To fast or to not fast? Intermittent Fasting the facts
Fasting. It was always something I would discourage my patients to do. “Breakfast is the most important meal of the day, ” or you must be eating every 3 to 4 hours to keep your metabolism up.
So when intermittent fasting became something- it boggled my brain.
Hmm, so I figured I should do some research into it.
Here are the 7 Healthy facts that I found:
- Weight loss: As mentioned above, intermittent fasting can help you lose weight and belly fat, without having to consciously restrict calories (1, 13).
- Insulin resistance: Intermittent fasting can reduce insulin resistance, lowering blood sugar by 3-6% and fasting insulin levels by 20-31% (1). This should protect against type 2 diabetes.
- Inflammation: Some studies show reductions in markers of inflammation, a key driver of many chronic diseases (17, 18, 19).
- Heart health: Intermittent fasting may reduce LDL cholesterol, blood triglycerides, inflammatory markers, blood sugar and insulin resistance. These are all risk factors for heart disease (1, 20, 21).
- Cancer: Animal studies suggest that intermittent fasting may help prevent cancer (22, 23, 24, 25).
- Brain health: Intermittent fasting increases a brain hormone called BDNF, and may aid the growth of new nerve cells (26, 27, 28). It may also protect against Alzheimer’s disease (29).
- Anti-aging: Intermittent fasting can extend lifespan in rats. Studies showed that fasted rats live as much as 36-83% longer (30, 31).
The above makes sense, just think about the hunters and gatherer time. There were times when food was plentiful, when there was a great feast after a wonderful hunt. But in that time, people did not necessarily eat 3 meals a day, 7 days a week.
This makes sense and is the reason why we accumulate fat. We accumulate the fat, so we have some storage for when meals are not plentiful.
The problem is these days, there is ALWAYS food available, or just around the corner. As Americans we eat TOO much, ALL the time. And for some- if they do miss a meal, watch out for the ‘HANGRY’ folk that get irritable when missing a meal!
When Intermittent Fasting is NOT a good idea.
Fasting is NOT a good idea for the following reasons:
Intermittent fasting is certainly not for everyone.
- If you are underweight already or have problems keeping weight on.
- If you have a history of eating disorders, then you should not do intermittent fasting without consulting with a health professional first.
- If you are trying to get pregnant or are pregnant, or breastfeeding.
- If your periods are irregular or skip.
- If you tend to have low blood pressure.
- If you have blood sugar issues that are not regulated.
- If you have an ongoing chronic condition that is not being supervised by a physician such as cancer, diabetes, high blood pressure, or if you are on any medication that can affect your blood sugars such as metformin, etc.
In these cases, it can be downright harmful.
How to start>?
A good place to start would be to pick a few days a week and skip breakfast and lunch that day. Be sure to plan your day and eat healthy the rest of the day. Healthy meaning, not stopping at a fast food place on for dinner, or gorging on a bag of chips when finishing up, which is quite easy if you are not planning everything.
Aim to fast about 16 hours, and leaving a span of 8 hours per day to get your food in.
STOP fasting if you are getting dizzy, can’t do your daily work, or are having blood sugar issues.
I’ve recently tried it and have felt better, snacking less, and having more energy!
If you don’t like the idea of fasting, then you can safely ignore all of this. Just continue to do what works for you.
At the end of the day, there is no one-size-fits-all solution in nutrition. The best diet for you is the one you can stick to in the long run.
Intermittent fasting is great for some people, not others. The only way to find out which group you belong to is to try it out.
If you feel good when fasting and find it to be a sustainable way of eating, then it can be a very powerful tool to lose weight and improve health.
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