What is Intermittent Fasting?
Updated: Mar 22, 2019
You can’t have a conversation about diet and nutrition without somebody mentioning intermittent fasting. But what exactly is it and does it work?
Intermittent fasting is the act of alternating between a fasted and fed state. The length of the fasted and fed states can vary but are usually a repeating pattern of some sort. The purposes of intermittent fasting range from weight loss to disease management to lifestyle.
A pioneer in the world of intermittent fasting, Dr. Jason Fung is best known for his book The Obesity Code. Dr. Fung’s research suggests that intermittent fasting can be a very effective weight loss strategy and may even have the ability to reverse the symptoms of Type 2 Diabetes!
Does it Work?
Intermittent fasting has some very well documented benefits. A quick google search for the benefits of intermittent fasting will return hundreds of webpages all espousing the benefits of this trendy craze. However, most research suggests that intermittent fasting (when performed correctly) is safe and effective, but no more or less effective than traditional diets and weight loss programs.
Ultimately, the answer to this question, like so many great questions is yes and no. The most effective weight loss program, ultimately, is the one you’re most likely to stick with. For some people, that’s intermittent fasting. For others, it’s something else. So simply put: intermittent fasting works for some people but not for others. Of course, it also depends on what your goals are. Some people report weight loss. Some report a decrease in the symptoms of Type 2 Diabetes while others report increased energy. Someone hoping to lose weight who instead sees an energy increase is likely to consider fasting ineffective.
However, when it’s all said and done, there are some lessons that anyone who’s trying to lose, or maintain, weight can take away from the idea of intermittent fasting:
Don’t snack before bed. The hours between dinner and bedtime are often the most dangerous. Whether it’s mindless eating in front of the television or a mad-rush to quell hunger that’s been building all day, eating late in your day can be problematic for a number of reasons. It may cause you to make poor choices when it comes to your food (research suggests those who eat or snack later in the day often choose more calorie dense, less nutritious foods) and it may affect your ability to sleep. It’s best to make dinner your last meal (and eating) of the day.
Think before you eat. Often times we eat simply because we’re conditioned to do so (for example maybe you eat breakfast every day because you always have and not because you’re hungry) or because our environment encourages it (eating at a party or gathering simply because there’s food available). We’re all guilty of eating when we don’t need to or eating past the point of fulfillment. A simple trick to combat this is to ask yourself a simple question before eating: “Why am I eating this?”
Drink lots of water. One of the tools used by most intermittent fasters to reduce the feelings of hunger is to drink water when hunger hits. This is a great strategy to follow as the body often has difficulty distinguishing between hunger and thirst. Often times a goals-defeating binge can be avoided by stopping and downing an 8-ounce glass of cold water.
Whether you choose to dabble in fasting or take some of these fasting tips to incorporate into your own program remember that no program is one-size-fits-all and you should always consult with your doctor before starting any new diet or exercise program.