It’s funny to me that over time new diet trends fade out, and then all of a sudden come back in full force. Like intermittent fasting. There are several different ways you can do fasting. There are people who fast for a certain amount of hours overnight, there are people who fast for a day to “reset” their system, and then there are the crazy people who fast for 30-40 days. We can dive a little deeper into a few of these later in the future, but for now I just want to touch base on fasting for a longer period of time overnight. Something like your first meal being at 11am and your last meal being at 7pm. This would create a 16 hour overnight fast, but, what’s the point? Great, let’s do some research and find out what intermittent fasting is, and if there are benefits to it.
What is Intermittent Fasting
If you haven’t already guessed it, intermittent fasting is cycling between periods of eating and fasting. SHOCKER. Anyways, intermittent fasting doesn’t change what you are allowed to eat, but rather when you are allowed to eat it.
Everyone fasts to some extent everyday, while they sleep. So by extending that a bit longer by skipping breakfast you can increase your fasting time. The most popular way of doing fasting is a 16/8 protocol. This means fasting for 16 hours and eating only within an 8 hour window. So you could have your first meal at 12p and then your last at 8p, or whatever works for you.
Intermittent fasting can be beneficial for some, and harmful for others.
The main thing with intermittent fasting is that you obviously cannot eat during your fasting window. You can however consume coffee, tea, water and other beverages that are zero calories. This will help to curb the hunger you will feel at the beginning.
But, after all this, is it actually beneficial?
Benefits of Intermittent Fasting
First off, before you freak out and wonder why the heck people would willingly not eat (which is my thought) you have to remember that humans have been fasting for centuries. Whether it was for religious reasons or lack of food, our bodies were built to withstand it. Which is why we can go hours without eating and never really realize. You see, the reason we eat at each meal everyday is because of 1. habit and 2. hunger cues caused by routine. If everyday for a week you didn’t eat breakfast, your body would after awhile just forget about breakfast and not be hungry. The human body is truly incredible when it comes to shifting and evolving to what stimuli it is given.
After researching for years, scientists and other smart body process experts have found that there are benefits to pushing the body into a fast either daily or weekly. Like I said, some fasts are a little more invasive than others, but do have benefits. The question is also, how long is “too long” to deprive the body?
First I want to share the benefits of allowing the body to fast for a longer period of time overnight…
• Fasting allows for significant reductions in blood sugar and insulin levels, as well as a drastic increase in human growth hormone.
• People use fasting to lose weight as it is an easy way to restrict calories and burn fat stores (if you haven’t already been in a chronic deficit trying to diet for months).
• Fasting can improve different risk factors and health markers like high blood pressure.
• It may be able to protect against chronic diseases like diabetes, heart disease, Alzheimers and cancer.
• It changes the function of hormones, cell repair and gene expression (all in good ways).
• Reduces oxidative stress and inflammation which promotes brain health.
• And, fasting has actually been proven to help you live longer because of cell regeneration and mitochondria density.
So yes, fasting does have amazing benefits for the body. But, it can also have a few downfalls. Fasting is not, and should not be for everyone. Depending on the phase of life you are in, it could actually cause more bad than good.
Downfalls of Fasting
With all good things comes a few bad ones, right? Well the same goes for fasting. While there are great benefits to doing it, there can also be a few pitfalls along the way.
• Hunger hormones are in full force after a period of fasting which could lead to over consumption of foods along with poor food choices.
• People doing intermittent fasting for the sake of weight loss have found themselves taking steps backwards because they process does not work for them. Always take an approach that fits your lifestyle and not just what’s new and hot.
• Companies have started marketing for intermittent fasting meals which are crazy expensive and are causing people to spend extra money they don’t need to because of marketing tactics.
• People are not consulting with a doctor before trying and therefore are causing more damage to their bodies.
You have to remember that dieting and changing your lifestyle is not a one size fits all. Fasting may work well for those who are overweight, have a low stress environment and would rather limit calories to certain times/days than write everything down and track. But that might not be the case for someone who is a mom of 3 and barely sleeps.
You see, fasting can also be a stressor on the body. So if you are already in a stressful environment like going through a hard time in your personal life, having kids, breastfeeding, rarely sleeping, traveling all the time, have specific medical conditions…you can actually make things worse with fasting instead of better. By adding more stress to an already stressful situation you will tend to take steps backwards instead of forwards. Your stress hormones will skyrocket, and you won’t see the benefits and changes you are looking for.
So before diving into intermittent fasting, ask yourself if you are actually a good candidate for it. I personally am not because my stress hormones are already high and my body has a hard time detoxifying. If I add fasting to my already stressed system, it’s a recipe for disaster. So just be sure to check in with yourself, and your doctor before diving into intermittent fasting just because it is the new popular thing to do!
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