Perhaps you have heard about or read about a type of eating pattern called Intermittent Fasting. Now the word fasting scares some people off right away, but rest assured IF does not involve sackcloth and ashes, starvation or images of third world malnutrition.
Intermittent Fasting essentially is a way to restrict your food consumption to a certain ”window“ of time each day and in reality often means skipping just one full meal a day. There are some varieties of IF with the most common one is called the Leangains Method. Essentially this restricts your eating to a window of 8 hours/day while you fast for the remaining 16 hours. During the fast period you are allowed to and should consume water. Now in practical terms what exactly does this mean? Basically, you would pick a time of the day when you start your 8 hour eating period. For example, many people upon waking in the morning will have no food (only water) until 11:00 am or 12 noon. Then the “window” of eating is for the next 8 hours. If you start your eating at 11:00 am you can consume food until 7:00 pm and then nothing is eaten until the next day at 11:00 am and the next 8 hour window starts again.
Now many of you might be thinking “How can I possibly do this, I’ll starve if I can’t eat for 16 hours”. In reality you will not starve and the benefits of IF will far outweigh the minor inconvenience you might experience in the very beginning. In fact, if you are not able to go without food for 12-16 hours that tells us that your body is really out of metabolic and nutritional balance and you really need to give IF a good try.
Contrary to what is considered normal eating habits such as 3 meals a day i.e. breakfast, lunch and dinner there is really no scientific basis for this type of eating pattern. In this country it is more of a cultural convention rather than a metabolic necessity. Additionally, some people have followed the advice to eat 5 or 6 small meals a day. This actually is one of the worst things that you can do to your body metabolically especially if you are trying to lose weight. Finally, the old saying that maybe you heard from your mom “You have to eat breakfast, it’s the most important meal of the day” really is total nonsense and current scientific and dietary studies prove it.
So what are the potential benefits of Intermittent Fasting?
Well to begin with, calorie counting is not actually a requirement of intermittent fasting, but weight loss and fat loss is a definite benefit partly due to the overall calorie restriction. In traditional diets and many of the commercial diets (there are actually scores of them) 40-50% of weight loss is muscle. The important thing about this is that your muscles are your metabolic furnace meaning your muscles determine how many calories you burn, your metabolic rate and ultimately how much you weigh. So, if your muscles are your metabolic furnace and in traditional diets you are losing that much muscle, what do you think that is doing to your metabolic furnace? It’s destroying it and worse yet, when you stop the diet and you inevitably gain weight back are you getting back muscle? No, the weight you gain back is fat and the problem of inflammation and more weight gain repeats over and over again. With IF studies show that it is not muscle you are losing but in fact you are burning fat and that is a very good thing. You essentially switch your metabolism from a glucogenic one (which relies heavily on sugar metabolism and fat storage) to a ketogenic one (where you are burning fat and losing weight).
Other benefits of IF beside weight loss is a reduction in oxidative damage and inflammation. Chronic inflammation is one of the driving factors in any type of degenerative disease whether it is arthritis, cancer, diabetes, cardiovascular disease, Alzheimer’s Disease or dementia to name a few. IF is also beneficial in helping to relieve dysbiosis and leaky gut which plagues many people as a root cause of their health problems. In fact, many studies show that to slow down the aging process it is very beneficial to reduce food intake as we get older. This allows the body to focus more on repair and replacement of cells and tissues and repair of injuries as opposed to the great amount of energy it takes to digest food.
There are some cautions however with IF. One of them is if you are a diabetic you should check with your doctor first before starting an IF eating lifestyle change to make sure it is safe for you to do so. However, some studies now indicate that in over weight pre-diabetics, IF is a good way to help reverse this metabolic trend and reduce blood sugar glucose, Hb A1c and insulin resistance.
To find out more about Intermittent Fasting and if it right for you give our office a call and ask for a one on one consultation with the doctor. 352-801-0021