Is intermittent fasting a fad diet? I feel like I hear and see it all over social media and the magazine racks. Fasting is not anything new. It’s been around for hundreds, maybe thousands of years! Mahatma Gandhi was famous for fasting in the name of social justice. Many religions have periods of fasting. Christians have Lent and the Jewish have Yom Kippur, just to name a few. If you have annual blood work, your doctor may suggest a fast before in order to get a true look at your cholesterol levels. What makes intermittent fasting different from fasting? Intermittent means occurring at irregular intervals; not continuous or steady. While a fast is typically going to be a full day or days, intermittent can mean that you simply have a shortened window of when you eat your daily meals, and you have longer periods of going without any caloric intake. Long continuous fasting also has benefits, but it consists of twenty-four hours or more and it should only be a part of your regimen once you have mastered and proven that intermittent fasting is OK for you individually.
Intermittent fasting, like most things, has its pluses and minuses! Looking at the pluses, intermittent fasting can help reduce blood glucose spikes, increase your mitochondria’s ATP production rates, assist with weight loss, give your digestive system a chance to rest and re-set as well as give your healthy cells an opportunity to sweep up and out the cells that have an unwanted mutation. On a lighter note, groceries have tripled in cost so if you’re cutting out a meal here and there, it might mean a cheaper grocery bill! Who wouldn’t mind saving a few extra dollars at the checkout line these days? It can also reduce your inflammation levels, and for some, increase your concentration abilities. If you have any health concerns, you will want the OK from your primary physician before starting an intermittent fasting protocol. The minuses can look like headaches, irritability (also known as hangry), and low blood sugar which may lead to dizziness or brain fog and even constipation due to a decrease in overall consumption (fiber is important, and all fiber is not created equal!).
The key to finding out what works for your body is to take on any intermittent fasting regimen slowly. Increasing your fasting window over time and making sure you aren’t cutting out too many calories or nutrients! If you go for too many hours without eating before you get your mind and body trained to do so, the negative side effects could hit you much harder than if you do it gradually. And if you try to do this gradually and still have negative side effects, it may mean that intermittent fasting isn’t a great option for you.
Breaking your fast and what you consume when taking on the ritual of Break-fast, should be full of nutrients, no matter what time of day that happens to be. Taking on intermittent fasting with a goal of increasing your focus or reducing your hunger cravings means you shouldn’t decrease your calorie intake during your eating window, it simply means you pack more food and nutrients into your window. If weight loss is part of your goal in intermittent fasting, then cutting back on your caloric intake will be easier due to your smaller window of consumption. Try starting with your normal volume of food at your meals but minus one entire meal a day. This might mean skipping breakfast and only having coffee. Or skipping dinner, depending on what works best for you, your family and your schedule.
When considering intermittent fasting for men and women, when and how should be significantly different since men go through a full hormonal cycle every twenty-four hours and it takes women an average of twenty-eight days! Women need to be more cognizant of where they are in their hormonal cycle and use that as a gauge as to whether they should fast at all or need to reduce/increase their fasting hours or limit the number of days you fast per week. You can find a lot of good information on this via the web, but a reputable source, like Dr. Stephanie Estima or Dr. Aviva Romm are good choices when surfing the internet.