These days the diet and health world is buzzing about the wonders of Intermittent Fasting. With benefits ranging from weight loss, better blood sugar and insulin control, reduced inflammation, and a longer life span, that interest is well-deserved!
If you have ever considered using fasting to boost your health or to lose weight, it can be very, very effective.
I personally use it all the time. And I was very worried before I tried it that I would be starving! But I slowly eased my way into it and now it is super easy. It's a great way to manage weight almost effortlessly, plus it has some fantastic long-term health benefits.
There are several different approaches to fasting
- 12-13 hour nightly fast
- Intermittent fasting/Time-Restricted Feeding such as the 16/8 Intermittent Fasting
- Prolonged fasting
- Fasting Mimicking Diet
A nightly 12-13 hour fast is recommended for everyone. Ideally we all stop eating by 6-7 PM every night or at least regularly.
Involves fasting daily or regularly for 24 hours or less. Usually this is a 16-hour, 18-hour or 24-hour fast. So if you stop eating at 7 PM you may not eat again until 11 AM to 1 PM the next day. Or some people eat only dinner every day. The 16/8 Intermittent Fasting is the most commonly used style these days.
Is anything over 24 hours. This is only recommended to be done under medical supervision. This type of fasting can range from 36 hours to several days to several weeks. Usually this is a water-only fast. This type of fasting is usually used to “cleanse” or to facilitate healing from specific diseases such as cancer, GI disorders, and autoimmune disease.
The Fasting Mimicking Diet (FMD)
Is a technique of using very low caloric intake to “trick” the body into thinking it’s fasting.
The 5:2 Diet has popularized this idea. This is where you eat normal calories 5 days a week and then you eat 500-600 calories per day for 2 non-consecutive days each week.
Another FMD was designed by Dr. Valter Longo and has been studied in a clinical trial. This approach involves using a meal kit that you purchase from a company called Prolon and eating only those foods for 5 days straight. It should be done under medical supervision. The FMD can be done no more than once a month. Prolon is now developing a kit for cancer patients, as this technique seems to help accentuate the efficacy of conventional cancer treatments.
Benefits of Fasting
- Weight loss
- Increased longevity
- Increased mental clarity and focus
- Better insulin and blood sugar control
- No down-regulation of metabolism like most diets
- Simple, easy, convenient, inexpensive (saves you money!)
- Goes along with any dietary restrictions
- Cleans out “old” and damaged proteins and cells
- Better stress response
- Prolonged fasting and regular FMD have been shown to reduce autoimmune activity, increase stem cell production, and reduce risk for cancer, diabetes, and cardiovascular disease
- If you want some more detailed info about what type of fasting is best suited for your weight loss goals, check out this Intermittent Fasting Calculator by Fitness Volt.
Cautions About Fasting
- Ease into it, start with nightly 12-hour fast, then slowly increase
- People with diabetes need to be under the care of a medical doctor for fasting
- People on medications need to be under the care of a medical doctor for fasting
- Contraindicated for children, pregnant and lactating women, and anyone that is malnourished or underweight (below 18% body fat)
- Be sure to stay well-hydrated during fasts and take in electrolytes and minerals
- Do not gorge to break a fast, do so with small amounts of food
- Avoid fasting in order to get away with eating junk food
- During a fast you can still consume water, black coffee, herbal, green, or black tea, and bone or vegetable broths.
Further Reading About Fasting
Short-term modified alternate-day fasting: a novel dietary strategy for weight loss and cardio protection in obese adults.
Intermittent fasting vs daily calorie restriction for type 2 diabetes prevention: a review of human findings
Effects of intermittent fasting on health markers in those with type 2 diabetes: A pilot study
Effects of intermittent fasting on body composition and clinical health markers in humans.
Metabolic and molecular framework for the enhancement of endurance by intermittent food deprivation.