I’m an “early bird catches the worm” kind of gal. Between gymnastics practice, school, work, and now kids, early mornings has always been part of my routine. And so was eating breakfast within 20 minutes of my wake up time. I never really questioned this until I started reading about intermittent fasting and all of its potential health benefits. I say potential because IF can affect everyone differently. But if you want an idea of how it could affect you, keep reading.
Let me start with the basics. While there are many variations, the most common intermittent fast prescribes an eight hour of time to eat and a sixteen hour window to fast. So for example, one might choose to eat between the hours of 10 AM and 6 PM. But that eight hour window can be adjusted based on individual schedule and preference. After trial and error, one might find that a 14 or 12 hour fasting window better suits their lifestyle.
Here are a few of the potential benefits of IF
Metabolism: When done correctly, fasting can increase your metabolism, or your body’s ability to make energy out of the food that you eat. There are two key hormones that help make this happen; insulin and glucogon. Think of insulin as the fat storing hormone and glucogon as the fat burning hormone. When the body is in a fasted state, insulin levels go down, and glucogon levels go up, resulting in the body using stored fat as energy.
Weight Loss: An increased metabolism naturally brings us to weight loss. But that’s not the only reason why IF can help a person to drop pounds. When you create an eating schedule for yourself, you’re naturally going to eat less, which, for some people, equates to weight loss.
Brain function: Fasting can help increase brain function by fostering neurogenesis, which is the creation of new brain cells.
Slows aging: Some people say that fasting can slow down the aging process. Fasting is one of the only proven ways that your body can create human growth hormone, also known as the youth hormone.
Strengthened immune system: Fun fact: Did you know that the vast majority of the immune system is in the gut? One hypothesis about how this came to be dates back to the caveman era when what we put into our mouths could very easily kill us; a poisonous plant, dirty water, spoiled meat, and the list goes on. So our gut is constantly working to detect any issues in the food that we ingest, dangerous or not. Fasting gives our immunes system a break from this constant work, and therefore, gives it time to rest and repair itself.
Improved digestion: Our digestive system has one of the hardest jobs of the body, which is to turn food into you! It’s constantly pulling vitamins, minerals, and energy from all the food that you eat. Giving the digestive system a break is like resetting your phone. It’ll work better, faster, and more efficiently.
Increases personal development - Around 60% of our daily energy is used to digest the food that we eat. Now imagine how else you could use that energy if it wasn’t always being used to digest food. Basically, fasting creates free energy. Also, food is sometimes used to distract and mask other emotional issues. Imagine if that food bandaid wasn’t there.
Sounds great, right? I mean who wouldn’t want a high metabolism, increased mental clarity, and improved digestion? But before you start planning your 8 hour eating window, here are some other things to think about.
Adjustment period - Your body will need to adjust to your new eating schedule and you’ll have to learn how to decipher hunger from habit. Am I really hungry right now or do I just think I am because of the time on the clock?
Making up for bad choices - People sometimes choose to do IF for the wrong reasons. The inner dialog usually goes something like this…I ate like crap this weekend and one of my friends swears by IF so I’m going to do it too. This lack of planning and “quick fix” mentality won’t last long.
I can eat whatever I want - A shorter eating time frame doesn’t automatically equate to weight loss. You still need to eat healthy, well balanced meals in order to see results. And if you aren’t eating the right things, you could actually slow down your metabolism rather than speed it up.
Battle of the sexes - Men might see more drastic changes with IF than women. The reason being that women are more complex than men when it comes to hormones, which play a key role in IF. That being said, some women might see great results. It really varies from person to person.
Like any change to your diet, intermittent fasting requires planning, thought, and care. Too busy, stressed, or tired to figure this out on your own? Let’s talk.