One of the hottest new trends in health is Intermittent Fasting (IF). You may have heard of it in more simple terms: skipping breakfast. Since IF has become popular, it begs the question, is this the healthiest way to eat? We have always been taught that breakfast is the most important meal of the day, and that is still true because breakfast means to break the fast, but it doesn't necessarily matter when that meal takes place. There is some confusion about IF to clear up, though, as well as some pros and cons to see if IF is right for you.
What IF is and is not:
Intermittent Fasting is setting a timeline of when you will eat (feed) and when you won't (fast). The timeline can be something simple such as the 12/12 schedule. The 12/12 is where you eat for a 12-hour window and fast for a 12-hour window. Something like 8 a.m. to 8 p.m. for a feeding window works well since most of us are asleep at night, so we are already fasting without trying. Other options are 16/8, 18/6, and even 20/4, meaning you are fasting for the first number and in a feeding window for the second.
The purpose of this is to give your body more time to digest, heal, and repair cells. Autophagy is the term for this period, which means the cells are recycling themselves. It's basically as if the cleanup crew comes in to clear out the bad cells and replenish them with new, healthy cells. The more autophagy your body can experience, the better because if we are eating 16 or more hours a day, our body doesn't have enough time to rest and repair.
What IF should not be used for is a means to cut calories drastically and under-eat or restrict your eating. It's not tied to any particular eating regimen and can work with any diet a person is on (low carb, keto, whole30, high carb, etc.), but it's not a good idea for someone with a history of an eating disorder as you wouldn't want to restrict the times you can and cannot eat.
Pros of Intermittent Fasting:
νReduced hunger: Once your body is set to its new schedule, you shouldn't be too hungry during the fasting period.
νImproved cell function: Because of autophagy, your cells will be regenerated at a better level, this means better muscle repair and better functioning metabolism and even less risk of disease through the elimination of toxins and waste.
νImproved Insulin Function: If you are like many people and suffer from insulin resistance, IF may help reduce insulin levels. Because you aren't spiking your blood sugar as often, your pancreas has time to rest, and cells have time to repair.
Cons of Intermittent Fasting:
νInitial Hunger: Getting started on IF can lead to initial hunger as you start to push back the time you eat breakfast until later in the day. If this is the case, start small, push it back by 30-60 minutes for a few days, then do it again until you are eating breakfast at your new desired time.
νUndereating: Because your feeding window will be smaller, doing IF without planning meals can lead to unintentional weight loss and malnutrition. It's important to maintain your daily caloric intake, as well as vitamins and minerals.
νHormone Concerns: If you struggle with thyroid or other hormone issues IF can be harmful to your health. Always consult your physician before starting a new program
Although it sounds straightforward, IF can be a bit confusing. If you are new to trying this method, consulting a health coach is a great idea. It's also important to still drink plenty of fluids while you are fasting to keep up your hydration.
Emily Countryman is a board-certified health coach and owner of Ideal Wellness located at 2639 172nd St NE Suite 104 in Smokey Point/Marysville. She can be reached online at www.idealwellness.com or firstname.lastname@example.org.