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Intermittent Fasting: Is it for You?

February 13th, 2019 | no comments

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Fasting has been practiced for thousands of years—dating all the way back to the ancient Greeks.

Admittedly, I used to hold up my hand when someone would approach me with the topic of fasting…and that’s because I was completely ignorant of the benefits. It wasn’t until I began exploring solutions to help manage my rising blood sugar, that I was open to the idea.

When you think of fasting, I’ll bet images of days passing without a morsel of food come to mind. While that is one form of fasting, it’s not the one I’m referring to in this post, nor is it a method I recommend. Intermittent fasting is a “light” and safe approach to fasting that can be practiced by most healthy people.

 

What is intermittent fasting?

Truth be told, anytime you aren’t eating, you are fasting. So, while asleep, you are in fact fasting…which is why your first meal of the day is called breakfast (“breaking the fast”).

Intermittent fasting is an eating pattern where you alternate between periods of fasting and eating. The different types of intermittent fasting are based on the number of hours you spend in the fasting state. I have found the approach that works best for my health and lifestyle is a 14-16 hour fast most days of the week; this is known as a 14:10 (or 16:8 fast):

  • 14:10 fast: Fast for 14 hours with a ten-hour eating window
  • 16:8 fast: Fast for 16 hours with an eight-hour eating window

My day looks like this during a 14:10 fast:

8:00 am breakfast   12:30 pm lunch  5:30 pm dinner  6:00 pm begin fast  8:00 am end fast with breakfast

That’s not so difficult is it? Essentially it means I just don’t eat after dinner. Keep in mind, this approach works well for me because I go to bed pretty early…I’m talking no later than 9:00 pm.

On a 16:8 fast—which is less typical for me—I will eat breakfast at 9:00 am and finish my last meal at 5:00 pm, allowing for a 16-hour fast (5:00 pm to 9:00 am).

Water is recommended—and encouraged—during the fasting period. Supplements, black coffee and unsweetened tea are OK too! Just make sure you aren’t adding any zero-calorie sweeteners, such as Splenda, Sweet’N Low, Equal, or stevia-based products.  

If you are new to intermittent fasting, I would recommend easing your way into it. Start with a simple 12-hour fast: last meal ends at 7:00 pm; breakfast is 7:00 am. You can then increase the fasting window at your own pace and comfort level.

The above types of intermittent fasting are gentle enough to be practiced every day if you desire.

 

Benefits of intermittent fasting

You may be asking why anyone would want to fast in the first place. Great question! It’s one I asked myself for years, until I experienced the benefits firsthand. Some of the physical benefits of intermittent fasting include:

  • Changes in hormones to boost metabolic rate, burn fat, and facilitate weight loss—especially fat loss around the mid-section where dangerous visceral fat lives.
  • Lower insulin levels: insulin, also known as the fat-storage hormone, is stimulated every time we eat. Canadian nephrologist and leading expert in intermittent fasting, Dr. Jason Fung, has this to say about the effects of fasting on insulin and body fat: Insulin levels fall, signaling the body to start burning stored energy as no more is coming through food. Blood glucose falls, so the body must now pull glucose out of storage to burn for energy. He goes on to say: If you are constantly eating, as is often recommended, then your body will simply use the incoming food energy and never burn the body fat. You’ll only store it.
  • Increase in production of human growth hormone (HGH): HGH deficiency in adults can lead to higher levels of body fat, decreased lean body mass, and lower bone mass.
  • Increased release of the fat-burning hormone norepinephrine.
  • Longer life span.
  • Higher levels of energy and alertness.
  • Decreased insulin resistance and therefore lower blood sugar levels.
  • Decreased inflammation.
  • Lower LDL cholesterol and triglycerides.

 

What to eat during your non-fasting window

Intermittent fasting answers the question of when to eat; but how about the what? Specifically, what should you be eating during your non-fasting window? You could be a diligent, gold star-earning intermittent faster, but your efforts will be for crap if the quality of your food is not up to par.

To read more about my simple meal planning strategy, check out last week’s post HERE and scroll down to the section on: How to Make a PeaceMeal.

 

Intermittent fasting is not for everyone

Although intermittent fasting is safe for most individuals, it is not recommended for individuals who are:

  • Under age 18
  • Underweight (BMI of 18.5 or lower)
  • Suffering from an eating disorder
  • Pregnant or breastfeeding

If you are on insulin, diabetes medication, or any other prescription drug, please check with your doctor before trying intermittent fasting. Also, those with gout or increased uric acid may need supervision, as dehydration raises the level of uric acid in the blood. This is another reason why drinking plenty of water is important during periods of fasting.

If you’d like to give intermittent fasting a try, remember: start with a simple 12-hour fast and then increase the fasting window at your own pace and comfort level.

Resources:
The Effects of Intermittent Energy Restriction on Indices of Cardiometabolic Health
Beneficial effects of intermittent fasting and caloric restriction on the cardiovascular and cerebrovascular systems
Metabolic Effects of Intermittent Fasting
Intermittent fasting interventions for treatment of overweight and obesity in adults: a systematic review and meta-analysis
Early Time-Restricted Feeding Improves Insulin Sensitivity, Blood Pressure, and Oxidative Stress Even without Weight Loss in Men with Prediabetes
Intermittent Fasting for Beginners

Mel’s weekly food pick:
NuttZo Bold BiteZ Bar

A couple of weeks ago, I shared my top six favorite nutrition bars on the market. Another great bar to add to your list, the NuttZo Bold BiteZ bar is a perfect blend of a variety of nuts and seeds (cashews, almonds, Brazil nuts, flax seeds, chia seeds, hazelnuts, pumpkin seeds) and lightly sweetened with either honey or maple syrup.

Choose from four varieties: Peanut Pro + Collagen; Power Fuel + Collagen; Power Fuel Maple + Matcha (vegan); Peanut Pro Cacao Nibs + Probiotics (vegan). 

These low-glycemic bars contain between: 12-13 grams of healthy fat; 7-9 grams of net carbohydrates (with 5 grams or less of sugar); and 9-12 grams of protein. Enjoy a NuttZo Bold BiteZ bar along with a 3-cup container of raw veggies and a sliced apple with the skin on…a perfect high-fiber, satisfying, on-the-go lunch!

 

Mel’s weekly recipe pick:
Chocolate Chip “Surprise” Muffins

 

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