Humans have been fasting for many ages, mainly due to religious or cultural beliefs. However, in more modern times, it has proven to be valuable for health benefits as well! Here is a cheat sheet about intermittent fasting, and if it is the right plan for you.
What are the potential benefits for intermittent fasting?
Intermittent fasting can act as a “reset” button for your digestive system. By taking a break from eating, you are letting your body flush out excess insulin and allowing the liver to dispose of toxins. Studies have shown that intermittent fasting actually influences the gut microbiome; microbes in the obese individuals actually had a higher rate of expenditure as far as for energy and storage. In addition, the gut microbiome is important in obese individuals due to the relation of systemic inflammation. Intermittent fasting provides an avenue to help burn visceral or deep fat, by allowing the body to use its own stored fat for energy versus consuming energy.
Which length of fasting is best for you?
The standard recommendations of fasting would either be a 12:12 fasting, meaning fast for 12 hours and eat for 12 hours. For example, eating is allowed between the hours of 8 am to 6 pm only.
However, many people do this fast naturally! We normally recommend the 16:8 fast, meaning fast for 16 hours and eat for 8 hours. An example of the timing of the fasting period would be, discontinuing eating after 8 pm and not resuming your first meal until 12 pm. It is not usually recommended to fast any longer than 16 hours; once you extend past that point it can be harsh on your adrenal glands and other hormones, and it may cause a new array of problems.
Make sure that you break the fast with a high protein meal. Also, it is still necessary to eat at appropriate intervals throughout your eating period. For example: if the fast is broken at 12, make sure to eat again around 3:30 and then 8. The point of intermittent fasting is not to restrict calories and food throughout the entire day. When first starting intermittent fasting, it is best to try only a few days a week to see if you can tolerate the plan.
Who should NOT try intermittent fasting?
It is not recommended to try this practice if you have the following conditions:
Type 1 diabetes, eating disorders, pregnancy, women breast feeding, being underweight (BMI < 18), Type II diabetes and taking Insulin, or any hypoglycemic conditions. The restrictions are due to the fluctuations in blood sugar and even mood.
What are the potential obstacles of intermittent fasting?
One may experience low energy, binge eating behavior, changes in mood; although these are not anticipated effects, they may occur. If you are experiencing these symptoms, intermittent fasting may not be the right choice for you.
For example, I tried intermittent fasting myself on a work day, and by 11 am I was lightheaded and ravenous. It is best to try out intermittent fasting when there is less environment or mental stress, i.e. on a weekend, or if you ate a bigger meal at dinner the night before to help sustain you for the fast.
The idea of intermittent fasting can be daunting at first, but if you have visceral fat to shed, need a digestive reset, or want to reduce inflammation this could be an appropriate outlet for you. If you are still feeling overwhelmed about the idea or do not know if you meet the criteria, set up an appointment with any provider at our office for guidance.