Many people in the health and fitness community today are taking notes from ancient hunter gatherers to practice something called intermittent fasting (IF). Back when humans did not have supermarkets, fridges, or a constant food source, it was common for us to go for long periods of time without eating. As a result, humans evolved with the ability to go without food for extended periods of time. Many people believe that fasting occasionally is a more natural way of eating than having three to five consistent meals each day. IF can be classified as an eating pattern that cycles between periods of fasting and eating, and we break down popular methods below.
- 16:8 Method: This is the most popular IF practice. With this method, there is an 8-hour eating window and a 16-hour fasting window.
- 24 Hour Method: Once a week, fast for 24-hours straight.
- 5:2 Diet: With this method, you can eat whatever you want for five days of the week, and consume 500 calories or less during the two remaining days.
The major benefit of IF is weight loss. IF can be used as a powerful weight loss tool by allowing for a reduction in calorie intake and burning calories at a faster rate. When practicing IF, most people commonly eat fewer meals, which can result in consuming fewer calories. Short-term fasting can also change hormone levels that increase your metabolic rate. For example, our insulin levels decrease in between meals. Carbohydrates are quickly broken down into sugar to be used for energy, and will enter our fat cells with the help of insulin. When our insulin levels are decreased, our fat cells can release their stored sugar to be used as energy, and we can burn off our fat.
There are many other potential benefits to IF, for example, improved brain and heart health, and reduced risk of cancer, type 2 diabetes, and heart disease. There have been many studies done on overweight rats when it comes to IF – they lose weight, and their blood pressure, cholesterol and blood sugars improve – but they’re rats. More research is necessary, especially research that involves studying humans, to support these claims.
Whether or not you practice IF, our suggestion is to optimize the nutritional quality of what you eat by consuming veggies, fruit, lean protein, whole grains and healthy fats, in addition to listening to your body. Head over to our recipe page for delicious, balanced meal ideas!