Let’s talk intermittent fasting. Why is this dietary approach getting so much attention? We’ve broken down what the science says about the potential benefits intermittent fasting may have for your health so you don’t have to.
What is Intermittent Fasting?
Intermittent fasting focuses on time-restricted eating, fluctuating between periods of fasting usually lasting longer than 12 hours.
There are many styles of intermittent fasting, which makes this a more approachable practice than most would think. Two of the most popular intermittent fasting approaches are:
The 16:8 Fast
This involves extending your nightly fast, taking 12-16 hours between dinner and breakfast the next day. For example, you may eat dinner around 6 pm and then nothing else until 6-10 am the next morning.
The 24 hour Fast
This involves fasting for 24 hours 1-2 times a week; you’ll still consume non-caloric beverages like water and unsweetened tea.
It might seem a little crazy to imagine not eating for longer than 8 hours, but in all reality our body needs time to rest, relax, and process nutrients; tending to our normal repair functions to maintain our health. Additionally, we already have a natural fasting rhythm that occurs when we sleep.
When thinking about adding a fasting day into your lifestyle consider that you want to find a style of eating that works for you. Consider your work schedule, sleep schedule, and lifestyle when deciding what type of fasting schedule may work the best.
How Does Fasting Work?
Our bodies put in a lot of work when it comes to processing the food we eat to provide us a consistent source of energy.
When we eat food is broken down into macro and micronutrients through digestive enzymes. Carbohydrates like rice and starchy vegetables get broken down into glucose to be absorbed into our bloodstream and utilized for immediate energy with the help of insulin.
When our cells don’t use all of the glucose from the food we eat it gets stored in our liver and muscles as glycogen. And when in a calorie surplus, any leftover fuel gets store in our fat cells, as fat.
In-between meals, and when we first start fasting as long as we aren’t snacking, our body will utilize glycogen and some stored fat for energy. But once our glycogen stores are depleted (typically between 12-36 hours after our last meal) our body will begin to break down more fat for fuel (1).
Prolonged fasting will eventually prompt our body to experience ketosis and metabolically switch to breaking down fat as fuel; using stored fatty acids instead of glycogen for energy.
Some studies suggest that adopting an intermittent fasting practice may help with weight loss, improve memory and mental performance, cardiovascular health, type 2 diabetes, and the effectiveness of cancer treatments.
While much of this research comes from animal studies, emerging human data has offered promising results – especially related to the potential for helping with weight loss and improving some aspects of nutrition-related chronic diseases such as diabetes and heart disease.
It’s important to note that the long-term effects of intermittent fasting have not been fully established, but current research shows some promising short-term benefits that we’ve outlined in our list below. Additionally, while the potential benefits of fasting are exciting, there is not enough research to proclaim it is more effective for weight loss or improving health than a basic healthy eating approach.
It is well understood that how much you eat is a much stronger determining factor for weight loss than how often or when you eat. However, intermittent fasting may help you sustain a caloric deficit leading to weight loss.
But just because you are intermittent fasting does not necessarily mean you are in a caloric deficit. Some people still struggle to stay within a healthy caloric range even when they restrict the time frame in which they consume their meals.
Caloric restriction has been proven as a way to reduce body weight and visceral fat but it can be difficult to sustain a healthy caloric deficit for long periods of time without the help of a nutritionist in order to really understand what your body needs.
At the end of the day, sustainable weight loss is more than just managing our caloric intake through practices like intermittent fasting. Our lifestyle, stress levels, sleep regime, and other factors all affect our ability to lose and maintain a healthy weight.
At the end of the day, consciously choosing to reduce or shift our habits can help us create health and wellness goals based on our values and beliefs.
So far, the effects of intermittent fasting seem overall positive. But there can always be a downside to every diet if it’s not approached in the right way.
Intermittent fasting can still lead to weight gain, feeling starved during your fasting period might make some people more prone to binging behaviours when they’re not fasting. And eating more calories than what your body burns will lead to a long-term increase in body fat even if you consistently fast for 12-16 hours each day.
In other words, if you are having trouble maintaining your hunger and end up going completely rogue on your non-fasting periods, you could end up gaining weight.
Going rouge during your non-fasting periods can sabotage your health goals, start a meal prep routine or plan your meals to ensure you’re nourishing your body.
Long periods of fasting can also lower your blood sugar levels and leave you feeling lightheaded, dizzy, with headaches, and/or nausea.
If you have a medical condition, talk to your doctor to make sure it’s safe to try intermittent fasting. People with type 1 diabetes and/or on diabetic medications may be more susceptible to unwanted side effects or struggle with controlling their blood sugar levels.
Your body will also need some time to adjust, so try choosing a day of the week or period of time that you don’t need to be very active or deeply concentrate when first starting a fasting practice.
Whatever your reason for wanting to intermittent fast, remember to incorporate basic nutrition principles including calorie control and a balanced diet to set yourself up for success.
So, however you choose to get your nutrition, let us help take the guesswork out of your meal prep. Order ready-to-eat macro balanced meals and get them delivered directly to your home.