Disclaimer: I’m not a doctor nor claim to be. Please seek medical advice should you choose to begin a fasting protocol.
I won’t keep you in suspense. I think intermittent fasting is all the rage and with good reason (mostly).
Before I get into why, let’s talk about what intermittent fasting is. You may also see it simply referred to as IF.
Intermittent fasting is purposeful fasting in order to improve health and/or lose weight. It’s an eating pattern that cycles periods of eating with periods of fasting. There are many methods to achieve this with varying hours of fasting and in varied frequencies.
Why would anyone not want to eat?
That’s a good question. Food is awesome, right? So why on earth would we purposefully not eat if we have the means to do so?
From an ancestral perspective we would fast on a regular basis. Our bodies are built to function assuming periods of fasting.
It makes sense.
Food wasn’t always abundant and you ate when you had access to food and sometimes would go long periods without. Our bodies are built to have breaks of time to regenerate and heal. Fasting brings about cellular repair processes, such as removing waste from cells.
It’s nature’s detox, essentially.
In addition, extending time between when you eat allows your insulin levels to drop and increase your rate of fat burning. Intermittent fasting changes hormone levels to make stored fat more accessible. This is why it is often used as a tool in weight loss.
Finally, due to lower insulin levels, hormone changes and cellular repair, intermittent fasting reduces oxidative stress and inflammation, reduces risk of diabetes, can improve risk factors for heart disease, and most impressively, it has been found, at least in mice, to reduce the risk of cancer.
Check out these studies showing the impressive benefits of intermittent fasting on health:
There are many other purported benefits, many of which are scientifically backed up. It can definitely be a positive and therapeutic tool.
Ok – so should everyone fast?
No, not necessarily. For women, long term intermittent fasting might be a bad idea due to its influence on reproductive hormones. Our reproductive organs might be thinking “oh no, a famine.. Don’t reproduce now” and turn your hormones out of whack. That’s why I don’t advocate any sort of long term or overly frequent fasting like many intermittent proponents might recommend. It’s a powerful tool and with such, it should be used with caution.
Dave Asprey of bulletproof fame has his version of fasting he specifically recommends for women called bulletproof intermittent fasting. Basically, he recommends having coffee or tea with fat (generally coconut oil, MCT oil or butter) for breakfast which lets your body receive the benefits of fasting because you are still refraining from carbohydrates and protein. Due to the added fat, your body has fuel and doesn’t think you’re in a famine, keeping hormones more in line.
There are also specific medical conditions that do not support intermittent fasting. If you have existing medical problems, take extra caution. Your mainstream doctors will likely think you’re crazy saying you’d like to fast to improve your health, so I recommend seeking a functional medicine practitioner or a more progressive doctor who is cognizant of the latest research in fasting.
But practically speaking, what does intermittent fasting entail?
A lot of people do a lot of different things. Some fast for a full day then eat for a few days, some fast for 18 hours every day and only eat during a small window. There are many methods of intermittent fasting.
What I advocate for is 16 hours without eating once or twice a week. It’s a small enough amount that it shouldn’t cause adverse reactions for the vast majority of people. It’s also relatively easy to do. Here’s what that looks like:
Doesn’t sound that crazy right? Heck, you might already be doing that sometimes. This gives your body a break and helps it regenerate and remove waste from cells!