You’ve heard about intermittent fasting, but maybe you’d like a few more details. Or perhaps you’d like some guidance on how to implement intermittent fasting into your life. If so, you’re in the right place.
Intermittent fasting is an eating schedule that alternates periods of eating with periods of fasting. On some level, you’re already fasting.
You might only be fasting from bedtime until you wake up, but you’re fasting while you sleep. Intermittent fasting shrinks the eating window and expands the fasting portion of a 24-hour day.
There are a lot of benefits to be gained by intermittent fasting that will be covered in the next section, but the benefits are exciting and include:
● Weight loss
● Reduced inflammation
● Lower blood pressure
● Increased insulin sensitivity
● Increased brain health
Intermittent fasting isn’t new but wasn’t well-known until 2012 when Michael Mosley hosted the documentary Eat, Fast, and Live Longer. This is the beginning of the popularity of intermittent fasting.
While intermittent fasting sounds difficult, most people are surprised how easy it is to follow after a couple of challenging days or weeks.
Intermittent fasting doesn’t require you to change how you eat, only when you eat.
Of course, making healthier eating choices is always a step in the right direction!
Intermittent fasting is a simple and convenient way of eating that makes a meaningful difference. You’ll notice that you save time and feel better. Your body wasn’t built to successfully handle eating day and night.
fasting is more natural for your body than the eating schedule most people
Consider that it hasn’t been that long that humans had access to a steady stream of food. In fact, many people in the world still don’t.
There was a time when humans spent most of the day roaming the countryside looking for things to eat, and they weren’t always successful.
Eating morning, noon, and night is a recent development, and it isn’t good for you.
Many of the benefits of intermittent fasting have been shown in human trials, while others have only been studied in animals to date.
Certain types of studies, such as longevity and dementia-related studies, can take a long time to conduct, perhaps too long for anyone currently in their middle-age years to live long enough to see any concrete results!
It’s much quicker to test longevity in rats that only live 2-3 years versus humans that often live to 80 years or longer.
Some of the following benefits aren’t certain but are likely.
Intermittent fasting can greatly boost your health in many ways:
When insulin levels are high, the body is reluctant to release fat stores for energy. This makes sense.
Your body assumes that if insulin is high, then your blood sugar must be high.
There’s no reason for your body to release
fat for energy if you already have plenty of sugar in your blood.
However, over time, it’s possible
to develop insulin resistance. This is when your cells no longer respond well
to the action of insulin, and blood sugar remains elevated.
Intermittent fasting reduces both the blood sugar and insulin levels,
which ultimately allows for the use of body fat for energy.
Eating less frequently keeps your blood sugar lower, lowers your insulin levels, and can help increase insulin sensitivity.
Type-2 diabetes is the result of excessive insulin resistance.
Some people with type-2
diabetes are able to heal themselves eventually through intermittent
The weight loss that often occurs
with intermittent fasting also increases insulin resistance.
● Improve bone density.
● Increase muscle mass.
Lower body fat levels.
There’s little doubt that even low
levels of inflammation are damaging to the brain, arteries, organs, and other
cells of the body over time.
Intermittent fasting can help in
this regard by reducing inflammation in your body.
Some causes of inflammation that
can be helped by intermittent fasting are:
High blood sugar
Oxidative stress. Eating too much
and eating unhealthy foods creates oxidative stress which damages the cells and
leads to inflammation.
Immune cells. Certain types of
immune cells are part of the inflammation process. Intermittent fasting reduces
the activity of these immune cells.
Intermittent fasting is believed
to boost memory, learning, and the generation of new neurons.
Those that practice intermittent
fasting also report less brain fog throughout the day.
Eating fewer meals also results in
fewer blood sugar spikes and low points, resulting in less hunger.
● Less hunger can also lead to weight loss
There are so many benefits to intermittent fasting. And best of all, there’s very little risk, and it’s free.
Can you think of anything else that can do more for your health for free? You can’t even talk to a doctor for 30 seconds for less than $150 in most cities!
There are things your doctor can do for you that you can’t do for yourself.
But your diet is something that you can do for yourself that your doctor can’t do for you. Be sure that you’re taking full responsibility for your health.
While intermittent fasting is very safe, there are a few potential hazards, which we’ll look at next.
“It is extremely important to understand that a healthy diet is a lifestyle change in that it's not something you can just dip in and out of and expect results and or optimum health.”
- Chloe Madeley
Intermittent fasting is incredibly safe for the vast majority of the population. However, there are potentially a few exceptions.
