Intermittent fasting (IF) is currently one of the most popular health (diet) trends. IF is based around the idea of cutting down your eating window and increasing the time you DON’T eat. It’s less about what you should eat and more about when you should eat. And for some people, intermittent fasting can be amazing.
IF can be performed in a few different ways, most notably:
-> 16 hour fast: usually done overnight and through the morning hours.
-> 24 hours fasting: typically done twice per week.
Fasting has been a part of human traits throughout our evolution, partially due to lack of food access. Think about it this way – no refrigeration, 7-Eleven, supermarket, preserved, pre-packaged foods or fast food drive thru’s …. food had to be hunted or foraged, then cleaned and cooked. Food was eaten and not saved. Constant nibbling wasn’t an option.
Evidence-based benefits include weight loss, reduction of oxidative stress and inflammation on the body, blood sugar balance, lower insulin levels, body-induces important cellular repair processes, and it’s great for brain health (including that it may even delay or reduce the onset of Alzheimer’s disease.)
Sounds pretty dang good! So why aren’t we all doing it?
First off, there can be some basic challenges, like how it can be super tough to not eat or nibble for extended periods of time, especially when everyone around you is chomping away. Or when you walk down the street and smell the wafting garlic from the pizza parlor or the sweet smokiness from the bbq gill…. oh wait, that can be anytime. Not just when fasting …
Actually, many people find that fasting helps to take food off their mind especially once they become accustomed to the idea of only eating during certain time frames. It becomes routine. And it inevitably allows the mind to focus elsewhere thereby becoming sharper and more mindful on the actual tasks at hand.
Still wondering where the problem comes in and the one thing that made me quit? I’ll give you three:
- Adrenal fatigue
- Thyroid problems
- Unbalanced blood sugar / cortisol levels
If you’re dealing with any of these imbalances, fasting is not your friend.
The body requires a stable enough adrenal function, blood glucose levels, or circadian balance to safely engage in intermittent fasting. Ongoing long gaps without eating may cause blood sugar levels to plummet and exacerbate adrenal fatigue and thyroid problems.
When the body is deprived of food, it relies on the adrenal glands to provide adrenaline and increased cortisol to function. If your adrenals are already taxed from stress, overwork, or poor health, fasting could further burden them. In all of the challenges mentioned above, it’s important to make sure you eat adequate amounts of fat, protein, and good carbs at every meal, and maybe even every couple of hours to stabilize your blood sugar, normalize energy levels and suppress sugar cravings.
I actually like fasting, it took the pressure off what to eat and when to eat. I felt freer when I wasn’t worried about food and I liked not being soo full all the time! But it ultimately didn’t agree with me as I couldn’t sleep at night, which exacerbates both blood sugar and cortisol swings and also brings on a host of other issues.
IF isn’t a cure-all but it does have benefits ASSUMING you start out in a balanced state and not too stressed out. Just pay attention. If your energy decreases then IF may be an unhealthy stressor for you. If your energy increases, and you see no negative symptoms, then IF may work well for you. Also keep in mind that IF tends to agree with men more than with women, especially from a hormonal standpoint.
I don’t believe there is a ‘one-size’ fits all diet. It’s about listening to YOUR body and figuring out what feels right and best. That might mean not eating meat, dairy or gluten, or it might mean fasting.
Want to know the best eating plan? Listen to your body, eat when you are hungry, stop when you are satisfied (before you’re stuffed) and eat real foods. It’s incredibly simple and incredibly challenging all at once. But if you decide to try intermittent fasting, do drop me a comment and let me know how it works out for you.