Intermittent Fasting… Is It For You?

Risa Groux, CN
 | Published: 
March 29, 2019

Intermittent fasting has been around for many years but has recently gained renewed popularity. Perhaps the resurgence is because of newly released studies proving the health benefits of intermittent fasting.  Mark Mattson from John Hopkins School of Medicine and others found that cutting the energy intake by fasting several days a week, might help with warding off neurodegenerative diseases such as Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s while at the same time improving memory and mood.  It does this by increasing the growth of new nerve cells, which optimize brain function.  

In addition to the connection between caloric intake and brain function, others studies demonstrate the positive effects of intermittent fasting with significant reduction in blood sugar levels and therefore beneficial to a person with insulin resistance.  Recent studies with humans showed that intermittent fasting, fasting blood sugar was reduced by 3%-6% while fasting insulin had been reduced by 20%-31%.

Weight loss is the benefit that most people seek from intermittent fasting.  People do lose weight and if done consistently, the weight is likely to be kept off.  It has been shown to remove that stubborn body fat around the midsection.  This is usually an indication of blood sugar dysregulation which we already know fasting improves or can be from hormone function enhancement, which facilitates weight loss.    

The other benefits are reduction of oxidative stress and systemic inflammation.  Oxidative stress is what ages the body and causes many chronic diseases.  When a free radical (unstable molecules) reacts with other molecules in your body such as protein and DNA and damages them.  Intermittent fasting has been shown to enhance the body’s resistance to oxidative stress.   A study in 2015 found that a longer duration of nighttime fasting was associated with a decrease in inflammation markers on blood tests.

The heart health benefits from intermittent fasting have been very favorable.  It increases HDL cholesterol (the good kind) and decreases both LDL cholesterol (the bad kind) and triglyceride levels.  

There are several types of well-known intermittent fasting diets.  These include:

5:2 Diet:  This is also known as the Fast Diet.  Five days of the week you eat your normal diet.  Two days a week you restrict your caloric intake to between 500-600 calories.  They can be consecutive or just random days within the week.  Some refer to this plan as two days of the week having nothing but liquids (water, tea, black coffee with no sweetener) and no food of any kind.    

16:8 Method:  This is a Time Restricted Feeding method that entails fasting for 16 consecutive hours and eating for 8 consecutive hours.  For example, you refrain from eating any food from 8:00pm until 12:00 noon the following day.  A normal healthy meal can be enjoyed for lunch and dinner with a light snack in between.  You eat from 12:00pm-8:00pm two to three times a week.  Essentially you are not eating after dinner and skipping breakfast.  You are permitted to consume water, tea or black coffee with no sweeteners.    

The Warrior Plan:  This is comprised on eating only raw fruits and vegetables during the day and having one large dinner at night.  I caution people to choose low sugar fruits if any and more protein, vegetables, and good fats for the meal as to not to increase blood sugar levels.  

Spontaneous Meal Skipping:  This is the least structured way to intermittent fast.  Basically it entails skipping meals from time to time or when it is convenient for you.  Perhaps you are not hungry for a meal, that is the perfect opportunity to skip that meal.  This is great if you are traveling.  

Alternate-Day Fasting: This method of intermittent fasting is more of a calorie restrictive program where you are fasting for an entire day, every other day of the week.  Liquids are allowed or some even say you can have up to 500 calories on the fasting days.  This method is not for everyone and I would not necessarily recommend it as I believe you attain all the health benefits from the other more convenient and less painful fasts.  

I suggest intermittent fasting with clients if they suddenly plateau in their weight loss or for people with blood sugar disregulation and insulin resistance.  I am happy to report that it works just about every time.  I recommend you go slowly and pick a method that fits your lifestyle best.  Yes, you will most undoubtedly experience hunger, especially at first but as I tell my clients, you will not die of hunger.

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