people seem to graze and eat all day, which in turn has your body’s focus all day on digesting. Personally, I would rather give my body a few extra hours in the morning to continue to clean. Why not have the cleanest systems possible? This concept really resonated with me, which made it easy for me to incorporate it into my life. All that being said, intermittent fasting is definitely not for everyone. If you are thinking of trying it, speak with your doctor or health practitioner first. Some people should avoid it including those looking to become or are pregnant, those with high or low blood sugar, chronic disease such as diabetes, heart disease or cancer. Your age plays a big part in it as well – kids should definitely not do it, and I wouldn’t recommend it for anyone over the age of 60. If you are already under weight or have history of eating disorders, intermittent fasting is not for you.
Andrea Katz is a Honors graduate from the University of Manitoba with a Bachelor of Arts double major in Psychology and Sociology and the co-owner of Fit Communications