Intermittent fasting is one of the latest diet trends to sweep across the United States. The diet first became mainstream in 2012, through Dr. Michael Mosley’s BBC documentary Eat Fast, Live Longer, and then gained more traction as a featured component of Dr. Jason Fung’s treatment in The Obesity Code.
In a nutshell, intermittent fasting involves drastically reducing your food intake for specific periods of time over a weeklong period. Instead of specific rules on what to eat, intermittent fasting focuses on restrictions on when to eat. There are multiple ways to follow an intermittent fasting protocol, but the most popular is the 5:2 diet or the 16:8 diet.
Followers of the 5:2 approach divide the week into fasting and nonfasting days. On two nonconsecutive days per week, the protocol calls for eating no more than 500-600 calories. For the remaining five days, followers are free to eat whenever they would like. In comparison, followers of the 16:8 diet restrict eating hours to an eight hour period (for example, 9 am-5 pm) every day of the week. The remaining 16 hours (which include sleep time) are fasting.
Benefits of Intermittent Fasting
Research on the benefits and drawbacks of intermittent fasting is still in its infancy, with only a few studies done in humans to date. Scientists hypothesize that the key behind intermittent fasting is how it impacts insulin levels in our blood.
Insulin is a hormone that is released by the pancreas and used to help store and release energy, or glucose, from our cells. After eating a meal, insulin levels increase to help move energy from the meal into our cells for storage. In a fasting state, insulin levels are low, and energy (typically in the form of fat) is drawn out of our cells so that it can be used around the body.
There is promising evidence that this mechanism may support weight loss and improvements in overall metabolic health. However, more studies need to be done to understand which intermittent fasting protocol is most beneficial.
Maximizing the Benefits of Intermittent Fasting
One of the biggest criticisms of intermittent fasting is that it does not state which foods to include or exclude. For those following intermittent fasting, the ideal foods to eat are whole grains, fruits, vegetables, and lean proteins – essentially mimicking the Mediterranean diet. Adopting a fasting regimen and then loading up on high fat or high sugar foods during eating windows is unlikely to maximize the benefits of intermittent fasting.
Beyond the lack of specifics on types of foods to include, the challenges with intermittent fasting are mostly practical. Skipping meals for long periods of time is simply hard to do for most people who are used to eating throughout the entire day. Many social commitments that center around food can be hard to enjoy if you are on a fasting protocol. For these reasons, intermittent fasting is difficult to follow for long stretches of time. As with any diet, the key is being able to adopt the protocol as your new way of life.
This is where our program comes in. When you join Healthy Steps, you get the tools and support you need to make intermittent fasting successful while also learning how to structure your meals so that you can fast with ease. This means you won’t be hungry from not eating during your fasting periods.
Book an appointment today at one of our clinics so you can be on your way to lose weight and keep it off for good.