Intermittent fasting goes against many of the health principals we have believed for years, making it a controversial topic. Everywhere I turn there is a post about intermittent fasting. Many of the podcasts I listen to are talking about intermittent fasting. I have clients asking me if it is a good fit for them. I always try to pick topics that are relevant when writing on the blog and this one has presented itself too many times to not be addressed.
I have been fasting my whole life, you have too. When we stop eating before bed, we fast until breakfast. Often when you hear someone refer to intermittent fasting they are talking about making the daily decision to eat within an 8 hour window and then fast for the remaining 16. Most people don’t find this difficult, they eat from 10am-6pm and rest 6pm-10am.
Going 16 hours without food is not harmful as long as you are eating enough calories within the other 8 hours. This is not a calorie restriction protocol but rather a calorie timing protocol. Some of the benefits that may, I say may because we still need to do more research, occur with intermittent fasting are as follows:
- Decreased cholesterol
- Utilization of fat for energy
- Digestive improvements
- Improved cell repair
- Decreased Blood Sugar
- Reduced inflammation
- Improved brain function
Intermittent Fasting vs. Calorie Restriction for Weight Loss
I don’t often talk about weight loss on my blog because I don’t want to push people in the wrong direction. Weight loss is a great goal if it comes along with other health benefits, the world we live in often encourages people to lose weight in unhealthy ways and we generally have a dissatisfaction with our bodies. That being said, I understand that weight loss is one of the top health goals. I always try to move people in a direction that focuses on health as a whole with weight loss as a healthy side effect.
This is why I don’t promote calorie restriction with my clients. When people cut back on calories they often lose weight initially but quickly plateau. They then restrict their diet more and this pattern continues until their body is under unnecessary stress due to a lack of food. The difference between calorie restriction and intermittent fasting is that when you restrict calories your body is still using glycogen as its primary energy source. When you fast your body is eventually forced to switch over to using fat as fuel because it has run out of glycogen. If you have excess body fat to be burned the body has enough fuel that you do not enter starvation mode. My problem with both methods is they can easily be abused. If a client wants to try intermittent fasting, I don’t recommend anything longer than 16 hours and I encourage them to get the normal required amount of calories in during the 8 hours.
I did this for much of my life because I am not a breakfast eater. My stomach is not ready for food so soon after waking. I found that giving myself more time to rest meant my digestion was improved the rest of the day. I would not recommend intermittent fasting to someone who is not already eating a healthy diet. Your focus should first be on improving the quality of your food and then you can make minor adjustments through timing and fasting.
I believe intermittent fasting can be part of a healthy lifestyle when used appropriately. I also believe it may be used as part of a protocol to heal the human body. Someone like me, with an autoimmune disease that reacts to many foods, may benefit from letting their body have a break from the day to day fight.
As always, if you have any pre-existing health conditions you should consult your Dr. before trying something new. Be open to new ideas and always do your research!
My cousin Julie Daniluk has also written on this topic, you can read her professional opinion here
Eat Your Veggies!