What is Intermittent Fasting?
Intermittent fasting is not a diet, but rather, a pattern of eating that alternates between eating and fasting. Fasting for a period of time gives the body a break from utilising energy for digestion and in turn, can focus on deeper levels of maintenance. Intermittent fasting wholly focuses on when to eat vs. what to eat. Many people utilise intermittent fasting for its weight loss benefits, and in doing so, it is important not to overeat in the hours or days that you are eating.
Fasting is a natural part of life. If we look at the natural world as well as our evolution we can see that all animals fast. In fact, it is much more common in the natural world, as well as in our history as humans, to fast from time to time or even for extended periods of time, rather than eating consistent meals throughout the day.
Types of Intermittent Fasting
15 : 9
To get the full benefits of intermittent fasting you should fast for a minimum of 15 hours per day, and allow yourself to eat in a 9 hour timeframe. You can structure this in a way that best suits your lifestyle.
For example, if you’re someone who gets hungrier in the evening, opt to skip breakfast by finishing your last meal at 8pm, with your next meal at 11am the next day. However, if you’d rather skip dinner, time your fast according to your preferred time to eat breakfast. For example, if you’re having breakfast at 8am, your last meal should finish at 5pm.
18 : 6
Extending the 15 hour fast to 18 hours is even more beneficial. Some people prefer to start with a 15 : 9 ratio, then increase it to 16 : 8, gradually reaching an 18 : 6 ratio.
5 : 2
This pattern entails 5 days of regular eating with 2 days of limited caloric intake of 500 to 600 calories.
6 : 1
Another option is to eat regularly for 6 days and then fast for a full 24 hours.
Please note that during your fasting period, you can drink water, herbal teas and black coffee.
How to Start Intermittent Fasting
First, decide whether intermittent fasting is the right path for you. Sometimes people do it for a few months at a time. Others make it part of their lifestyle. Please read the disclaimer at the end of this blog post before deciding whether to start.
Then, decide what kind of intermittent fasting is right for you and mentally prepare for your start. The mental preparation can sometimes make or break your experience.
Some tips include:
- Set alarms for when you’re allowed to eat and when you should stop
- Or download an app to help you keep motivated
- Let friends and family know of your new schedule so they understand and can help support you
Benefits of Intermittent Fasting
In extended fasting periods experienced during intermittent fasting, the body has energy to rejuvenate on deeper cellular and molecular levels.
This rejuvenation can include:
- A drop in insulin, which makes stored body fat more easily accessible for your body to burn
- This can result in fat and/or weight loss and sometimes muscle gain
- Adjusting hormone levels to utilise stored fat more easily
- Cell repairs, including autophagy, a process where cells digest and expel old and/or dysfunctional proteins that build up
- Changes in gene expression, specifically related to longevity and protection against disease
- Reduction in inflammation
Other benefits include:
- Intermittent fasting simplifies life
- Less meals means less time cooking and less time cleaning up
- Less time doing these chores means more time for other things like, spending time with friends, hobbies, exercise, learning something new, meditation and more!
- With a focus on when you’re eating rather than what you’re eating you have more freedom during your meals
Read This Before Deciding (Disclaimer)
Please note that intermittent fasting is not for everyone. Do not start intermittent fasting if you are trying to conceive, currently pregnant or breast feeding. Additionally, if you have a medical condition, take medications, have a history of amenorrhea (absence of menstrual cycle), eating disorders, or are underweight, DO NOT fast without seeing a health care professional first.