What is intermittent fasting?

Intermittent fasting is an alternative form of caloric restriction in which individuals periodically abstain from eating for varying periods of time, typically longer than an overnight fast. Forms of intermittent fasting you may have heard of include the 5:2 diet, alternate day fasting, random meal skipping and time restricted feeding (e.g. 16/8 method).

The 5:2 diet requires you to significantly restrict calories over 2 days of the week, which can be modified into alternate day fasting, either through fasting or restricting calorie intake every other day. Time restricted feeding restricts calorie consumption to a specific feeding window within a 24-hour period, where typical windows would be 6 or 8 hours.

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Simplicity and consistency

Regardless of which method suits you best, the key to a positive result is consistency. Whilst all of these methods essentially split the day or week into eating and fasting periods, the most popular and most sustainable form is the 16/8 method of time restricted feeding. Extending your natural overnight fast to 16 hours and only eating within an 8 hour window is not dissimilar to skipping breakfast and eating an earlier evening meal. A shorter feeding window requires less food and meal preparation allowing you to not only improve your health but simplify it at the same time.

The majority of research on intermittent fasting has been conducted on animals. Whilst the body of evidence in humans is still relatively small, some key health benefits have begun to arise. These include improved weight management, improved heart and brain health, and lower risk of type 2 Diabetes.

Weight loss

The most common reason people try intermittent fasting is for weight loss. By restricting the time available to eat, a reduction in calories makes weight loss easier to achieve. This, combined with the hormonal effect of lowering insulin and increasing both growth hormone and noradrenaline levels (the fat burning hormone) may increase your metabolic rate, also resulting in weight loss. However, if you over compensate for missed meals by eating more within your feeding window, or eating more the following day/week you won’t lose weight and may even gain. Remember the simple weight loss equation: you need to ingest less calories than you burn.

Diabetes

Intermittent Fasting can reduce your risk of developing Type 2 Diabetes by reducing insulin resistance. By increasing the overnight fast, or utilising alternate fasting days, the body is forced to produce less insulin. The body is also required to use stored energy in the forms of fat and stored sugars. This not only helps with weight loss but also helps improve blood glucose and cholesterol levels.

Please note: intermittent fasting is not appropriate for everyone including medicated Diabetics, people with a history of eating disorders, pregnant or breastfeeding women.

If you are you wondering whether or not intermittent fasting is for you, make an appointment to see Jackie Read, Registered Osteopathic and Naturopath.