Intermittent fasting (or “IF”) is an eating pattern where you cycle between periods of eating and fasting. It is a very popular health and fitness trend, with some research to back it up.
You simply restrict the hours you eat each day rather than what you eat. No conscious “dieting” required! There are many IF approaches, such as the common 16-8 protocol (when you eat in an eight-hour window, for example, from 7 a.m. to 3 p.m., or 12 p.m. to 8 p.m.) or the one-meal-a-day pattern (in which you eat everything in one meal, such as lunch or dinner). But as long as you’re doing it for at least 12 hours, you should get a lot of the benefits.
In 2014, biochemist Valter Longo, the head of the anti-aging department at USC, had both mice and human cancer patients fast for four days. During the fast, both the mice and the cancer patients discarded old blood cells; once the fast was broken, their bodies produced shiny, new cells to take the place of discarded ones, thus effectively regenerating their immune systems.
The results of Longo’s study led him to conclude that prolonged periods of fasting could reduce the harsh side effects of chemotherapy for cancer patients (in fact, some patients are already trying this on their own), or even boost immunity for healthy people.
A 2015 study from Yale Medical School went one further, finding that both dieting and fasting produce a compound that prevents the immune system from making a protein linked to inflammatory diseases like diabetes and atherosclerosis. That study also assessed both human and mice immune cells.
Other Benefits of Intermittent Fasting
Greater Fat Burning
Research has shown that fasting for relatively long periods may result in greater fat-burning and accelerated fat loss, even when total daily calorie intake remains the same. Most people find that they’re able to have a few more of their favorite “cheat” foods during the feeding window and still see results. This is why IF is such an appealing diet for many people.
Other reasons why so many individuals love IF are that’s it’s relatively easy to get used to and stick with, and it’s a diet you don’t have to discontinue—ever. You can do intermittent fasting long-term with no adverse health effects. Instead, you’ll actually see health benefits from IF.
Who should do Intermittent Fasting?
People looking to improve their health and become a better fat-burner. Not everyone is a good candidate. Below are some requirements if you want to try IF:
- You’re eating a healthy, well-balanced diet which includes adequate healthy fat, protein, and fiber from vegetables.
- You can eat three meals a day and no snacks without hypoglycemic symptoms such as light-headedness, confusion, blurred vision, getting hangry, dips in energy, etc.
- You’re getting sufficient sleep (7 – 9 hrs.)
- You’re exercising regularly (not too much and not too little).
- As a woman, you are not experiencing hormone imbalances
- You are not underweight, already restricting-calories, have/had an eating disorder.
- You’re not pregnant, breastfeeding or trying to get pregnant.
- If you’re an insulin-dependent diabetic, you’re being closely supervised by a doctor.
- You don’t have a chronic renal disease.
There is still a lot to know about IF
Overall, it sounds like there is a ton that’s just not totally understood about intermittent fasting right now. Some people swear by it, while others may find it negatively affects them physically or mentally. Until there is more research that supports health benefits as a result of fasting, it might be better to choose nourishing foods you enjoy eating and helping you reconnect and trust your body when it comes to food. If you do choose to try it out, just make sure you are getting enough nutrients on your non-fasting days.