Talk of intermittent fasting is everywhere these days. But, despite the recent boom in media coverage, it isn’t anything new. It’s a practice that’s been widely used for health and spiritual reasons for years and years.
Contrary to how it sounds, intermittent fasting isn’t just skipping meals. Rather, it involves being more conscious of your eating schedule on the whole. Or, getting your body into a digestive rhythm.
Scientists have been studying the possible benefits of calorie restriction for quite some time. Results seem neutral to positive, but severe calorie restriction isn’t healthy, especially for athletes. That’s where intermittent fasting comes in. It’s the have your cake and eat it too.
What’s the thought behind the practice?
While there’s certainly more to it, intermittent fasting is essentially focused on your body’s absorption state. You’re moving your body into becoming “fat adapted” without starving yourself.
“Your body can burn glucose or it can burn fat. Becoming fat adapted means that the body will favor using fat as fuel instead of carbohydrates broken down into glucose,” says Carly Pollack, Certified Clinical Nutritionist with a Masters Degree in Holistic Nutrition, and Lifestyle Coach at Nutritional Wisdom.
Basically, intermittent fasting should create a better environment for your body to burn fat. Pollack added that there are far more backed-by-science benefits to intermitted fasting than most of us know about. There’s evolving research on longevity, cancer prevention, digestion, and more.
“If you download an app called Zero, and you click on the studies button, you will find great research all in one place,” suggests Pollack. That research is looking promising. “Everyone is different, which means intermittent fasting will have different impact on certain people. [It’s] not for everyone,” says Pollack.
Intermittent fasting is one of those things that works best if you’re self aware and/or working with a nutritionist. It can cause stress levels to spike for certain people, so you’ll need to honestly evaluate where you are diet wise and what your goals are. If you think it’s something that can help you manage your health, there are several methods you can try.
Common Methods, Explained
Leangains is one man’s take on intermittent fasting. Martin Berkhan, a Swedish professional fitness writer and nutritional consultant, coined the term. It’s moved from relative obscurity to a regularly tossed around idea in the fitness world.
Basically, it looks like this: fast for 14 to 16 hours each day, and then you can eat during the remaining eight to ten hours.
Most people who adhere to a Leangains schedule will eat until suppertime and fast past breakfast time. While it’s up to you when you want to eat, this method is probably not ideal for you breakfast lovers.
Our metabolisms naturally change throughout the day to complement our circadian rhythm. Disrupting this throws the body’s cycle off. Because this method is most closely linked to our bodies’ typical process, Circadian fasting is good for first time intermittent fasters—and probably easier on our bodies than other fasting methods.
“I prefer practicing Circadian Rhythm fasting, which is to fast for 13 hours, and eat for 11,” says Pollack. “This eating and fasting behavior is matched to the sun and moon cycle.”
Since this method is linked to our bodies’ active and resting states, it can be a great option for healing digestive issues.
The 5:2 intermittent fasting diet is one of the most popular out there, possibly because Jimmy Kimmel swears by it.
Also, it’s really damn simple: for five days of the week you eat as you would normally, and on the other two, you restrict calories to 500–600 per day. You should not do your restricted calorie days back-to-back.
The 5:2 method is more “diety” than other methods of intermittent fasting, just because the restricted days are so restricted. Depending on your frame of mind, this could be much easier or way more difficult than other methods.
More About Those Benefits
During intermittent fasting, your calorie intake will probably be more in line with what your body actually needs (unless you binge during your eating hours). In general, that will help with weight loss, or at the very least, weight gain. Research has shown that short-term fasting increases your metabolic rate by up to 14 percent, so you’ll be more efficient at burning the calories you are consuming.
Steady Blood Sugar
It might not be the first thing on your mind, but blood sugar spikes are no fun for your body. Studies have been showing some really promising results, indicating that intermittent fasting can improve insulin resistance and reduce blood sugar levels.
To reiterate Pollack’s earlier statement, there is science pointing to the fact that intermittent fasting has lasting impact on our overall health. Healthy neurons (brain power), cancer fighting, and stronger heart are among some of the benefits that scientists are researching.
Things to Remember
If you’ve decided that you’re going to give intermittent fasting a try, stay aware of what and when you’re eating. “Nothing is healthy for everyone 100 percent of the time. You have to take into account your current symptoms, and current relationship to food,” says Pollack. Adjust according to where you are now.
Don’t ever fast for more than two days in a row. Preferably, you won’t fast for more than a day in a row. Likewise, don’t let a foray into intermittent fasting turn into an unhealthy cycle.
“It is far more important to first focus on your relationship with food. You have to be in the practice of eating unprocessed foods that are alive and rich in nutrition.”
Once you’ve got your nutrition down, work on creating a habitual workout routine with Aaptiv.