Is Intermittent Fasting For Me?

Unless you have been living under a rock, or have probably have heard of Intermittent Fasting.  This diet strategy has gained popularity over the years thanks to social media and diet culture.  But, what exactly is Intermittent Fasting?  And, is it for you?

Believe it or not, but Intermittent Fasting has been around since the 1940s.  Researchers found that the life span of mice improved during periods of eating followed by periods how fasting.  intermittent Fasting for humans only became popular within the last 10 years.

Intermittent Fasting can be defined as “Alternating periods of eating and fasting with certain patterns/cycles that can decrease appetite and overall intake.”  Several bodily functions become impacted when we fast for prolonged periods of time:

  • Stabilized insulin levels
  • Improved energy
  • Boosted growth hormones
  • Reduced free radial cell damage

Intermittent Fasting is considered a form of caloric restriction.  Both of them have shown to help improve our response to stress, lower blood pressure, improve insulin sensitivity, and lower cholesterol. In contrast to caloric restriction, intermittent fasting helps promote ketogenesis, may improve our circadian rhythm, and may support long term adherence.

You may be wondering why Intermittent Fasting has become so popular.  What do users get out of fasting for a predetermined period of time?  The benefits include decreased appetite, weight loss, increase concentration/alertness, and improved digestion. Clinically, intermittent fasting shows promise if decreasing blood sugar, improving heart health, decreasing inflammation, and improving brain function.

Now, most people only know about traditional intermittent fasting. Surprisingly enough, there are several intermittent fasting strategies to choose from:

  • Time Restricted: Choosing a specific time range of eating followed by a period of fasting.  Most people choose an 8,10, or 14 hour eating window
  • 5:2 Method: Eating normally for 5 days while eating only ~500 calories the other 2 days of the week
  • Alternate Day Fasting: Eating normally for 1 day followed by eating ~500 calories during the next day
  • 24 Hour Fast: refraining from eating any calories for a period of 24 hours. This can be repeated 1-2 times per week
  • One Meal a Day Fast: Eating one balanced meal per day several times per week

Knowing that some of these methods restrict calories for prolonged periods of time, it is critical to include good sources of protein and fiber to provide essential nutrients and improved satiety over time.  In addition, it is critical to drink plenty of fluids to prevent dehydration. 

While Intermittent Fasting may work for many individuals, it may not be safe for everyone.  This strategy is not recommended for pregnant women, individuals under 18, those with a history of eating disorders, or people with Type 2 Diabetes. Even so, many people may experience headaches, crankiness, constipation, lethargy, low blood sugar, over eating, or medication interactions.  Before you start intermittent fasting, I recommend knowing yourself, understanding risks and benefits, and seeking guidance from your physician and/or dietitian.

Have you tried Intermittent Fasting?  What has been your experience?

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