The endless stream of fad diets I see on my social media and across TV is truly something to behold. Between them all, I don’t blame people for feeling lost and confused when it comes to understanding what is good for your body and what is just plain bad.
That’s why so many people start these diets and never finish them—they’re inconsistent and out of date.
As an RD and 20 year health and wellness professional, I’ve seen a lot of diet practices come and go, but intermittent fasting is the one that sticks around.
Everyone talks about it but few know how deeply it can impact your overall health and wellness. So today I am clearing up the confusion and painting the clear picture about intermittent fasting and how it can be one the best nutritional practices in your life.
Intermittent Fasting (IF) is an eating schedule, not a restrictive diet. It doesn’t change what you eat, but when you eat. I dive into all the details in my free intermittent fasting ebook that I’d be happy to share with you!
During this intermittent cycle, you’ll rotate between periods of eating and periods of fasting. Typically, when following the IF lifestyle, you consume all of your calories and macros within an 8-hour window and then fast for 16 hours. But it’s also common to fast for 24 hours at a time or 2-3 days per week. These longer fasts bring some of the big benefits that we’ll get into later, so it can be advantageous to add them in occasionally.
People have gotten a little riled up about intermittent fasting lately. After all, it goes against a lot of things we’ve heard our whole lives about healthy eating like, “isn’t breakfast the most important meal of the day? What about eating small meals every few hours to boost our metabolism?”
Research would disagree.
Let’s look at some of the most common myths about intermittent fasting and what the research has to say back:
In actuality, studies have found that IF does just the opposite. This lifestyle brings huge benefits to the metabolism and actually increases basal metabolic rate. Because IF doesn’t limit how much you eat but the hours when you eat, you preserve lean muscle mass while losing fat, and studies have conclusively shown that, despite the myths, intermittent fasters don’t starve.
While IF may not be the best option for people who have specific dietary needs—like diabetics or pregnant women—most people feel much healthier when fasting. Those who’ve tried it out report feeling better, being full of energy, and having more mental clarity during their fast.
The Society for Neuroscience has discovered that intermittent fasting improves our learning and memory, leads to the growth of new neurons, and even promotes recovery after a stroke, and decreases the risk of neurodegenerative diseases like Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s disease.
Medical fasting has been used therapeutically since the 5th century BC, when Hippocrates, the Greek physician who is considered the Father of Modern Medicine, recommended his patients to abstain from food or drink in order to heal from particular illnesses. Fasting is an ancient secret of health that has been practiced for centuries— and it’s one of the oldest dietary interventions we know about!
People who fast intermittently are experiencing changes they haven’t with other weight-loss strategies. And the research is starting to back it up. A systematic review of 40 studies found that intermittent fasting was effective for weight loss, with a typical loss of 7-11 pounds over 10 weeks. In addition to weight loss, IF brings incredible health benefits that we’ll get into below.
Intermittent fasting is the controlled voluntary abstinence of food. It starts by voluntarily picking your eating window.
Science shows that there’s a significant increase in health benefits when people stick to eating within an 8-hour window. But where you place your window is up to you.
A day in your life fasting intermittently would look something like this:
You wake up at 6:30, rehydrate with a glass of water. At 7:00 you enjoy an herbal tea or black coffee (anything over 30-40 calories can break your fast and rob you of the benefits, so be careful with the cream!).
Throughout the morning, you sip on some electrolyte-enhanced water (like Smart Water or Life Water). This can help your body maintain its levels of sodium, potassium, and magnesium during your fast.
By noon, you’re already done with your fasting. During the next 8 hours, you fuel your body with plenty of healthy carbohydrates, fats, and proteins. After 8 pm, you close the cabinets and make yourself a cup of tea to enjoy in the evening hours.
When I spell out an intermittent fasting day like this, most of my clients realize they are already following a lifestyle that’s not too far from this schedule. But with a few adjustments, you can intentionally incorporate IF and gain it’s many health and weight loss benefits.
People have been experiencing these benefits across history and cultures. While its roots derive from traditions described in early texts by Socrates, Plato, and religious groups, we’re just now looking at intermittent fasting through scientific lenses.
Today, we’re starting to scratch the surface of the many health benefits of intermittent fasting.
Here’s what the science is saying so far:
Fasting is the single most effective way to stimulate autophagy in both the body and the brain. Even after just 24 hours of fasting, autophagy stimulation increased by an astounding 300%.
While all the scientific studies about intermittent fasting got me interested, trying it out for myself was what really convinced me fully of its benefits. Now, I’m leaner and feel healthier than I’ve ever been.
And guess what— my clients are coming back to me with the same reports! If you want to know more about how great you can feel and look with this ancient and healing lifestyle, give my free ebook a read.
Next week, we’ll lay out all the details of how to set up and follow an intermittent fasting lifestyle that will bring you all the best benefits. In the meantime, I’ve got so much more to share with you.
Fasting is one important part of my health philosophy. And I want you to experience living energized and nourished starting today. So join us over on the LEAN program, where we cut through the confusion around dieting, health, and nutrition and help you design a vibrant and healthy life.