Intermittent fasting is definitely gaining popularity, but is it for you? Well, are you interested in any of these benefits?
- Losing weight and keeping it off
- Increased athletic performance
- Boosting your brain function
- Preventing cancer
- Living longer!
Wait… one more thing: it just might be the simplest diet you’ve ever encountered.
Too good to be true? We’re here to break it down for you.
Lose weight and keep it off
Diets are complicated. That’s why they never stick! Measuring grams of protein, counting calories, meal planning… Ugh, I’m exhausted just thinking about it. You can stop the madness with intermittent fasting, which only has one rule: eat all your food within a specific window of time. Do this, and you wind up restricting calories without even noticing.
Plus, your blood sugar levels stay regulated, your metabolic rate actually increases (hello!) and even your cholesterol can drop. (1) One study showed that you can reduce your body weight by 3-8% within 3-24 weeks. (2)
If you want to learn more about how to use intermittent fasting specifically for weight loss, click here.
Ever tried a new diet and found yourself sluggish, dragging, and with zero energy to even think about working out? Seriously, how is that fair? Well, you’ll be happy to know that the opposite happens on an intermittent fasting plan, and you’ll actually find yourself brimming with more energy.
Intermittent fasting regulates your hormone levels so that even when you’re not eating, your body can easily access stored fat for energy. (3) Yes, please! You can read more about to how to beat fatigue and increase your energy with intermittent fasting here.
Pro tip: Timing your intermittent fasting plan right can actually make your workouts more effective. Cardio workouts will burn more fat and strength workouts will result in more lean muscle gain.
Boost your brain
Let’s be honest, not many of us think about brain health when we choose a diet. With intermittent fasting, you don’t have to think about it. Simply by following the plan, you’ll not only experience increased mental clarity and focus, but you’re actually gaining protection against neuro-degenerative diseases like Alzheimer’s and dementia. (4)
All types of calorie restriction diets have repeatedly been linked to enhanced cognitive function, but studies have shown that intermittent fasting that has the greatest effect on brain health and performance with the fewest downsides. (5)
Many people are surprised to learn that fasting has been conclusively linked to longevity, but it has! (6) A recent ground-breaking Harvard study demonstrates just how intermittent fasting may increase your lifespan. (7) In a nutshell, it’s based on the fact that any kind of calorie restriction provides anti-aging benefits. (8)(9)
Here’s why: your body relies on a process called “autophagy” to clear out old and damaged tissues and cells. When you fast and give your body a break from the constant effort of digesting food, it is able to focus more energy on the repair functions of autophagy. (10) That’s a good thing, because autophagy is necessary to maintain muscle mass, reduce the progression of age-related diseases, and maintain mental health and function.
As mentioned above, intermittent fasting increases the rate of autophagy in your body, which can play a significant role in reducing your risk of ever getting cancer.
And, fasting could even help you fight cancer in two ways: (1) calorie restriction helps to combat the proliferation of cancer cells, and (2) fasting during chemotherapy can reduce the negative side effects of the treatment. (11) (12)
Increase your heart health
Intermittent fasting is an excellent prescription for heart health, because of its ability to decrease your liver’s production of cholesterol. Studies have shown that 70 days of alternate-day fasting can reduce LDL cholesterol by 25 percent. (13)
Those are a lot of benefits from one dietary plan! Let’s summarize:
But is it for me?
We’ll admit, the name “intermittent fasting” is a bit intimidating and maybe even sounds like you’re gonna be facing down some serious hunger pangs. Don’t be scared off! It’s not the type of fasting that involves starvation, and as far as dietary plans go, it’s actually quite accessible and convenient.
It’s not actually a diet – it’s a schedule
When we think of diets, we’re accustomed to being given instructions regarding what to eat, how much of it, and in what proportion. Intermittent fasting, on the other hand, focuses on WHEN we eat.
It’s highly customizable
Instead of just one set plan or schedule, there are nearly infinite variations on what an intermittent fasting plan can look like. That means you can adjust it to fit your lifestyle.
You’re already doing it!
Any time you’re neither eating nor digesting food, you’re fasting. Technically speaking, every night that doesn’t feature a midnight snack constitutes a fast. That’s why we break our fast every morning with . . . you guessed it: “break-fast.”
Okay, so what exactly do I need to do?
In a nutshell, intermittent fasting asks you to split your 24-hour day into two distinct parts:
Eating: a set window of time during which you are consciously choosing to consume all your calories for the day
Fasting: a longer window of time during which you are choosing to avoid consuming calories
How long should each window be?
We’re so glad you asked. This is the part that’s customizable. The most common approach is called the 16/8 plan. It’s where you alternate between an 8-hour eating window and a 16-hour fasting window. So, eating only between 9:00 a.m. and 5:00 p.m. or 12 noon and 8:00 p.m. Or during whatever 8 hours you choose to have your “feeding” window. That’s not so drastic, right?
What are my other options?
Depending on your individual lifestyle, health goals, sleep cycle, exercise schedule, etc, you can choose shorter or longer windows, or even a plan where you fast for 24 hours a couple times a week. You can read all about the different plans to choose from, and see how they work, in our Beginner’s Guide to Intermittent Fasting.
But I want to start now.
Sweet! You can download our Ultimate Guide To Intermittent Fasting Schedules here.
Isn’t it better to eat frequent small meals all day long?
All that stuff you’ve heard about how eating every couple hours keeps your metabolism burning? It’s junk. We’ll have another blog post soon about that and other fasting-related myths. Honestly, going 16 or more hours without food is way more “natural” to humans than indulging in a constant parade of meals and snacks throughout the day. After all, cavemen and women didn’t have the luxury of grabbing food every couple hours from the fridge, vending machine or drive-thru. They ate when food was available – more specifically, whenever they could find, hunt and gather it. Fasting might be more authentically “paleo” than it’s been given credit for.
So what can I eat and drink?
We’re so glad you asked. The beauty of intermittent fasting is that there really are no rules beyond the schedule. No matter your dietary preferences or eating habits, you can make intermittent fasting work for you. If you’d like more guidance, you can read our post here.
We also have some suggestions for what to drink while fasting to make it easier, plus some information on how drinking tea can make your fasting experience more successful.
How do we know this will actually work?
Fad diets are sketchy, no doubt. But did you know that fasting has existed eons longer than any other dietary fad in our modern society? It’s actually an ancient prescription that has been used for centuries to heal illness, promote energy, focus the mind, increase cognitive abilities and accomplish cleansing or purification.
In a culture overrun with diets that obsess over every last detail about food, intermittent fasting is a refreshingly liberating and intuitive way to eat. Plus, it typically requires less time spent on planning and preparing food and worrying about what to eat next.
Give it a try, and you just might find that this approach is easier to stick with than most other diets. And with such a broad range of benefits, what do you have to lose?
Is intermittent fasting for everyone?
Women might notice that intermittent fasting works a bit differently for them than men. We did a deep dive into this issue, which you can read more about here.
Please note: If you are diabetic, hypoglycemic, have any issues with blood sugar regulation, are pregnant or breastfeeding, or have a history of disordered eating, intermittent fasting may not be for you. You should talk to your doctor before making changes to your eating schedule.