Intermittent fasting is a hot trend at the moment, yet interestingly enough it has been used by different cultures for thousands of years to help support health in both the body and mind. When you think about it, our ancestors who hunted and gathered for their food, would often go extended periods without food as part of the everyday life!
Even though intermittent fasting is commonly used today as a means of losing weight, or maintaining a healthy weight, it is not a diet in the traditional sense of the word. Instead of specifying what you can or cannot eat, intermittent fasting only stipulates ‘when’ you can eat.
As the name suggest, it involves cycling between periods of eating and periods of time without consuming foods (and often liquids other than water). There are several different types of intermittent fasting that vary in the period of which you are to abstain from eating. However the two most commonly used are 16 hour fasting or 24 hour fasting.
16 Hour Fasting - This involves fasting from 6/7pm in the evening until 12/1pm the next afternoon. This type of fasting usually occurs on consecutive days.
ADF ~ Alternate Day Fasting - This type of fasting involves alternating between 24 hours of fasting, and 24 hours of eating as per usual. Some people opt for a 23 hour cycle in which they can consume one meal in that day.
5:2 Diet - This type of intermittent fasting involves having two non-consecutive days (24 hours each) in the week with fasting and following normal eating patterns for the other 5 days.
Should You Fast?
There has been research to suggest that there are numerous health benefits that can be gained from safely practicing intermittent fasting, including weight loss or management. Studies also show that short term fasting (such as the 16 hour fast) can actually help boost your metabolism. However I cannot stress enough how important it is to ensure that you are otherwise healthy before you consider practicing fasting as well as thoroughly researching your intended ‘fast’ before commencing.
You might be interested to know that there have been several studies that suggest that intermittent fasting is less beneficial for women than it is for men. Even though fasting can improve insulin sensitivity in men, it can actually make blood sugar control worse in females. Many women have also reported that their menstrual cycle was interrupted, so for this reason intermittent fasting may be best avoided if you are trying to conceive.
The bottom line is that everyone is different and what works well for one person might not work as well for the next. So if you are considering starting intermittent fasting, make sure you thoroughly research which one you are intending on practicing and check with your health professional to ensure that it is suitable for you.