Last year was probably the first time I properly became acquainted with the term intermittent fasting, though I have dabbled with various types of fast in the past – in particular things like juice fasts, where you limit your food intake to just juices. I began to learn more about it through the Bulletproof Blog, and then on retreat with Jake Paul White, who is a big advocate for this way of eating.
Intermittent fasting refers to an eating lifestyle where you only eat within a specific time frame. The remainder of the time you refrain from consuming anything other than water, teas or black coffee (in the case of Bulletproof you can add ghee to your coffee).
There are various ways to do intermittent fasting whereby you split your days or weeks into periods of eating and no eating. The one I have heard of the most, which I now do often, is the 16/8 method, which has you fasting for 16 hours and eating only within an 8-hour period – most commonly between noon and 8pm. Some people may choose to fast for a 24-hour period a couple of times a week as a reset to their system. There is also the 5:2 fast where 5 days a week you eat as you normally would, but two days a week you limit your caloric intake to 500-600 calories.
The great thing about intermittent fasting is that it is not about counting calories or reducing your food intake. When we eat, our insulin levels rise making it hard for the body to burn fat, whereas in a fasted state, we give our body a chance to start burning our fat reserves. Which is why intermittent fasting is described as more of a lifestyle than a diet and is not about how much food you eat, but when you eat it.
Here are some of the benefits I have come across with regards to intermittent fasting:
- Jump starts cell repair process
- Enhances growth hormone secretion
- Can result in weight loss
- Preserves muscle mass
- Reduces Inflammation
- Protects against chronic disease
- Increases energy
- Improves memory and brain function
I should highlight here that women in particular should do their research before trying intermittent fasting as it has been said to potentially interrupt things like fertility (and it goes without saying, but no pregnant woman should be fasting or anyone with a history of eating disorders). Bulletproof intermittent fasting apparently offsets risks of things like decreased fertility in women by adding fat (ghee), which gives you enough fuel to keep the body from entering a state of stress, while allowing it to continue burning fat for energy.
Though I am still relatively new to it, I personally have felt many of the benefits of intermittent fasting. It helps with my energy levels and certainly reduces the need to overthink my meals. One thing I would say for those not looking to lose weight (as is the case with my husband), it is really important to remember to eat more in the periods you are eating so that you are not in effect missing out on one main meal a day.
If this interests you, I would highly encourage you to do more research and experiment with fasting periods that work well for your body.