What is intermittent fasting?
These have become huge buzz words lately along with the abbreviation IF – why is fasting so great, what does it mean and why are people doing it?
First off, MANY definitions on fasting. Lots of people have different opinions on what “true fasting” is and what it means. When experts use the term fasting it essentially means no food, just water, usually with minerals or salt and that’s it…. For days. This can be a little intense for most people and many experts argue longer fasts (over 3-5 days) are best under doctor supervision.
Shorter fasts or Intermittent fasting can be as short as 12 hours, simply fasting overnight. Ex: you have dinner at 7 pm and you have nothing but water until 7 am the next morning. Are there benefits to this? Yes – there are more benefits the longer you go. A popular fasting strategy is 16:8 which means you abstain from eating (only water) for 16 hours. This creates an eating window (your first meal to your last) of 8 hours. There are more benefits in a 16 hours period than a 12 but you have to know where you are emotionally and physically to best decide where to start.
If you’re pregnant, breast feeding, dealing with major hormonal imbalances or trying to conceive this may not be the time for you to start fasting longer than 12-14 hours.
Many people have different ideas of what fasting consists of – and a lot of it depends on your goals. If you’re fasting for general health and weight loss you may be able to be a little more lax with your fasting guidelines. Some experts consider coffee with MCT oil or butter as a helpful extender to your fast. Essentially, a little fat won’t spike insulin – therefore you may use these to help you fast for longer periods of time.
Other experts say black coffee, tea and water is about all that you can include while fasting. My opinion is if you’re doing any type of fasting (if its healthy for you and your lifestyle) you’re doing your body good. There are some of us out there working on general health who also consider a little collagen in your coffee as part of a healthy component of IF. Breaking your fast would be considered your first meal of the day.
So what are the benefits of fasting:
· Autophagy : essentially your body’s cleaning mechanism that gets rid of old or defective cells
· Immune system boosting
· Fat loss
· Lowering inflammation
· Improving brain function
· Promotes detoxification
· Promotes longevity
· Improves insulin sensitivity
· And more
If fasting is something you are wanting to try – start slow. Pick a fasting schedule that seems achievable for you. My rules for fasting are simple – don’t push it. If you’re hungry – eat. If you can extend it longer – go for it. If you are working on more intense health issues, listen to your body. If you are fasting for general health and you wake up starving every morning, try fasting with an earlier dinner or drink 32 oz of water in the morning and see if you can start extending your morning fast. Don’t push it.
Many of my patients have seen a decrease in symptoms with IF: weight loss, more energy, less pain, less inflammation. It just has to be the right thing at the right time.
Have you had any experience with IF? Would love to hear your story in the comments below.