There’s a lot of buzz around intermittent fasting (IF) and with good reason. Research suggests some notable positive effects including aiding in weight loss, lowering inflammation, improving autoimmune conditions, reducing cravings, and improving gut health (to name a few!).
And while the concept may seem overwhelming at first, intermittent fasting can actually be a lot easier and sustainable than other popular eating plans. So how do you get started, what should you expect, and what are some of the health benefits you may experience? Read on to learn more!
What is intermittent fasting?
Put simply: Intermittent fasting is a pattern of eating. It’s not a diet, caloric restriction, or specific meal plan. And while there are many different IF plans, the main premise is that you restrict your food consumption for certain hours of the day and leave a window where you completely abstain from food.
While intermittent fasting shortens your eating window, it’s not about calorie counting or starvation. Instead, think of it as a purposeful choice to eat at certain times of day to help promote improved well-being.
There are several different fasting protocols that includes everything from 16- to 24-hour fasts, and more prolonged fasts as well. The good news is that there’s no hard conclusion on which one is best, so you don’t have to go “all out” to experience some of the potential health benefits.
What could intermittent fasting look like for me?
If you want to start an IF protocol, I recommend a daily “mini-fast,” which means waiting at least 12 hours between dinner and breakfast every day – for example, if you eat dinner at 7pm, you would then have breakfast no earlier than 7am the next day.
This practice gives your body a full 12-hour fasting window, which is enough time to properly digest and assimilate the food. It’s also enough time to see benefits such as weight loss, improved metabolism, and mental clarity.
After you’ve mastered the 12-hour fast, you can try to increase the fasting window to 16 hours a few days per week. However, I don’t recommend a prolonged fast (more than 16 hours per day) without medical supervision.
And even if you can’t commit to a fast every night, aiming to do it whenever possible can still be beneficial.
What are some of the health benefits of fasting?
Studies have shown that fasting is associated with a wide range of health benefits, such as improved mental clarity, increased energy, and even boosted longevity.
Here are some of the top suggested health benefits:
- Improved athletic performance
- Better digestion
- Reduced sugar cravings
- Boosted weight loss
- Reduced risk of cancer and type 2 diabetes
- Lower inflammation
Are there any risks associated with intermittent fasting?
There are certain situations in which intermittent fasting is not suitable, so it’s important to be aware of those. Pregnant and nursing women, underweight people, and anyone with a history of eating disorders should not attempt intermittent fasting. If you suffer from any chronic health conditions, speak to a health professional before starting a fasting regimen.
It’s also important to stay well hydrated to avoid dehydration and, of course, to stay in tune with your body.
There are countless studies and success stories out there that support the benefits of intermittent fasting and people who swear by it. At the same time, there’s no one size-fits-all approach and I encourage you to consider your goals and motivations before embarking on any kind of fasting protocol.
If you want to start an intermittent fasting schedule, and particularly if you’re planning to do it in combination with a restrictive diet (such as keto), consider working with a professional who can coach you and provide you with the tools and support to attain your health goals too.
Let us know if you’ve tried intermittent fasting and whether it worked for you!
Danica is a holistic nutritionist, wellness expert and health coach on a mission to help women around the world find their optimal well-being. She is the founder of Nakd Health, where she coaches clients to prioritize wellness in their busy lives with delicious recipes, nutrition advice, fitness and lifestyle changes.