I am commonly asked what the story is with Intermittent Fasting and if it can really help improve overall health and metabolism. For starters, I don’t view this as a trend. In fact, I have been doing different variations of fasting for over 40 years. I attribute in large measure much of this practice to be responsible for the slowing of my aging internally and externally.
We all know that fasting is not a new thing. It has been practiced regularly throughout history either out of necessity or for religious reasons. Our ancestors didn’t always have access to food and there were times of famine. Therefore, we are conditioned to be able to survive and even flourish when we go without eating for periods of time.
Intermittent fasting has many benefits. Since I am already lean, I don’t use it to manage my weight. Instead, I use intermittent fasting to help my brain, energy levels and recovery from intense workouts. Intermittent fasting is an effective way to reduce systemic inflammation, to improve mitochondrial function for better energy, and control glucose metabolism. It can also help the brain to work better. Intermittent fasting increases BDNF (brain – derived neurotropic factor).
Detoxification from food and our environment is something that we need to be mindful of as well. During times of fasting, autophagy which translates to “self eating” is the process of clearing damaged cells and helps accelerate cleansing. Otherwise these damaged cells can lead to inflammation and disease states.
Ways to Practice Intermittent Fasting
These methods are not as daunting as you may think. I like to keep it simple by simply skipping dinners. I will have my last meal at lunch time (no later than 3pm) and then not eat again until breakfast. This break gives me 15-20 hours of fasting time and I do it a few times per week.
The 16/8 Diet (fast for 16 hours each day and feast only during an 8 hour window) is similar to the particular protocol I follow. If you must have dinner, you can do so as long as you finish eating by 8pm and skip breakfast – not allowing the next feeding until at least 12pm.
The 5:2 Diet allows you to eat normally (within reason) 5 days per week while restricting calories 2 of those days to only 500-600 calories. On these low-calorie days, it’s easiest to skip one meal and have the other two meals consisting of 250 – 300 calories each.
Alternate Day Fasting is another way to do this. The method is to eat sensibly one day and fast the next. If the fast day is too difficult, you can limit your calories to 500 calories on fasting days. A way to do this is by juicing or having clear broth with a light meal.
Spontaneous Meal Skipping works just like the name sounds – skipping meals when you can…. Sometimes it’s hard to plan which meals to exclude, especially when eating plays such a large role in socializing or family time. This type of fasting allows you to eat one less meal at a time that is most convenient and you will still reap some of the benefits.
One thing to keep in mind is that any type of fasting should be done with caution. The meals that you do consume need to be healthy enough to provide adequate nutrition since you are not eating at other times. If you are someone that has a history of an eating disorder, this is probably not the best method for you. Intermittent fasting should be looked at as a means of improving your health rather than a starvation “diet”.