Everywhere I turn, I run into someone saying that intermittent fasting is the thing to be doing. I’d say it’s just a trend but a number of doctors and medical experts seem to be recommending some version of intermittent fasting.
Intermittent Fasting is not a diet. It does not involve what you choose to eat but when you eat it. Most doctor’s and nutrition experts will recommend that if you’re going to try intermittent fasting, you should still eat in a healthy fashion. Don’t let the fasting make you think that stuffing yourself with cheese curls is a great way to break a fast.
In The End of Alzheimer’s, Dr. Bredesen recommends an intermittent fasting plan. He suggests that you at least have a 12 hour window of fasting, which means you should have a 12 hour period of time each day of not eating. So, if your last meal or snack is at 7 PM, you can have breakfast at 7AM. If you’re snacking at 11 PM, guess what? You’re supposed to wait until 11 AM to eat. To be honest, Dr. Bredesen says you should avoid eating in the 3 hours before going to bed, so you wouldn’t be snacking at 11. He says it might be even better to aim for 14 to 16 hours of fasting. Basically, if your last meal at the end of the day ends at 8 PM, you don’t eat until 10 AM. You can check out my review of this book.
So, all those people who said over the years, I don’t want to eat breakfast were perhaps on to something.
I’ve seen similar recommendations from Dr. Steven Masley, Dr. Mary Hyman, Dr. Perlmutter, and others.
Benefits of Intermittent Fasting
Why should we practice intermittent fasting? What’s the benefit to us? Well, a number of medical studies have shown that fasting helps us:
- improve our mental health
- lose weight
- lower our risk of developing a chronic disease.
It helps with weight loss. There is the basic fact that if you’re omitting a meal each day, you’ll probably eat less. But there’s some evidence that this actually increases your metabolism. Also, intermittent fasting helps your body burn fat as energy which of course leads to weight loss.
Besides weight loss, intermittent fasting reduces the insulin resistance in our bodies which lowers our risk of type 2 diabetes.
Intermittent fasting also helps improve our mood and our memory. It’s supposed to be good for cognitive health.
Types of Intermittent Fasting
The method of intermittent fasting that I described above can also be called a time restricted fast. You eat every day but just limit the hours when you eat.
Related to the time restricted fast is the One Meal a Day plan. You can guess what this is…you eat once a day. Obviously if you’re eating one meal a day, you’d better make sure it’s a good one. I’ve met a number of people who eat this way and they claim to have lost a lot of weight and to like eating this way.
There’s also a 5:2 plan. Two days a week, you eat a restricted diet of about 500 calories and a normal number of calories the remaining 5 days.
There’s also a monthly fasting plan where once a month you reduce calories for 5 consecutive days to about 35 to 50 percent of your normal caloric intake. So, you normally eat 2,000 calories a day, you would reduce that to 700 to 1,000 calories for 5 days in a row.
Finally, some people fast for 24 hours at a time, a couple days a week.
Best Practices with Intermittent Fasting
Before you start fasting, make sure you don’t have health issues to prevent this. Women who are breast feeding should be careful with fasting. Also, if you suffer at all from any eating disorders, you might want to avoid fasting of any kind. If you are under a lot of stress, it’s probably not the time to add a major change in your eating patterns. Why introduce more stress?
If you’re not sure if you’re a candidate for trying intermittent fasting, check with your doctor.
Once you decide that you want to try intermittent fasting, keep a few things in mind.
- Remember to drink your fluids. Water, calorie-free drinks, black coffee, and green or herbal tea are probably all fine for you. Be sure you stay hydrated while fasting. Also, sometimes we feel hungry when we’re really thirsty.
- Get plenty of sleep. Your body needs sleep to repair itself. Sleep helps with cognitive health as well as physical health. Plus, while you’re sleeping, that fasting time goes by a lot faster.
- Be careful with working out when you first start. While your body is adjusting to fasting, you probably don’t want to also decide to take up some heavy duty workout regime. Be patient and let your body adjust. Then you’ll be able to tell how much working out you can handle in a fasted state. If you’re doing the 2:5 method, consider those two days of restricted calories as your rest days.
- Make sure you’re eating nutrient-dense foods when it’s time to eat. If you’re not eating for an extended time, you really want to make sure you’re getting your vitamins, minerals, fiber, fat, protein, and so on in your food.