If you have any concerns after reading this chapter, give your doctor a call and set up an appointment. It’s always better to be safe than sorry.
Intermittent fasting can be risky for certain groups of people:
It’s understandable that these six groups might be better off following a more conventional diet.
Again, let your doctor be your guide if you have any concerns. The whole purpose of intermittent fasting is to enhance your health. There’s no point in following a diet that could be detrimental to you.
“Poor diet and sedentary behaviour have led to an increase in obesity and lifestyle-related disease and a huge rise in chronic medical conditions.”
- Frans van Houten
● The solution is to eat a small meal at first after a longer fast.
The common side effects of intermittent fasting are far from life threatening but can certainly be annoying.
Most of these side-effects only occur during the first week or so, and most people report zero side-effects. The risk of intermittent fasting is minimal if you’re not in one of the higher-risk groups.
“Do you know how many calories are in butter and cheese and ice cream? Would you get your dog up in the morning for a cup of coffee and a donut?”
- Jack LaLanne
How does intermittent fasting accomplish all of the amazing benefits that it provides?
There are several interesting things that scientists have discovered about intermittent fasting and the physiological effects that are produced.
Not everything is known yet, but there’s enough to be confident in the benefits of intermittent fasting.
There are 4 states in the fasting cycle:
This state is roughly four hours
in duration. The body relies on glucose for energy and the mechanisms for
storing body fat are very active.
This is the state most of us are in the vast majority of the time. We
eat again before our metabolism moves on to the next state.
● This is also a period of low insulin. In fact, low insulin is considered to be one of the primary triggers for this state.
It’s also why diabetics that use insulin have a very difficult
time losing fat. The body is reluctant to hold onto fat if insulin levels are
Intermittent fasting allows the body to move beyond states one and two. There are many health benefits that occur once the fasted state is reached.
It’s easy to see that if you eat until late
into the night and begin eating early in the morning, the fasted state is never
Other mechanisms for the benefits realized by intermittent fasting include:
A fasting period of at least 16
hours each day encourages the use of fat for energy and results in a rise in
ketone bodies in the blood, which lessens appetite.
This has many benefits, including
weight loss, which leads to other positive health results.
While all of these are amazing, it’s important to note that this is how your body was designed to operate.
You’re allowing your body to do what it naturally does. Intermittent fasting prevents you from getting in the way of your body’s natural processes.
Intermittent fasting isn’t really making your body do anything. You’ve just been preventing your body from doing all of these things by eating too much and too often.
“Some people are willing to pay the price and it's the same with staying healthy or eating healthy. There's some discipline involved. There's some sacrifices.”- Mike Ditka
There’s more than one road to get to the intermittent fasting promised land.
There are several popular eating/fasting schedules, and you always have the option to create your own plan. Let’s take a look at a few options.
Consider the intermittent fasting schedule that will work best for you:
You can skip breakfast and begin
eating at noon. Your eating window lasts until 8PM, which allows for lunch,
dinner, and a snack. You’re free to use the eight hours as you see fit.
Some people modify this plan by
decreasing the eating window to as little as 2 hours. It’s up to you but avoid
an eating window of over 8 hours.
There’s more than one way to do intermittent fasting. The right schedule depends on you and your lifestyle. Everyone is different and the best schedule for someone else might not be the best schedule for you. Feel free to give a few options a try and pick the one that works the best for you.
The best option is the one that you can follow consistently.
“If I'm not hungry and I'm busy, I am quite happy to skip a meal. It's informal intermittent fasting. I feel strongly that this is one of the strongest areas of longevity research.”
- David Andrew Sinclair
It’s not enough to read about intermittent fasting.
At some point, it’s necessary to get started and actually do it!
Intermittent fasting is simple once your body gets used to it and you lock down the right schedule.
There are several tips that make your first intermittent fasting experience easier.
Use these strategies to get started with intermittent fasting today:
The only challenge is managing
food consumption in the later evening hours when many people struggle with
16:8 is the best place to start
unless one of the other options is highly appealing to you.
Once you’ve accomplished a week,
aim for two more weeks. Three weeks is enough time to determine if intermittent
fasting is for you.
Even easier is to do just a few
intermittent fasting days the first week, and then add additional days when you
believe you can be successful.
If you like to eat in the morning,
you can start eating at 6AM if you like.
Or maybe you’d like to have a late
breakfast, normal lunch, and early dinner.
You’re free to choose the continuous 8-hour period that works for you.
One cardinal rule of any eating plan is: If it’s in the house, you’ll
eventually eat it.
