If you follow popular health gurus or celebrities such as Terry Crews, Selena Gomez, Nicole Kidman, and Beyoncé on social media, then you’ve probably seen them use the term “intermittent fasting” to describe their diets. This popular pattern of eating, also known as IF, is a pattern of “timed eating.” In other words you’re expected to create a schedule between the times you are not eating [fasting] and when you do eat based on the clock. The reasoning behind this method is that it helps with weight loss and offers many additional health benefits. While it may sound like it goes against everything we were taught about eating healthy, there is a method to intermittent fasting. First and foremost, what’s important to know is that there are a variety of ways to fast.
Wellness coach, naturopath, and fitness expert, Rachele Marsh explains that the first method known as the 5:2 method involves fasting on two, non-consecutive days during the week, with a 500 to 600 calorie intake limit. “You can drink water or tea during your fasting hours, even coffee as long as it is black,“ she explains. “Then for the remaining five days of the week, you can eat what you like.”
The second method known as The 16:8 method involves fasting on average for 16 hours everyday and an eating window of eight hours. To put it simply, if your first meal of the day is at noon, then your last meal would be at 8 PM. You would then go into fasting mode for 16 hours into the next day. Marsh says, “19 hours is the fasting window that I suggest for my clients, but there are several ways to approach it.” She adds, “The biggest difference in this approach from the former is that you can eat and drink whatever you like during your eating window, so it’s almost like a cheat day everyday.”
Although the first two methods are the most popular, there are some people who take it up a notch and fast for 24 hours on one or two non-consecutive days until their next meal. For example, if you have breakfast on Monday, you wouldn’t eat again until breakfast time on Tuesday morning.
However, Marsh suggests that those interested in following intermittent fasting should do what feels right to them. “Some people like to gradually work their way into this lifestyle by starting with a larger fasting window and slowly shrinking it down to something as small as four hours.” In fact, Marsh believes that intermittent fasting is a good way for people to get more in tune with their bodies and understand hunger. She says, “After practicing Intermittent fasting for a while, we become much more aware of when we are actually hungry, not bored, or stuck in a habit, or tired, or thirsty, or stressed or sad.”
Now that you understand how intermittent fasting works, you’re probably wondering if this is entirely sustainable and healthy. It’s no surprise that this pattern of eating has become popular in the fitness world. “Many people find that they are able to strip down to lower body fat much easier by using IF,” Marsh explains. She also mentions that intermittent fasting can reduce oxidative stress on cells, which can be an issue for athletes constantly tearing down muscle fiber in order to rebuild it. Hence why fitness buffs find intermittent fasting so appealing. Surprisingly, intermittent fasting has even shown health benefits other than weight loss.
There are studies that discovered that fasting can positively change how your cells, genes, hormones function, and may be the key to anti-aging, and living a longer life. This pattern of eating may also keep your mind sharp and ward off neurological diseases. One study saw the positive effects fasting had on neurons, due to the way the body efficiently uses fat stores for energy when it’s in this state. Those fatty acids released during this process, known as ketones, have been shown to protect memory and preserve our ability to learn. Other research suggests that intermittent fasting may be beneficial to women with Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome (PCOS), but there is not enough evidence to prove that it is a solution for sufferers.
As with any diet or new habit of eating, it’s important to listen to your body and consult with your doctor to make sure it’s the right fit for you. “Most of my clients that have tried it continue to use it as a tool for their overall health and weight management because there are endless ways to utilize IF,” says Marsh. However, she does warn of unpleasant side effects when you first start fasting. “You may experience a “Keto Flu” type feeling, but after getting over that hump it could take another few weeks for your body to acclimate and for you to start seeing results,” she says reassuringly. Ultimately, whether or not you choose to give intermittent fasting a shot is entirely up to you. You may try it and hate it, or you may try it and find success with it. At the end of the day you should do what is sustainable for your lifestyle and keeps you healthy, even if your favorite celebrity swears by it.