By Bridgette Ruge, M.A., CPT
If you haven’t heard about intermittent fasting, it’s definitely something you should know about! This isn’t just a weight loss method. Evidence shows that intermittent fasting has so many benefits beyond weight loss (though we won’t complain about the weight loss aspect!). Turns out, incorporating intermittent fasting (I.F.) into your weekly routine shows benefits for fat burning, reducing blood glucose, increasing longevity, lowering inflammation, lowering blood pressure, and protecting against neurodegenerative diseases. At first, the idea may not sound that appealing; however, it’s not as difficult as you think and definitely something you should consider incorporating into your lifestyle!
What is Intermittent Fasting?
Intermittent fasting is just what is sounds like—periods of time when no food is taken in. These short periods of calorie restriction are followed by a “feeding window” in which you eat normally and until comfortably satisfied. It is beneficial to keep a high-protein, lower-carbohydrate diet during the feeding window—but to not deprive yourself or restrict calories. This method may sound contrary to the age-old recommendation of eating every few hours—about 5-6 times per day. In fact, this method of eating every few hours does NOT allow for fat burning, as the body is constantly using the glucose and sugars that are being consumed for fuel. If you’re looking to lose body fat, you need to allow the body to tap into its fat stores by depleting glucose, even for just a short time—as in intermittent fasting. This is an ideal method of cutting calories for weight loss without having to restrict on a daily basis. On average, people who use I.F. methods eat about 26% less than their normal calorie intake without having to think too hard about it. In fact, people who use I.F. regularly report a decrease in hunger levels and less cravings and find them easier to do over time as the body adapts.
How to Try Intermittent Fasting
The most popular method of I.F. is eating dinner and then nothing again for 14-16 hours. Pure water and black coffee or tea may be consumed. Somewhere between 8 and 10 hours, the body has depleted its reserve of glucose and started burning stored fat! Add 20 minutes of cardio before breaking the fast and boost the fat-burning process even more! I find this method the easiest, but there are other methods out there which you can read about with a simple Google search. I suggest trying one out and seeing how it feels. Start where you feel comfortable—around 12-14 hours and if that is easy, increase to about 16-18. Some people even incorporate 24-hour fasts a few times per month. The rest of the time that you are not fasting, eat a normal, healthy, whole-foods diet. Over time, calories are reduced enough to produce weight loss and the myriad of other benefits listed above. While I.F. is safe for most people, those with hypoglycemia or diabetes should exercise caution with the method and be monitored by a doctor or nutritionist. Many people see benefits in using I.F. as little as twice a week.