This time of year you are likely feeling a little overwhelmed by all the different quick-fix diets and hearing everyone’s opinion about what would be best for you. One trend that you might have heard about is intermittent fasting. While this may be new for some, fasting has been around for thousands of years for health and religious reasons. Recently, intermittent fasting has received more attention because of the promising early science for weight loss and improving gut health and insulin sensitivity.
Intermittent Fasting is essentially time-restricted eating in which you eat all your calories for the day within an eight to twelve hour window. This allows the gut to rest and repair without having to digest food. Just like when starting a new exercise program, our muscles need proper rest to continue to progress and function at their highest level. As a result of this rest and recovery, many people report improved digestion, less bloating, more restful sleep, improved skin health or less acne, and even lessened anxiety.
If you are new to fasting, start with a twelve hour eating window and slowing work towards an eight hour window. You can even start with just two or three days per week instead of daily if you find this difficult to accomplish with your current schedule. Regardless of your eating window, always stay hydrated with unsweetened fluids such as water, unsweetened tea, black coffee, or a sugar-free electrolyte beverages. Any amount of sugar will end your fast.
One thing to keep in mind that’s extremely important with this food plan is to know this is not a calorie restricted diet. This is not simply skipping breakfast. It’s very important to ingest adequate calories during your eating window to make your fasting period more comfortable and ensure your body has proper fuel and micronutrients to do all the repair work that happens while fasting.
Now it goes without saying that to get the full benefit of intermittent fasting, what you eat during your eating window still matters. A diet rich in high fiber carbs, protein, and healthy fats will help main energy levels by minimizing spikes in blood sugar throughout the day.
Intermittent fasting may not be right for you if you have a history of an eating disorder, have medications that need to be taken at specific times with food, or have a history of hypoglycemia. Starting with a twelve hour fast is generally safe for most people but talk to your doctor for personalized advice on fasting.
Megan Allen is a registered dietician with Community Health Network who provides complimentary consults to Community patients in Kokomo. To schedule an appointment with a primary care provider call 765.776.5939.