I’m sure that you’ve heard or read about the newest diet craze out there: Intermittent Fasting…you have, right?
If you’re like most of the population, you are probably confused about what it is and maybe even a little frightened off by the very idea.
Today’s blog will shed some light on what intermittent fasting is and the pros and cons of adopting such an eating style.
Fasting…withholding calories in some organized manner, has been practiced for health, religious, spiritual and superstitious reasons for centuries. It can be any combination of abstinence from food and drink that is alignment with the person endeavoring to fast.
From a spiritual standpoint, many believe that fasting can induce a supernatural connection to one’s spirit, allowing for great insights and revelations. Some religions demand fasting on particular days to show obedience and reverence for their deity.
As early as the 5th century BCE, physicians recommended fasting for health reasons: allowing the body to purify itself and returning to its natural state.
Animals will usually stop eating when sick. I’ve observed this with our pets; they will normally drink water and eat grass, if available, but nothing else, until they are well. Unfortunately, it can also signal the beginning of the end of life in humans and our pets.
Jake and I have done supervised water-only fasts with the intention of re-setting our health clocks and we have both had great results. (I don’t recommend this in unsupervised settings.)
Today, however, we’re talking about a craze that is sweeping the globe…right up there with celery juice, juice cleanses, keto, paleo and you-name-it diets.
To be fair, there is evidence that intermittent fasting may lower the risk of diabetes, heart disease and cancer and certainly, cutting calories can result in weight loss, however, the research is mixed about whether or not the said weight loss is more than what’s experienced with any traditional caloric restriction plans. Let’s take a look.
There can be risks: it has been shown that cortisol (the stress hormone) levels often increase during intermittent fasting which can cause hair loss, anxiety and the inability to burn fat, as cortisol is a fat-storage hormone. Some people who engage in intermittent fasting, especially extreme regimens, develop orthorexia: an obsession with healthy eating. This obsession can cause one to only think about what and when they will eat next, talk excessively about what they are eating and even shun social situations that may endanger their chosen eating habits.
So WHY would someone willingly embark on a protocol of intermittent starvation?
Well, it’s not really as bad as all that in most instances and there are some pretty substantial benefits to be gained when done correctly.
There are several different protocols that one might follow: eating normally for 5 days and then restricting calories to a very low level for 2 days; fasting, or reducing calories dramatically, every other day, complete fasting once or twice per week, there are an infinite number of ways to practice intermittent fasting.
The method that makes the most sense to me is to follow our natural circadian rhythms: eating when our digestion is strongest and not eating when our body is designed to be processing the food we consumed.
From everything I’ve read, it seems clear that all living beings, including the bacteria in our gut (see our previous articles on gut health here and here) have circadian rhythms and all biological activity is synchronized to the time of day. The literature seems to suggest that our digestion is strongest from 8 am to 2 pm or 10 am to 4 pm or 12-6 pm, depending on whose opinion you’re listening to.
And, you know, it makes sense to me. Our bodies naturally fast from the time we go to sleep until we wake in the morning. Most of us don’t wake up in the middle of the night thinking “geez…I really need to eat something”.
Even if you stopped eating at 6 pm and didn’t eat again until 8, 9 or 10 am, you would have a 14-16 hour fast!
This is actually a way of eating that Jake and I often, even normally, subscribe to and recommend it to our clients as well. I have found it to be my most reliable way to manage my weight and it doesn’t seem to matter what I’m eating during that 6-8-hour period that I am consuming calories…however, I don’t recommend using this as a prescription to eat poorly.
I have found this to be the easiest and safest way to practice intermittent fasting and find that most people who practice this habit don’t have the tendency to over-eat once the “fast” is complete as so often happens with other methods of intermittent fasting.
Not eating after 6 pm is a tenet in the 10-day monthly jumpstart that Jake and I recommend. We’d be happy to send you the entire protocol…just ask.
In the meantime, only you can decide if trying intermittent fasting is right for you. If you decide to give it a try, please make sure that you are getting all of the right nutrition your body needs…especially from fruits and vegetables. If you want support in getting enough plant nutrition into your body, please consider the same plant concentrate that Jake and I have been using for 25 years. You can read more about it and order it here.