Fasting has been used therapeutically and religiously for thousands of years. The Greek physician Hippocrates would often recommend abstaining from food or drink for patients showing certain symptoms of illness. Recent studies have shed light on its role in adaptive cellular responses that reduce oxidative damage and inflammation, optimize energy metabolism and bolster cellular protection.
Benefits Of Intermittent Fasting
Intermittent Fasting 101
To optimize intermittent fasting, here are five things you should keep in mind during your eating window:
- Drink plenty of water
- Minimize processed foods
- Eat a healthy and balanced diet
- Create and enjoy your food
- Try to eat mindfully
What is Intermittent Fasting?
Intermittent fasting is a type of eating pattern where you have long periods of fasting and a short period of time for eating. It doesn’t specify what you should eat, rather when you should eat. There are several different ways to intermittent fast such as the 16:8 method. With this eating pattern, you would fast for 16 hours and have an 8-hour eating window.
Most people who follow the 16:8 method abstain from food during the night and either the morning or evening. Although 16 hours may sound like a lot, that includes the hours you sleep. It may look like skipping your usual dinner or breakfast time and being more flexible with your eating pattern.
There’s a lot of promising research into the effects of intermittent fasting as an effective weight-loss tool. It’s thought that during fasting periods, your body has the chance to repair and regenerate. Instead of constantly digesting food, it has more time to be in repair mode. This can lead to changes in gene expression, improve insulin sensitivity, repair cells, and increase human growth hormone levels.
Related: Benefits of Fasting
How to Start Intermittent Fasting
There are a few different ways to start intermittent fasting. One of the most popular methods is the 16:8 approach. It’s a great place to start your intermittent fasting journey. This is a type of time-restricted eating. You will be cycling through eating and non-eating windows each day.
Another popular method is the 5:2 approach. This would involve you eating a healthy diet for five days of the week. On the other two days, you would eat a calorie-restricted diet of about 500 to 700 calories or go without food completely. Other methods include alternate-day fasting, Eat Stop Eat, and whole-day fasting.
The method you choose is down to you. Some people may find it easier to keep cycling through fasting and eating windows. However, others may prefer to eat less on a couple of days. It eventually comes down to personal preference and what works best for your body and lifestyle.
Research shows that those who eat earlier during intermittent fasting experience more health benefits. Participants who had a longer nighttime fast experienced significant improvements in metabolism. This suggests that ending your eating window earlier is more beneficial to your health. In this case, you would eat breakfast and have your final meal by around 3PM.
Autophagy and Intermittent Fasting
Autophagy translates to “self-eating.” Autophagy is your body’s way of cleaning out your cells and regenerating newer, healthier ones. It’s also referred to as self-devouring which may sound aggressive, but it actually has health benefits.
During the autophagy process, the body removes dysfunctional cells and repairs cells to function optimally. It’s like hitting the reset button on your body. The main benefits of autophagy seem to come in the form of anti-aging effects. This is because your body is destroying old, tired cells and making room for new, younger cells. Some studies suggest that autophagy may remove cancerous cells as well. Other benefits of autophagy include:
- Remove toxic proteins from cells
- Provide energy for cells
- May boost your metabolism
- Help regulate inflammation
- May improve the length of life
It’s thought that certain diets can trigger autophagy. One of the most effective ways to trigger autophagy appears to be fasting. One review suggests that both fasting and calorie restriction can induce autophagy.
5 Intermittent Fasting Tips for Optimal Health
There are many different ways to implement intermittent fasting. If you’re thinking you may struggle to stick to an intermittent fasting regime, there are a few things you can do to help. In order to maximize the benefits of fasting for optimal health, there are certain foods you should eat and others to avoid.
Five intermittent fasting tips:
Drink Plenty of Water
It’s important to drink plenty of water throughout the day, in both the fueling and fasting hours of your eating pattern. You can drink water in both the fasting and non-fasting stages. Often, during a fasted state, your body is breaking things down and detoxing the body. To continue flushing out toxins from the body, it’s important to stay hydrated. Drinking water can also help you feel fuller during your fasting window.
Water is essential for keeping your cells functioning. Proper hydration throughout the day helps your muscles work effectively, keeps skin supple, and cleanses the body. Aim for at least eight eight-ounce glasses of water each day.
Related: Why Proper Hydration Is Essential
2. Minimize Processed Foods
Although intermittent fasting isn’t a diet, you should still stick to healthy eating. This means avoiding or at least minimizing processed foods during your eating window. When you do eat, try to feed your body with nutrient dense food for prolonged energy. Avoid foods such as processed sugars, trans fats, and refined starches.
Despite not following a specific diet, it’s a good idea to follow standard healthy eating guidelines. It’s no different with intermittent fasting. Think about limiting sugary drinks and processed foods. Other foods to avoid include:
- Fruit juice
- Sauces like ketchup
- Sugary cereals
3. Eat a Healthy and Balanced Diet
During your eating window, you want to follow a healthy, balanced diet. This means lean protein sources, plenty of whole foods, fruits, and vegetables. Choose nutrient-dense foods that are high in fiber, nutrients, and vitamins. Focus on complex carbohydrates and healthy fats. By eating a wide variety of foods, it helps to avoid nutrient deficiencies. It also contributes to healthy weight loss.
4. Create and Enjoy Your Food
Improve the taste of your meals without adding calories. Try to create food that you enjoy. Just because you’re following a certain pattern of eating, doesn’t mean the food should taste bland. Season meals with plenty of herbs, and spices to add flavor. These types of foods are low in calories and can make a huge difference in the taste of your meals.
Even a salad doesn’t need to be boring. You can add plenty of flavor and fun to your meals with the right foods and seasoning. Try heading to your nearest farmers market and pick up fruit, vegetables, and herbs that are in season. Cook a new meal to explore different tastes and really enjoy every meal.
Related: Seasons Eatings
5. Eat Mindfully
What does it mean to eat mindfully? What this means is to be fully present when eating so that you enjoy the food you are eating and can recognize when you are fully satisfied. When you're distracted by your phone, or the television, it’s easy to lose focus while eating. These habits can keep you eating past the point of fullness. You’re not even hungry, but you’re not fully aware of it so you keep going.
Related: Intuitive Eating
Here are a few tips to start practicing mindful eating habits:
- Remove distractions while eating. Research shows that activities like watching tv or internet surfing may contribute to weight gain.
- If you love to snack, try to have fresh fruit or vegetables on you rather than processed snacks.
- Eat slowly and try not to rush meals.
- Properly chew your food.
- Understand how the food makes you feel.
- Stop eating when you’re full.
Intermittent fasting involves cycling through eating and fasting windows. Time-restricted eating appears to offer a lot of benefits for weight loss, increased longevity, and overall well-being. Intermittent fasting may also benefit people with cardiovascular disease and neurological disorders. For optimal health, stick to a healthy and balanced diet. By avoiding processed foods and sugary drinks, you can look to gain the most benefits from intermittent fasting.
Watch this video from Thomas DeLauer on how to effectively break your fast. He is going to give you a checklist that provides you with everything that you need in order to correctly break your fast. This is applicable to all types of diets, including a non-keto, keto, female-oriented, and a special cortisol-reducing protocol checklist! It's gonna be fun and hopefully it helps make breaking a fast easier for EVERYONE!