Intermittent Fasting: Is It for You?
The leaves are falling, the weather is cooling, and the mouth-watering spread of Thanksgiving dinner is calling. But before you fill your plate, determine whether you’re willing to suffer the side effects of America’s favorite binge-eating holiday.
With most Americans downing over 4,500 calories and 230 grams of fat on Thanksgiving Day alone, indigestion, heart attacks, and dangerous blood sugar spikes are common. This year, consider an alternative approach that will rev up your metabolism instead of inspiring a nap.
WHAT IS INTERMITTENT FASTING?
While most of us are aware that fasting plays an important role in many major religions (for example, Muslims observe Ramadan by fasting from dawn to sunset every day for a whole month), we may not realize that non-religious fasting is already an integral part of our daily existence.
No matter how many hours it lasts, going without food for any period of time is, by definition, a fast. Whether that means waiting several hours after lunch to eat dinner or fasting overnight while you’re sleeping (your morning meal is called breakfast because you literally break your fast), fasting isn’t necessarily an extreme practice.
“Intermittent fasting” is an eating trend that incorporates regular, intentional periods of fasting into a daily or weekly eating pattern. Unlike a diet, fasting doesn’t require eliminating certain foods, counting calories, or restricting portion sizes. It’s less about what you eat and more about when you eat. For those who have unsuccessfully tried dieting in the past, intermittent fasting offers a new way of thinking about food, and it comes with health benefits as well.
FAST TO LIVE LONGER
Studies show that intermittent fasting can support healthy weight loss, improve heart health, balance blood sugar levels, reduce inflammation and improve cognitive function. Simply shifting the timing of meals and extending the overnight fast seems to significantly benefit metabolic health, which underscores every system in the human body.
In case that’s not enough, intermittent fasting also showed that fasting protected mice from strokes, Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s disease, and consistently extended their lifespans by a whopping 30 percent!
READY TO GIVE IT A TRY? HERE’S HOW
There are numerous approaches to intermittent fasting; if you want to give it a try, consider which methods best fit your schedule and eating preferences. Don’t be afraid to play around with options to see which one suits your body best.
- The 16/8 Method involves daily fasts of 16 hours for men and 14-15 hours for women (studies have shown women tend to do better with slightly shorter fasts). Every day, you restrict food intake to an 8-10 hour “eating window” that can contain two, three or more meals and snacks.
- The 5/2 Method, sometimes called the “Fast Diet,” allows you to eat normally for five days of the week. On the other two days, the quantity of food is restricted to around 500-600 calories each day.
- The Eat-Stop-Eat Method takes the 5/2 Method to the next level, involving one or two complete 24-hour fasts per week.
- The Alternate-Day Method ups the ante again with fasts every other day. Fasts may be complete, with no food, or restricted to only a few hundred calories.
- The Warrior Method mimics the eating patterns of our ancient ancestors. Those who follow it eat only small amounts of vegetables and fruits during the day, then they finish it off by eating one huge meal at night.
- The “Natural” Method is perhaps the easiest of all. Simply skip a meal or two when you don’t feel hungry or don’t have time to eat.
Intermittent fasting can be rewarding, but it’s not for everyone. Before diving into a new diet or fasting protocol, discuss your plans with your healthcare professional, and remember that even though fasting is not a diet, choosing healthy foods should still be a top priority.