What is Intermittent Fasting?
Also referred to as IF, intermittent fasting is not a diet. Instead, it’s an eating plan based on consuming food, and, then, fasting over specific predefined periods. During the eating periods, it’s recommended to achieve normal eating patterns and calorie intake. Eating periods are followed by a fasting phase with only liquids such as water, sparkling water, unsweetened tea, coffee, and broth.
The proponents of IF point to the fact that our ancestors did not always have three meals per day. Early humans were hunters and gatherers and would experience both periods of abundance, as well as scarcity. This is based on the belief that our bodies were originally built for the hunting and gathering lifestyle and operate more efficiently in this environment.
More and more research is beginning to emerge on the potential health benefits of IF. Some of these benefits include: improved cholesterol and blood pressure, as well as better blood sugar and insulin levels. Intermittent fasting is also associated with a decrease in risk factors for Alzheimer’s. More research is needed, but scientists are looking at using intermittent fasting as a way to treat cancer cells.
How to IF?
This is where the world of intermittent fasting has gotten a little confusing and can feel overwhelming. Do a Google search on IF, and you’re likely to find a variety of approaches on intermittent fasting. For simplicity purposes, this newsletter is going to focus on the two most common ways to practice intermittent fasting:
- Time-restricted fasting: you have a 6 – 8-hour window to eat and a 16 – 18 hour period to fast each day.
- 5:2 intermittent fasting: you eat regular meals five days out of the week, but two days a week, eat only one moderate-sized meal.
The key to intermittent fasting is not to under-eat or over-eat during the feeding windows, but, instead, to fuel and nourish your body with wholesome and nutrient-dense food. Intermittent fasting is not cutting out food groups like carbs or fat, but, instead, modulating when you are eating.
According to a recent issue of the New England Journal of Medicine, intermittent fasting is a legitimate option that might be worth considering. However, some people should not fast.
Is it safe?
If you fall into one of these categories, you should not practice intermittent fasting:
- Under 18 years old
- Pregnant or breastfeeding women
- Underweight or malnourished
- Have an eating disorder
Before fasting, always discuss with your physician and registered dietitian if you have any of the following conditions, or if you take prescription medications:
- Type 1 or 2 diabetes