What is intermittent fasting?
Intermittent fasting is an eating pattern that involves a shorter eating “window,” during the day, and fasting in the time outside of this window. Some refer to IF as a diet, but this is not exactly accurate. In IF, there are no “good” or “bad” foods; this eating pattern does not require one to avoid certain food groups or to actively restrict calories in order to follow it.
How is it done?
Two of the most commonly used methods in intermittent fasting are the 16/8 schedule and alternate day fasting (24/0). When following the 16/8 rule, the assigned eating time is within 8 consecutive hours, with a starting point at any time that is convenient for the individual. For example, if you work until 4pm, commute home for 30 minutes, and take 1 hour to settle in and cook dinner at home, you may want to eat dinner at 5:30, and stop eating at 6:30. In this case, the “eating window” would begin at 10:30am.
In the 24/0 method, one would eat whatever they wanted at any time on the first day, and consume either no solid foods or up to 500 calories of solid foods on the alternate day. This type of fasting is on the more extreme end, and may not be suitable for beginners who are just starting out with intermittent fasting. Some drawbacks common with this type of fasting are fatigue, headaches, and irritability. For many, these effects become more manageable and less noticeable over time as the body adjusts to the change.
Intermittent fasting can be very difficult for some, especially those who are new to the practice. It is important to drink lots of water throughout the day – tea is encouraged as well. Intense exercise should be avoided on fasting days (if following the 24/0 method), choosing filling high-volume foods that are low in calories to snack on if needed during the fasting period, such as popcorn and raw veggies is a good idea. When the fast is broken, consuming nutrient-dense food that is high in fibre, vitamins, and minerals is your best bet – doing so will keep blood sugar levels steady and ensure that you are getting enough nutrients. Plus, a balanced diet is always recommended!
Why do people do it?
The intermittent fasting eating pattern is a powerful way for many people to lose weight or maintain their weight. The main draw compared to traditional diets is that it can help you lose belly fat, without needing to go out of your way to count and restrict calories. It may be especially suitable for those who live a busy lifestyle and find it difficult to cook three (healthy) square meals a day. Less meals also means less dishes to clean and more feelings of being fully satisfied and satiated after eating for some. Eating this way can also help reduce insulin resistance, which is a factor in preventing the onset of type 2 diabetes.
Who shouldn’t do it?
Intermittent fasting is definitely not a universally beneficial practice. Some people will find that they feel hungry often and that they are not getting enough food with IF. If it feels like an unsustainable eating cycle for you, there is no need to continue. If you have a medical condition, it is advised to discuss IF with your doctor before entering into this new way of eating. Intermittent fasting is generally not recommended for those who have a history of eating disorders, those who are pregnant or breast feeding, and children.