Is Intermittent Fasting Right for You?Nov 01, 2022
Have you ever heard of intermittent fasting? Unlike other weight loss and management methods, it’s not technically a diet but an eating pattern that cycles between fasting or low-calorie intake and periods of eating. Now, I know what you’re thinking: Can this be healthy? For those of us who grew up hearing “breakfast is the most important meal of the day” and “food is fuel,” which is all still true, the concept of intermittent fasting can be a bit confusing. But intermittent fasting has been around longer than you might realize!
Tribes worldwide have naturally practiced IF for centuries, and there have been no known side effects on their long-term health. When you think about it, we all practice IF in our sleep when our bodies work to restore and regenerate! By refraining from eating at certain times throughout the day, IF aids in this process. While it’s not for everyone, if managed correctly, intermittent fasting can be a great option to control weight and has some great health benefits.
Intermittent Fasting Benefits and Concerns
If done correctly, intermittent fasting, or IF, has several benefits and can help:
- regulate blood glucose
- control blood lipids, like triglycerides
- reduce the risk of coronary disease
- manage body weight
- help you gain (or maintain) lean mass
- reduce the risk of cancer
- metabolic benefits
- is more manageable psychologically vs. dieting making it easier to adhere to
With this impressive list of pros and the fact that it does not dictate the kind of foods consumed, you might think, “Why wouldn’t I try it?”
IF can benefit many, but research is still being conducted on its overall impact. While some people have found massive success with it, some have had adverse side effects, particularly many women who have found that it affects their menstrual cycle, causes early onset menopause, triggers binge eating, or disrupts their metabolism. The truth is, it’s not for everyone, and individuals should consult their doctor first. This is especially true if you are underweight or have existing health conditions. For example, if you are pregnant, malnourished, have a history of disordered eating, are constantly stressed (which covers a lot of us in the 21st century), don’t sleep well, or you’re new to dieting and exercising at all, intermittent fasting might not be for you. Additionally, individuals with specific health issues, like type I diabetics or those with extreme hypertension, should talk to their doctor before attempting IF.
There are many ways to practice IF, including meal skipping, alternate-day fasting, Eat Stop Eat, periodic fasting, and more. The way to choose is to determine which type fits your lifestyle. My advice is not to overdo it in the beginning.
An excellent place to start is to delay eating in the morning to extend your overnight fast. Our bodies can begin a famine-type response as soon as glycogen (stored energy) is depleted. This generally takes 12-24 hours, so if you stop eating a few hours before bed and get 8 hours of sleep, you can wait just an hour or two in the morning before eating to achieve this. Try this a few times and see how you feel. Then, if it works for you, consider committing to a nightly fast a few times a week.
While IF does not dictate the types of foods you eat, binging on cheeseburgers and cake following your fast will diminish the point. My best advice is to have a healthy, whole meal and snack options to munch on after your fast is broken. Also, remember to stay active!
The 6 types of IF methods
- Time-restricted eating - This is likely the method that will be easiest to start with. It involves fasting for 12 hours or longer daily and eating healthy, whole foods outside the fasting periods. As mentioned above, it can be achieved by strategizing when to stop eating before bed and when to start again in the morning.
- The 5:2 diet - Involves eating as you usually do five days a week. Then, on the other two days, restrict your calorie intake to 500–600.
- Eat Stop, Eat - This involves a 24-hour fast once or twice per week. I do not recommend this method to beginners.
- Alternate-day fasting - Fast every other day. Like Eat Stop Eat, this would be a lot for someone to take on immediately.
- The Warrior Diet - Eat raw fruits and vegetables in small amounts during the day and then one large meal at night.
- Periodic fasting or PF - This isn’t precisely intermittent fasting but is similar. With PF, fasting cycles are longer (typically two or more days) and separated by at least one week to allow any lost weight to be regained. While research is still evaluating both IF and PF, it’s been found that PF tends to produce more pronounced changes in growth factors and metabolic biomarkers, indicating that it may provide more significant health benefits than IF.
Intermittent fasting is not for everyone but can benefit some
Again, intermittent fasting is not for everyone but can benefit some. My most extensive advice when wanting to overhaul your health is to eat a well-balanced diet packed with nutrients, fiber, protein, whole carbohydrates, and whole foods that will fuel you. Suppose it is just another tool in our toolbox and can be considered if an individual’s lifestyle, physiology, and other factors match this method. Everyone is on their own journey regarding health and fitness, so finding what is right for you is key. For more health, wellness, and fitness tips, check out more of my blogs or visit me on Instagram @coachbenreale.