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With any fad or trend, it’s important to be skeptical (we mean, let’s leave shoulder pads in the 80’s, right?). This is especially true when it comes to health and fitness trends, like Intermittent Fasting. Research shows that this popular diet can have powerful effects on the brain and body. But like always, what’s right for someone else, might not always be what’s right for you. Here’s what you need to know before trying Intermittent Fasting.
First Thing First: What exactly is Intermittent Fasting?
Intermittent Fasting is an eating pattern that alternates between periods of eating and fasting. It’s less about what you eat, and more about when you eat. The reasoning behind this is pretty simple: when you’re not eating, your insulin levels drop. So, the longer you go between meals, the more your body exhausts its insulin supply. This is when you start burning fat.
James Roche, Registered Dietitian Nutritionist with SCL Health adds, “Intermittent fasting could take place in any specified period of time, although 8/16 (8 hours in which you can eat, 16 hours of fasting) and 10/14 (10 hours in which you can eat, 14 hours of fasting) are the two most common approaches. It is recommended that the starting time be earlier in the day to optimize metabolism and avoid eating at the end of the day or late at night, which is linked to increased fat storage and inefficient use of food.”
So What’s All The Talk About?
Beyond burning fat, Intermittent Fasting has some real, proven benefits:
- It can make your heart happy: Heart Disease is currently the world’s biggest killer and Intermittent Fasting can help reduce the risk factors by lowering blood pressure, cholesterol, and inflammation.
- It helps keep your cells in tip-top shape: When we fast, we give our cells time to repair and restore themselves. In fact, Intermittent Fasting triggers a process called autophagy, which is essentially our cells’ way of removing waste.
- It may boost your brain health: Intermittent Fasting can reduce oxidative stress, inflammation, and blood sugar levels, all of which are important for brain health. Research also suggests that I.F. can also help new neurons grow and increase the levels of hormones that combat depression.
- It can keep disease in check: I.F. has been linked to reducing the likelihood of neurodegenerative diseases like Alzheimer’s, preventing cancer, lowering the risk of Type 2 Diabetes, and overall, increasing lifespan.
- Intermittent Fasting can also help balance hormones, confirms James Roche, “There is substantial research that suggests that intermittent fasting may help to improve hormonal balance. This can enhance metabolism and sleep, leave us feeling more energized and also help us to more effectively burn more calories.”
Is It as Good as it Sounds?
Like most things in life, there are pros and cons. For one, adjusting to the fasting stage of the program might come along with side effects like fatigue, dehydration, heartburn, or anemia. Another critique of Intermittent Fasting is the program’s lack of focus on good nutrition. If you’re going to give it a try, be mindful of including wholesome foods into eating periods and not to overeat after a fasting stage.
No one knows you like you know you. If you think Intermittent Fasting is right for your body, consult with your doctor before diving in.