Intermittent fasting is a pattern of eating that shortens the daily time window for eating to approximately 8-10 hours per day. This might mean skipping breakfast and eating your first meal around 11:00 am and making sure you’ve finished eating dinner by 7 pm. While weight loss is one benefit to this eating schedule, research has shown that there are many other benefits including preventing diseases such as diabetes and heart disease. Intermittent fasting has also been linked to improved energy and mental clarity.
I know, some of you might be a little skeptical. Won’t skipping meals send my body into starvation mode or shut down my metabolism? What about the notion that breakfast is the most important meal of the day? While we’ve listened to these health mantras for years, many are not based on science. Breakfast was dubbed the most important meal in the 1940s when an advertising campaign for – you guessed it, cereal – promoted “Eat breakfast – do a better job” on the radio. Historically, many cultures did not eat breakfast. Even early American Colonists didn’t have the first meal of the day until after their morning chores were complete. In the days of hunter-gatherers, fasting occurred frequently based on the availability of food.
When you eat carbohydrates from foods like bread, pasta, fruits, and many other sugary foods your body releases insulin to break down these foods into glucose that the body uses for energy. When you eat frequently and don’t utilize all the energy right away, the body stores the excess as fat. These frequent meals put your body in overdrive, and over time this excess work can lead to weight gain, insulin resistance, and chronic health conditions like diabetes.
Intermittent fasting gives your body time to rest and repair. When you give your body longer rest periods between meals, glucose levels are stabilized, insulin levels drop, and your body isn’t constantly doing the work of digesting. This also gives your body time to do other important functions, like cellular repair.
The great thing about intermittent fasting is that there are a lot of different options that can be customized to fit your schedule. If one model doesn’t feel right, you can switch and try a different schedule. You can experiment with the different options until you find one that works best for you and your lifestyle.
This is one of the easiest to incorporate. In this model, you eat all your daily calories within a shortened period (usually about 6-8 hours per day) and then fast the remaining 16 hours per day. This can be started by simply skipping breakfast and having your first meal later in the day. You don’t have to do this all at once. If it seems too difficult, gradually shift the first meal of the day until you get down to eating all meals within the adjusted time frame. Can’t deal with skipping breakfast? That’s ok too. You can personalize the time frame and make your eating period from 9 am to 5 pm. It’s all about what works for you.
This fasting schedule is when you eat normally for about 5 days per week and on the other 2 days you fast by limiting calories to between 500 and 600 calories per day. The days of the week can be chosen based on your schedule. During your fasting periods you should always drink plenty of fluids, unsweetened coffee and tea are allowed along with bone broth.
Alternate Day Fasting
In this model, you fast every other day and eat normally on non-fasting days. Many find that the alternate-day fasting with a calorie restriction of 500 calories during the fasting days is more sustainable. During your fasting periods you should always drink plenty of fluids, unsweetened coffee and tea are allowed along with bone broth.
While intermittent fasting is a great tool, it isn’t for everyone. It shouldn’t be used for those who are pregnant or breastfeeding, have unstable blood sugar control, or those prone to eating disorders. If you take medications that are timed around your meals or take certain medications to manage diabetes or blood pressure, these may need adjustments so you should always consult with a healthcare professional before starting on intermittent fasting.
While the most important thing with intermittent fasting is the timing of meals, you won’t get the full health benefits if you continue to eat a diet full of processed foods. So, it’s always beneficial to focus on quality whole foods as part of your diet.