Intermittent Fasting

IF refers to intentionally timing your meals to include regular periods of fasting. By fasting for specific periods of time, you are training your body to rely on burning stored fat for fuel instead of burning glucose. When recommending IF for clients, I also suggest the following guidelines:

  • Restrict eating within an eight hour window
  • Avoid eating or drinking (except water) outside of that window
  • Consume healthy fats, protein and plant-based carbohydrates
  • IF does not need to be done daily, you can do it a couple times a week
  • IF may not be a good option if maintaining balanced blood sugar is a challenge

Weight loss and the initiation of autophagy are two potential benefits of IF. Autophagy, which literally means ‘self eating,’ refers to the process of cells cleaning out cellular waste or damaged parts of the cells, while recycling healthy, reusable components. Autophagy is a natural process, and the rate in which it occurs can vary. If we are eating all hours while we are awake, or if we are not getting adequate sleep, autophagy slows down. Both exercise and stress can speed it up. Excessive autophagy can be problematic, breaking down too many cells or breaking down cells too fast.

In the News

There’s been a headline in the news recently, “Intermittent Fasting may raise the risk of heart disease death.” Did this headline catch your attention too? The study referenced in the above headline, looked at 20,000 adults that self reported limiting their eating to an 8 hour window between the years 2003-2019. Study participants were followed a median length of eight years and a maximum of 17 years. Data was collected through two phones conversations during the first year of participation, at which time participants recalled their diet to the researchers.

We know nothing about the type or quality of food they were consuming during this eight hour window. Nor do we know how many calories they were consuming during the eight hour window. Were they not eating because they didn’t feel well or didn’t have an appetite (i.e., were they only eating once a day)? We also don’t know anything about their overall health or disease risk at any point in the study. Remember, the phone calls took place during the first year, how do we know that their dietary habits didn’t change during the next 8-10 years?

But based on this study I think there are many factors to weigh. I do think IF can be beneficial. I also think it is an individual decision based on current state of health and goals. Regardless of whether or not you want to incorporate IF, a few recommendations that can benefit most:

  • Enjoy nutrient dense whole foods
  • Consume adequate protein (animal or plant based), averaging between .75-1.5 grams per kilogram of body weight depending upon level of activity and age
  • Stay well hydrated
  • Stop eating three hours before bed for optimal digestion and sleep