Intermittent fasting is one of the tools you can use to improve blood sugar balance, drop a few pounds, boost your immunity and support your overall health.
Even though it became popular only recently, it’s a practice we have been using naturally from the stone age.
Eating 3 main meals and 2 snacks per day is a recent invention pushed on us by our environment.
But our ancestors didn’t have that luxury. They lived in an environment of scarcity, so their bodies had to adopt to going without food for longer periods of time.
And as luck would have it, the adaptation makes our body stronger.
For a bit of discomfort at first, we are able to fight disease better, become more efficient at burning energy, rest better and become a healthier version of ourselves.
The effects of intermittent fasting
Intermittent fasting (IF) is a period of time when you go without food.
This allows your body to use up energy you’ve stored as glycogen in your muscles and liver. Once this is done, you start using your fat reserves for fuel. In the process, insulin sensitivity improves which helps with weight management. (study)
During fasting your immune system works more efficiently. DNA repairs, detoxification improves, and inflammation is suppressed. (study)
Intermittent fasting also has a positive effect on our cardiovascular system by reducing blood pressure and stabilising heart rate. (study)
When we combine all the effects of IF, it’s no wonder that going longer periods without food has been also linked to longevity. (study)
What are your choices?
The most common types of IF are alternate date fasting, fasting 5 : 2 (fasting 2 days a week) or time restricted feeding.
The most popular is time restricted feeding when the fasting window is between 16 – 18 hours. This means you’d need to eat within a period of 6-8 hours. (for example have first meal at 10 am and last by 6 pm).
If you are not on any medications and just want to see if this works for you, it’s safe. However, if you are on meds, intermittent fasting should be done after you check with your GP.
Where to start?
- Stop eating by 6 pm – or if your schedule doesn’t allow it, by 7 pm at the latest.
Eating late at night keeps your digestion busy and can add to the feeling of heaviness. In your sleep your body focuses on tissue repair, detoxification and elimination of pre-cancerous cells. And if you stop eating 3 – 4 hours before going to bed, you allow your body to commit to this job 100%.
Also, based on your circadian rhythm, your metabolism is much slower in the evening than morning time. That’s why the heavier the meals you eat in the evening, the more likely you pile on extra weight. (study)
- Eat when hungry – in the morning (or during the day) don’t force yourself to eat. Wait until hunger arrives.
Connecting to your true feeling of hunger may turn out to be the biggest challenge. We tend to eat out of habit or out of necessity to belong to a pack. We mirror each other’s behaviour and often eat just because our friends or family are.
But IF is about tuning in with your own body’s natural rhythm. So start listening for clues and eat only when your tummy starts to rumble.
- Allow time to adjust – at first you may find you are irritable when you stretch the time you go without food.
As they say, habit is an iron shirt and it may take up to 1 month to adjust to the new style. To avoid the uncomfortable tension or moodiness which can arrive, plan doing something fun for the fasting part of the day.
Read a book, take a bath, go for a walk. Create a new routine to break the discomfort. This will ease you into the process faster.
Everyone is different and you may say, you feel sick eating in the morning. Or that you have to eat something small before going to bed. If that’s the case, play around with the feeding window and see what works for you.
Before you start doing intermittent fasting, one thing to bare in mind.
Don’t use it as another FAD diet. Instead see it as an opportunity to give your body a rest from digesting food 24/7, so it can focus on creating health for you.
I hope this helps.
Cheers to you and a delicious way of living!