Intermittent fasting (IF) is getting a lot of attention in the media and online at the moment. It has been building up steam for a few years now, some of you may have tried it, some of you may be doing it right now! I personally use fasting on and off throughout the year depending on what health or fitness goal I am trying to achieve. I have just recently got back into it after not being able to fast for a long time and my excitement has prompted the topic for today’s blog. I am in a state of fasting as I write this! I want to share some reasons behind why you might try IF, my personal IF experience and what the research says.
Why you might try Intermittent Fasting.
- To lose weight – There are some types of IF combined with specific foods and exercises that focus on weight loss as a main benefit but to me it’s more simple than that. If you only give yourself a 6 – 8 hour feeding window it is unlikely (if you are sensible about what you are eating) that you are going to over consume calories in that time frame compared to eating food throughout the entire day. Especially compared to a breakfast high is carbohydrate that starts the blood sugar/insulin roller coaster for the day. This leads to your body craving more carbohydrate or caffeine throughout the day to keep it going. There is a bunch of sciency stuff that also shows IF has an impact on insulin sensitivity and a increased use of ketones (fat stores) for energy just to name a few. Click here for the science.
- To reduce inflammation – This is one of the main benefits I have found from the Bulletproof (explained below) style of IF that I do. Even when I’m not doing IF I still eat really healthy; no sugar, no alcohol, no foods that I have a sensitivity to; and yet when I eat the standard way with breakfast, lunch, dinner and snacks, my aches and pains still creep back. The science says that chronic inflammation is reduced with intermittent fasting as they can see decreased macrophage hyperactivation and therefore less pro-inflammatory cytokines. At this stage the human studies have mostly been on overweight people so they aren’t sure if this is due to weight loss or the actual intermittent fasting. Having said that, there have been studies on rheumatoid arthritis, multiple sclerosis and coronary artery disease (CAD) patients using IF which had beneficial outcomes so if you have chronic inflammation it may be worth doing the research and chatting to your doctor about! Click here for the science.
- To have a better adaptive stress response – Animal studies have shown that certain styles of IF can protect neurons against oxidative, metabolic, and proteotoxic stress which may be good news for Alzheimer and Parkinson’s disease groups. It can also protect the heart against ischemic damage. In short this means our bodies are more prepared for what life might throw our way! Click here for the science.
- To improve healing and repair – When we eat normally our cells get a constant supply of energy and therefore stay in growth mode. Fasting cleanses our cells of damaged molecules and organelles by stopping the cells from staying in this growth mode and instead switching to an increased rate of homeostasis and new cell formation. Kind of like spring cleaning! Click here for the science.
How I got started on Intermittent Fasting.
My brother started me on my IF journey. He had always suffered with lethargy, lack of enthusiasm at times, bad acne and difficulty gaining weight both fat and muscle. I’m not sure how he got onto it but after only a few weeks he was raving about it! The energy gains and the fact he didn’t need as much sleep were the first things he felt. After a while longer his skin cleared up and he was able to build muscle, finally! He was excited! He pointed me to the site and I read all the research it cited. The research was mostly done on rats and pigs and the few studies that were done on humans focused on benefits for diabetes and coronary artery disease, I wasn’t sold at this point.
At the time I was having a few health concerns of my own. Nothing major, similar to my brother they were more little niggly things that seemed no matter how healthy I ate things would not go away. After loosing 20kg I was finding it increasingly difficult to keep the weight off, I was getting chills to the bone even in the summer months, I was getting hot flushes a couple of times a week, I had pain in my neck, my back, my knee, nerve pain running down into my left heel and down my left arm and anxiety. I had suffered from these symptoms in the past and knew there was nothing the doctors could do (having already been down that path) and I was sick of the strict diets and tablet regimes I would normally get through the Naturopath. I wanted to try something different and something sustainable. I started reading the forum posts of others trying IF and found lots of people with similar problems to me who were getting good results. I threw caution to the wind and decided to give it a go. A few years later and my whole family now follows regular intermittent fasting!
It’s not one size fits all.
There are many types of IF you can try. The type of IF my family and I do is called Bulletproof which involves adding a bit of high quality fat during the fast. The fasting period is done in the morning because the body has already gone into a fasting state during sleep so it’s easy to tap into that and continue the fasting from there.
There is no one size fits all though and you sometimes have to do a little bit of reading if you hit cross roads as you go along the IF path. Some of my family, myself included do slightly different things now even though we started on the same program. My brother feels best with lots of fat in his diet. My mum adds collagen protein to her morning drink to help balance her hormones and I like very little fat in the morning and sometimes go without. As mentioned in the intro I don’t do fasting all the time anymore and I tend to stick to 16 hours of fasting unlike the males in the family who can fast for 18 to 20 hours quite comfortably. It’s your body so if you try this it’s up to you to figure out what is right for you. I would highly recommend getting your Doctor or Naturopath on board and getting some before and after blood tests done to measure your success.
One popular types of IF you may have heard about is the ‘5 and 2’ where you eat low calorie 2 days per week. You can also fast every second day, one day per week, skip the evening meal, and so on, there really aren’t too many rules. To get the most benefit as mentioned above in the ‘Why you might try IF’ section; you need to fast for at least 16 hours. What that means is if you stop eating your evening meal at 8pm at night, you should eat your next meal at 12pm the following day or later. As mentioned previously keep in mind that women tend to do better sticking to the 16 hours whereas men seem to suit fasting for longer periods of time.
I hope you have enjoyed the read and perhaps feel inspired to read up a bit more about Intermittent Fasting. If you have any questions you can’t find answers to elsewhere please feel free to comment or email me and I will do my best to help!
One more time for good measure…please please please…if you have any major health concerns check with your Doctor before changing your diet!