Don’t deprive yourself of all the
foods you love but keep your access under control. A small bag of M&Ms is a
better option than the big bag.
● Healthy sources of protein
● Whole grains
● Healthy fats
● Water is a great, healthy, low-calorie option that can fill you up quickly.
Studies show that those with a
plan to handle negative events such as hunger, anxiety, or the urge to spend
irresponsibly are much more likely to be successful when those events occur
than those without a plan. So, have a plan.
You could read a book, go for a
walk, drink a glass of water, knit, clean the house, dance, call a friend, or
When you want to eat, consider
whether you’re really hungry or just bored, stressed, or lonely. If you’re not
hungry, distract yourself.
Take it easy at first, but there’s
no reason why most people can’t exercise without reservation.
For example, do you know of David
Goggins? David needed to lose 106 pounds in less than three months to qualify
for Navy Seal training. He ate one meal a day and exercised for several hours
every single day. He was successful and became a Navy Seal.
It might feel a little intimidating to begin intermittent fasting. The most important aspects are just getting started and avoiding the need for perfection.
It might take some time to find the right eating/fasting schedule that works best for you. Be patient and do your best to enjoy the process.
“The closer food looks to the way it is in nature, the better you can tell that it's nutritious, and a good part of a healthful diet, which along with exercise can promote overall health.”
- Margaret Cuomo
Can I eat whatever I want during my eating window?
You can, but just because you’re eating in a narrower window than
before doesn’t mean that food quality doesn’t matter.
You will see benefits from
intermittent fasting even if you eat the same foods you normally eat. However, higher-quality food will yield
Avoid the belief that you can now
eat a lot of junk and still see significant benefits.
What can I consume during my fasting period?
Ideally water. Diet drinks, plain tea, and coffee are all calorie
free and acceptable. Anything with calories is best avoided.
What is the best eating schedule?
The best eating schedule is the one that you will best adhere to.
If I follow 16:8, what is the best time of day for my 8-hour eating window?
Again, the best schedule
is the one that you’ll adhere to.
● The second answer is to eat earlier in the day.
The body’s digestive system is believed to have a circadian rhythm
like your sleep cycle. Your body is best at digesting and assimilating food in
the morning. You’ll also be less likely to affect your sleep if you eat earlier
in the day.
How should I manage hunger while fasting?
Here are a few tips:
● Remind yourself that you’ll be eating before too long.
● Remind yourself that what you’re doing is good for your health.
● Drink a big glass of water.
Distract yourself in any way you
can that isn’t unhealthy. For example, smoking isn’t the best option here.
In the world of intermittent
fasting, fasting for an entire weekend without food is fine if your doctor is
Will I lose muscle from intermittent fasting?
Most studies show that intermittent fasting has no impact on lean
body mass. A few studies show minimal lean body mass losses, while others
show minimal gains.
If your muscle mass is affected, it will be inconsequential.
“The only way to keep your health is to eat what you don't want, drink what you don't like, and do what you'd rather not.”- Mark Twain
Those that have been intermittent fasting successfully for years have a lot of tips to pass along to others who want to be successful.
A few additional bits of knowledge might make all the difference.
Below you will find the most common tips from the experts.
Keep these tips in mind to maximize the odds of success:
Have a glass of water every few
hours. If you can’t stand the thought of drinking water, choose another
“The best way to lose weight is to close your mouth - something very difficult for a politician. Or watch your food - just watch it, don't eat it.”
- Ed Koch
Intermittent fasting is a more natural way of eating than the current custom in North America and most of the world.
Our bodies weren’t designed to consume food from early in the day until late at night.
There are a lot of benefits to eating inside of a smaller window of time.
The benefits of intermittent fasting are a result of the metabolic changes that occur. The major changes include:
● Better insulin sensitivity
● Lower blood sugar levels
● Less inflammation
● Increased fat burning
These changes also lead to lower body weight which is a healthy step for most of the population.
The benefits you can expect to receive are numerous:
● Lower body weight and lower body fat levels
● Decreased risk of many diseases
● Increased longevity
● Eating fewer meals leads to more free time
There are a few groups of people that might not be suited to intermittent fasting. If you fall into one of these groups, have a chat with your physician.
The benefits gained from intermittent fasting are worth a visit to your doctor.
Choose the best eating/fasting schedule for your life and your personality.
Sticking with this style of eating is more important than the specific schedule you choose.
They’re ultimately all a path to the same destination.
If you’d like to be healthier, intermittent fasting is an idea worth considering. If you have any questions or concerns, talk with your doctor and keep researching online.
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