True or false? Never miss breakfast and make sure to eat 6 small meals per day.
True or false? Your metabolism will slow down if you miss a meal.
The answers to the above two questions are FALSE! Don’t worry, most people have been led to believe that it’s bad for your health to miss meals. Human physiology shows us that this is not the case! Skipping meals (aka intermittent fasting) can actually be an incredibly healthy practice! Read on to learn more about intermittent fasting.
WHAT IS INTERMITTENT FASTING?
THE MOST POPULAR TYPES OF INTERMITTENT FASTING
- The 16/8 Method: Fast for 16 hours and then only eat within a specific 8-hour window. For example, skip breakfast and restrict your daily eating period to 8 hours, such as 1–9 p.m. Then fast for 16 hours in between. Many people find the 16/8 method to be the simplest, most sustainable and easiest to stick to. It’s also the most popular.
- 24 Hour Plan aka Eat-Stop-Eat: This involves fasting for 24 hours once or twice a week. For example, fast from 8pm one day until 8pm the next day.
- The 5:2 Diet: With this method, you consume only 500–600 calories on two non-consecutive days of the week, but eat normally the other 5 days. For example, Monday and Friday you consume 500 calories and all other days you consume your normal caloric intake.
WHAT HAPPENS WHEN YOU FAST?
Health benefits of intermittent fasting:
- Human Growth Hormone (HGH) Increases: The levels of growth hormone increase as much as 5-fold. This has benefits for fat loss and muscle gain.
- Insulin Sensitivity Improves: Insulin sensitivity improves and levels of insulin drop dramatically. This can reduce insulin resistance, lower blood sugar by 3 to 6%, and lower fasting insulin levels by 20 to 31%. The more sensitive your body is to insulin, the more likely you’ll be to use the food you consume efficiently, and your body is most sensitive to insulin following a period of fasting. Ultimately, this can prevent (and even reverse) type II diabetes.
- Cellular Repair Increases: Autophagy and cellular repair increases. Autophagy is when cells digest and remove old and dysfunctional proteins that build up inside cells.
- Gene Expression Improves: There are changes in the function of genes related to longevity and protection against disease.
- Inflammation Decreases: Some studies show reductions in markers of inflammation, a key driver of many chronic diseases.
- Heart Health Improves: Reduction in LDL cholesterol (often referred to as “bad cholesterol”), blood triglycerides, inflammatory markers, blood sugar and insulin resistance — all risk factors for heart disease.
- Cancer Risk Decreases: Animal studies suggest that intermittent fasting may prevent cancer.
- Brain Health Improves: Intermittent fasting increases the brain hormone BDNF and may aid the growth of new nerve cells. It may also protect against Alzheimer’s disease.
- Life Extension: Intermittent fasting can extend lifespan in rats. Studies showed that fasted rats lived 36 to 83% longer.
- Weight Loss: Because of the changes in hormones, short-term fasting may increase your metabolic rate by 3.6 to 14% and help you lose weight. A 2014 review study found that this eating pattern can cause 3 to 8% weight loss over 3 to 24 weeks, which is a significant amount, compared to most weight loss studies. However, keep in mind that the main reason for its success is that intermittent fasting helps you eat fewer calories overall. If you binge and eat massive amounts during your eating periods, you may not lose any weight at all.
Other benefits of intermittent fasting:
- Save Time: By skipping a few meals, you’ll save a ton of time cooking, meal prepping, eating, cleaning dishes, etc. Instead of stopping what you’re doing 6 times a day to eat, you only have to stop to eat once or twice. You’ll be surprised how much extra time you’ll have in the day when you’re intermittent fasting.
- Save Money: Rather than having to prepare and/or purchase 3 to 6 meals a day, you only need to prepare 1 to 2 meals per day.
- Less Decisions To Make: Every meal you skip is one less decision you’ll have to make, ultimately freeing up mental energy and making your life easier!
THINGS TO CONSIDER WHEN STARTING AN INTERMITTENT FASTING PLAN
- Grumpiness: Many people think that they won’t be able to fast because they’re already too grumpy when they miss just one meal. This “grumpiness” is mostly a result of past eating habits. If you normally eat every 3 hours, your body will start to get hungry every 3 hours because it’s used to consuming food every 3 hours. Or if you normally eat as soon as you wake up, your body expects breakfast as soon as you wake up. Once you retrain your body to NOT expect food all day every day (or first thing in the morning), these side-effects become less of an issue. Most people find that their grumpiness subsides after a few days of intermittent fasting.
- Disordered Eating: People who have a history of eating disorders may not want to try intermittent fasting if there is a possibility of relapsing in to disordered eating or obsessive compulsive behaviors. However, some people with a history of disordered eating have actually benefitted by intermittent fasting.
- Overeating During Feeding Times: It is important to maintain normal and healthy eating during your “feeding” hours. If you overeat or eat unhealthy options between your fasting hours, the benefits of fasting may be overshadowed. Intermittent fasting can be a very helpful eating pattern, as long as you maintain healthy eating habits when you do eat.
WHAT INTERMITTENT FASTING PLAN IS RIGHT FOR YOU?
The nutrition practitioners at Natural Health Practices offer nutrition coaching for those interested in personalized assistance with intermittent fasting.
Nutrition coaching appointments can be done in person or over the phone. We recommend a minimum of 6 weekly nutrition coaching appointments to fine-tune the diet pattern that best works with your physiology.
For those who are ready to take their nutrition to an even higher level, we recommend a complete Nutrition Response Testing analysis in addition to nutrition coaching.