Many people are turning to intermittent fasting to reach health goals like weight loss. According to Harvard Health, a growing body of research suggests that the timing of the fast is key and can make intermittent fasting a more realistic, sustainable, and effective approach for weight loss, as well as for diabetes prevention. Still many people reach or maintain good health by eating several times throughout the day. So what makes most sense for you?
Intermittent fasting, or IF, is a diet pattern of cycling between periods of eating and fasting for various amounts of time. Here are three methods of IF:
Time-restricted: fast for 12 to 16 hours a day giving you around 8 hours to eat. For example, your first meal is at noon and the last thing you eat is at 7:45pm until the next day at noon.
Modified or whole day fasting: like the 5:2 diet, this option has you eat just 25% of your recommended calorie intake 2 days a week and regular intake the other 5 days.
Alternate day fasting: 500 calories and water for 24 hours, followed by 24 hours of anything you want. And repeat.
In all methods, most sources encourage getting at least 50 grams protein on low calorie days.
Fasting is nothing new. Various cultures and religious groups practice fasting. Muslims for example fast during Ramadan requiring fasting for 30 days from dawn to dusk as a reminder of the less fortunate and need to be thankful.
In addition to potential weight management from fasting, triggering autophagy is another potential benefit. Autophagy is a natural regeneration process that occurs at a cellular level in the body, reducing the likelihood of contracting some diseases as well as prolonging lifespan. Cells use autophagy to get rid of damaged protein and to counteract the negative effects of aging. Basically, it’s the cells version of taking out the trash.
Dr. David Rubinsztein, professor of molecular biology at the University of Cambridge, says evidence from mice studies certainly suggest autophagy could reduce the risk of developing some diseases and increase lifespan. In mice, effects of fasting were seen on the brain within 24 hours but it’s not known how long humans would need to fast to see benefits. Now studies are looking at fasting, drugs and genetic tools to try turning on the autophagy process.
Out of curiosity, Emily started using time-restricted IF in May 2018. For the past two weeks I said goodbye to my beloved overnight oats in the morning to see if IF was right for me. Here are our likes and dislikes:
There are various patterns and one could work well for you
You can choose your busy days when you “don’t have time to eat” as your two fasting days on the modified fasting plan. We like the idea of Monday and Friday (ramp up for the weekend and Monday you might still be full from Sunday funday!)
Possibly less bloating
More energy and focus for some
Fits your lifestyle and daily schedule versus eating every few hours
Easy to understand time-frames
Potentially sleep better if you stop eating before bed
Easier to prep for on busy days when you are fasting a half-day (possibly less running out the door grabbing gas-station breakfasts)
The body is designed to detox itself
Not for people who are pregnant or breastfeeding
Caution with chronic disease, type 1 diabetes and those who are frail or ill
Not for people with a history of disordered eating
Less energy for those who feel best eating every few waking hours
People use fasting when it’s convenient for them but not as intended for the health benefits
Emily has found she feels less bloated in the morning and has more energy throughout the day. I found it was easier to go without breakfast than I thought and I was listening to true hunger cues more than eating when it was “time” to eat. I still love my oats though and could have them later in the day.
Overall, listen to your body. If you are using IF and you truly feel hungry during your fasting period, eat! It is not the end of the world if you break the fast. Ideally, you will become more in tune with your hunger and satiety cues versus eating based on the clock.
Share your IF likes and dislikes on our Facebook page under the Fasting FYI post!
To listen to the full episode, click here.