While Intermittent fasting may sound like another diet fad, the practice of routinely not eating for short periods of time has a wide-range of well supported health benefits.*
As a functional medicine nutritionist, intermittent fasting (IF) is one of my favorite ways to simultaneously fight inflammation, improve digestion, and boost longevity for myself and my clients.
When done responsibly and in a way that’s in tune with your goals and current health status IF will give your digestive tract and organs the “mini vacation” needed to heal and repair.
Our bodies are actually designed for periods without food and our ancestors likely weren’t eating three square carb-protein-fat meals each day or snacking all afternoon.
Studies have indicated that routine intermittent fasting supports the following anti-inflammatory responses:
- Improve the composition of gut microbiota
- Reduce insulin resistance (and decrease risk for diabetes)
- Production of a compound (β-hydroxybutrate) that blocks part of the immune system involved in inflammatory disorders like diabetes, rheumatoid arthritis, or Alzheimer’s disease.
- Significant reduction of inflammatory markers (cytokines, C-reactive protein).
How to Intermittent Fast:
- Fast two or three nonconsecutive days per week (ie. Tuesday, Thursday, and Sunday)
- Start your fast at 8pm, after dinner and opt for an earlier bedtime.
- On fasting days do yoga, strength training, or light cardio, preferably in the morning.
- Ideally, fast for 12 to 16 hours. It is OK to start with 10 hours and work up to more hours gradually.
- Eat normally on your high-cardio and intense workout days.
- Drink plenty of water. Tea and coffee are OK too (but skip the milk and sweetener).
- After two weeks you can add one more day of fasting and/or increase the hours of fasting. Note – typically you should see fasting become much easier within a week or two. If this is not the case, stop fasting and consult with your health practitioner.
Trouble-shooting Tips for Beginners:
- Take 5 grams of branched-chain amino-acids (BCAAs) supplement during your fast. They are low in calories but act as fuel for muscles and can take the edge off of hunger and fatigue.
- Start out slowly, fasting for just 10-12 hours two or three days a week. It could look like eating meals between 10 a.m. and 6 p.m. or 8 a.m. and 8 p.m. When you feel comfortable with less time then you can extend the fast. You may notice an increase in energy, stamina, and cognition. NOTE: Research has looked at just 13 hours of fasting in a group of women who had breast cancer history, and they found a 34% reduction in breast cancer recurrence. So it is possible to get meaningful benefits, even with a shorter fasting window.
- Vary the frequency of your fasting 2 days a week starting out then 3 days, possibly 4 and then back to 2 and repeat. This allows for the benefit without hormonal effects including ravaging hunger, altered menstrual cycles, and mood changes that can happen in the more sensitive systems of some women.
- Try cycling in and out of fasting – give it a break and then push it perhaps during a week where other stressors aren’t so high. It may seem obvious, but listening to your body as you fast is not to be overlooked; take a break when your body tells you!
- If you need to snack to make it through eat a spoonful of nut butter or avocado — you can consume up to 40 fat based, sugar and protein free calories and it won’t disrupt your intermittent fasting goal.
- If you need to snack to make it through eat a spoonful of nut butter or avocado — you can eat up to 40 non-sugar, non-protein calories and it won’t disrupt your intermittent fasting goal.
* If you are pregnant or have any health conditions make sure you check with your health practitioner prior to starting a new diet plan.