Intermittent Fasting: Everything You Need To Know To Get Started!
People hear the word “fasting” and immediately think restricted eating for long periods of time - but there is a lot more to it! Fasting might seem like a fad diet or a trend but it has been around forever. Our ancestors were in constant states of food deprivation and science has recognized the potential physiological benefits of restricted eating.
First of all, there are so many different ways to fast! Everybody's body works differently and responds to things in a completely different way. What works for someone may not work for you. I recommend trying a few approaches until you find one that suits your body and lifestyle needs.
Here are the most common types of fasts you can do:
- 16:8 Intermittent Fasting: This approach is very common and gives your body a fasting time of 16 hours. For example, you eat dinner at 6pm and don’t eat again until 10am.
- 5:2 Intermittent Fasting: This approach means that within a seven day week, on two consecutive days you only eat 25% of your total calories. The other days are normal and non-restricted eating days.
- Alternate Day Fasting: This approach is how it sounds: you do a complete 24-hour fast one or two days of the week.
- 12:12 Intermittent Fasting: This approach is the healthiest and safest option for anyone. 12 hours is the minimum amount of time you should give your body a break so that it can focus on proper digestion and putting your body in a state of rest and repair. For example, you eat dinner at 6pm and don’t eat again until 6am. This style of fasting follows your body’s natural circadian rhythm, which is to eat when the sun goes up and stop when the sun goes down.
- Fasting Mimicking Diet: This approach says that you reduce your caloric intake to 30% of needs for 5 consecutive days. People often do this once a month or a few times a year to reset their body. There is a lot of new research popping up about this kind of fast.
There’s empirical research done on all of the different fasting techniques I mentioned above but really they all have similar benefits and it mostly comes down to what works best for you and your schedule. The most common way to fast is the 16:8 method because it’s simply eating dinner earlier and eating breakfast later which is much easier for people to get on board with. Watch my interview with Dr. Frank Lipman to learn more about this. Also it is important to note if you have struggled with eating disorders in the past, fasting may not be right for you and if you decide you want to try it, talk to a health professional first to get proper guidelines and support.
How Does Intermittent Fasting Work?
The number one thing people rave about with fasting is the immediate weight loss (especially that stubborn belly fat!) When we eat food that breaks down to sugar (glucose) our pancreas releases the hormone insulin and insulin is alerted to store that food in our liver, muscles and when there is no room left, it is stored in our fat cells and stays there as long as insulin is high. When your body is in a fasting state (meaning no meals and no snacking) it reduces our insulin and blood pressure levels, which makes it possible for our fat cells to release that glucose and use it as energy, which aids in weight loss. The main idea is to fast long enough to allow our insulin levels to go down far enough and for long enough so that we burn that fat.
The Benefits of Intermittent Fasting?
Experts often say fasting regularly leads to longevity, and beyond the benefit of a longer life, research has also shown that fasting reduces your risk of pre-diabetes and diabetes, decreases inflammation, eases depression and helps your brain function better by clearing out dangerous protein build up and cellular debris. In addition, fasting has shown to decrease the risk of cardiovascular disease and slow cancer growth. These are just a few of the many benefits of fasting. One important caveat to mention is that fasting is only successful when paired with a healthy diet rich in colorful plants, protein, healthy fat and fiber. Don’t expect to see results if you fast for 12 hours and then eat a pint of ice cream.
Again, the key is to find a style of eating that works for you- maybe that means fasting regularly, maybe that means fasting once a year, or maybe it is just not for you and that is okay! The most important thing is to focus on the practice of Culinary Alchemy™ - listen to your intuition and listen to your body, which is your greatest teacher.
XO - Serena