I have a history of skipping breakfast or at least feeling disinclined to eat in the morning. At a certain stage, I started to trust this and often pushed back my first meal to 10, 11 or even 12 O’clock in the day. I was told by people that this was bad to do as breakfast was the most important meal of the day, a message that I’m sure the breakfast cereal and milk companies are very happy to promote. I persisted though because I was basing my decision on how my body felt and eating when I am not hungry is something I find highly unpleasant. Now, many years later more and more research is coming out that is shedding light on the beneficial and sometimes seemingly miraculous benefits of small daily fasts – otherwise known as intermittent fasting.
What is Intermittent Fasting?
Intermittent fasting involves increasing the time window in which you are not eating each day. In practical terms that means increasing the time between your dinner and your ‘breakfast’ (yes, it has that name for a reason). Intermittent fasting is also known as time-restricted feeding or reduced meal frequency.
How Long Should I fast Each Day?
Consider yourself for a moment. What time do you have dinner and breakfast? If you have dinner at 7 pm and breakfast at 7 am then your fasting window is 12 hours or 12/12. If you are a late snacker and consume your last food later at say 9 pm and then have to get up early for work and have breakfast at 6 am then your fasting window is only 9 hours or 9/15. Adherents of the intermittent fasting lifestyle generally aim to fast for at least 12 hours with greater benefits being seen at greater fasting times of 14 or 16 hours.
What are the Benefits?
Some of the benefits of intermittent fasting are:
A Reduction In:
- Body Fat
- Oxidative Damage to Cells
An Increase In:
- Glucose Tolerance
- Robustness of Circadian Rhythm
- Robustness of Metabolic Rhythm
- Cellular Stress Resistance
It can also normalize blood pressure, Improve LDL particle size and triglycerides plus balance fat related hormones such as adiponectin and leptin.
That is an amazing amount of benefits for changing WHEN you eat but without having to change WHAT you eat at all (This doesn’t mean I am encouraging eating bad food) I am just pointing out the power of this way of living.
What is Permitted During the Fasting Period?
To ensure your body’s metabolic process is in fasting mode it is required that you do not consume anything that is processed by the liver. This basically means consuming only pure water. ‘What about tea and coffee!?’ I hear you ask. Some people think they are still fasting after drinking a coffee or similar drink however this is not the case. Even consuming a small amount of energy or nutrients will kick off a series of changes in your metabolic processes.
How do I Start?
If you would like to try Intermittent Fasting, it may be helpful to start by limiting your fasting period to 12 hours and slowly building it up over time. There are several free apps for your phone that will allow you to time your fasts. Basically, you just press a button when you finish eating and it will let you know when you can eat the next morning. If you don’t like to rely on your phone you can simply make a mental note of the time you finish eating dinner and not eat until at least that same time the next morning.
Results in My Life
I have found that intermittent fasting has increased my energy levels and clarity of thinking. It has helped me to know when I am actually hungry rather than just eating at pre-programmed times. I am also waking up feeling more fresh in the mornings. Give it a try yourself and see if it works for you.
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Longo, V. and Panda, S. (2016). Fasting, Circadian Rhythms, and Time-Restricted Feeding in Healthy Lifespan. Cell Metabolism, 23(6), pp.1048-1059.
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Anson, R., Guo, Z., de Cabo, R., Iyun, T., Rios, M., Hagepanos, A., Ingram, D., Lane, M. and Mattson, M. (2003). Intermittent fasting dissociates beneficial effects of dietary restriction on glucose metabolism and neuronal resistance to injury from calorie intake. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, 100(10), pp.6216-6220.