Is Intermittent Fasting Beneficial for You?

July 11, 2018

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blog_intermittentIn researching the topics for upcoming blog posts, we decided to post a simple question to the CMWL community on Facebook and Twitter: “Are you interested in intermittent fasting?” Whoa! We were pretty surprised by the swift and energetic response. “Yes, tell me more! I’m interested!” You don’t have to tell us twice! Without further ado, let’s dive into the questions we have and answers we found.

 

Q: So, what exactly is Intermittent Fasting, and how is it different from fasting?

A: Fasting is the ancient practice of abstaining from food or specific foods for long periods of time. The main difference between fasting and Intermittent Fasting (IF) is shorter, pre-defined fasting windows. For instance, not eating for 24 hours or longer would probably be considered fasting while fasting for 16-hours and eating within an 8- hour window each day would fall into the definition of Intermittent Fasting, In fact, the “16:8” approach is the most popular form of Intermittent Fasting today.

Q: Why do people do Intermittent Fasting?

A: To answer this question about intermittent Fasting, you have to understand why people have voluntarily fasted over the centuries. At first adopted as a religious practice to purify and renew the soul, it also became a healing practice for health and well-being. Those who practiced fasting claimed multiple benefits, such as decreased stress, lower belly fat, and more energy.

In modern society, it’s rare to witness proper fasts lasting more than 24 hours, although long fasts are still observed to some extent in almost every world religion. But an increasing number of health enthusiasts feel that Intermittent Fasting offers a way to achieve the benefits of the practice. They admit it might take some getting used to, but that the eating schedule modifications are well worth the effort. Some of the motivation for Intermittent Fasting include healthier weight, lower risk of chronic disease, improved brain health and clarity, and increased energy levels.

Weight Loss

Intermittent fasting is not a diet plan, but many leverage it as a way to control calorie intake within the eating windows. The desire to lose weight is usually the reason most people try Intermittent Fasting. While it does not require calorie reduction, intermittent fasting might make you eat fewer meals, because you are restricting the amount of time you’re eating, which will make you feel fuller faster. Furthermore, intermittent fasting enhances hormone function which can speed up your metabolism. A 2014 study published in The Journal of Laboratory and Clinical Medicine showed that intermittent fasting can increase your metabolic rate by up to 14%.

We should note here that The Center for Medical Weight Loss does not currently offer a plan for Intermittent Fasting. Any weight loss protocol must be thoroughly tested before becoming an official offering of the program.

Lowers Risk of Type 2 Diabetes, Heart Disease, and Other Chronic Conditions

As the obesity rate continues to rise, the risk of type 2 diabetes follows the same trend. While fasting can be beneficial for weight loss, it can also help reduce the risk of type 2 diabetes by reducing insulin resistance and lowering blood sugar levels. In the same study referenced earlier, fasting reduced blood sugar by about 5% and lowered insulin levels by up to 31%. These benefits can help lower the risk of diabetes, especially for people who have an increased risk due to their weight.

Furthermore, intermittent fasting can improve blood pressure, triglycerides, and cholesterol levels. A study published in the British Journal of Nutrition found that the decrease in weight from Intermittent Fasting can lower blood pressure. The study also show blood levels of triglyceride fat were reduced more quickly than those following a typical three meal per day diet. As more fat is burned, cholesterol levels decrease. These three factors all play a role in heart disease.

Studies also show that the lower levels of blood sugar can reduce the oxidative stress in cells, which lead to aging and numerous diseases. Intermittent Fasting reduces glucose levels, which cuts into the formation of this stress.

Q: How do you do it?

A: There are a few different Intermittent Fasting approaches, each with its own degree of structure. It involves selecting a “fasting window” and “eating window” on a daily or weekly basis. Remember, the research for Intermittent Fasting especially for weight loss, is in its infancy stages, so these benefits have not been conclusively proven. If you are considering it, you should first discuss with your medical provider whether it’s feasible for you and which method might yield the best results.

12 Hour Window

The first approach involves fasting for 12 hours a day. This might be the simplest introduction to Intermittent Fasting, as 12 hours is usually the length of a traditional eating window. With this method, you might have your first meal around at 8 a.m. and start your dinner around 7 p.m. If you consider the 8 hours that you sleep each night, you are really avoiding eating for just 4 hours a day. For people just beginning intermittent fasting, this approach allows you to have structure over your food while still benefiting from the fast.

16:8 Approach

The most popular method of intermittent fasting is the 16:8 approach, where you fast for 16 hours and limit your eating window to 8 hours. This would essentially translate into skipping a meal at the start of the day or end of the day. For instance, if you designate your eating window from noon to 8pm, you would be cutting out traditional breakfast time. There is also more research done using this length of fasting. In 2013, the Canadian Medical Association Journal reported that an eight-hour eating window can help reduce weight and prevent or decrease the risk of type 2 diabetes, and liver disease.

We do feel an obligation to point out that multiple research studies support that people who regularly eat breakfast have better weight loss outcomes. So, if you decide to try Intermittent Fasting, you may want to take this research into consideration.

5:2 Approach

This method might seem easy on the surface but can be a challenge for those who seek high levels of structure. The 5:2 approach allows you to eat your regular schedule of meals for five days a week, but then calls for significantly restricting caloric intake through fasting on the other two. This approach calls for a great deal of discipline and ability to transition between very different eating behaviors in the course of a week. If you’re looking to get started with Intermittent Fasting and haven’t already incorporated healthy food choices or structure into your standard routine, this is probably not your best bet.

Again, these approaches are still being tested and all results are speculative at this point. We are committed to vetting safe, effective weight loss strategies, especially popular trends, and will conduct further research on Intermittent Fasting to provide you with the most up-to-date knowledge possible. Tell us what else you would like to know on our Facebook page!

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