Some of my clients have been talking about the benefits of intermittent fasting for quite some time, but I always made a self-deprecating joke to get out of the uncomfortable idea of ‘dieting’. There was no way I was going to miss a meal! Until…one of my best friends showed me the cutest app on her phone and told me that she’d been fasting. She persuaded me to download it and “try it for one day”, and ever since then I’ve been hooked (Fastic). Basically, I use it as a timer and haven’t felt the need to upgrade to the paid version where it tracks a ton of other things.
When I realized how easy it was to fast and that it was a way to maintain and lose weight, I wanted to learn about the health benefits. So here we are…
Unexpected Benefits of Intermittent Fasting
The benefits of intermittent fasting are vast and unexpected. A comprehensive review, published in the New England Journal of Medicine, found that intermittent fasting improves stress response, increases lifespan, decreases the incidence of cancer and obesity. Researchers have found that the simple act of fasting has a dramatic effect on reducing inflammation. This in turn can reduce the effects of inflammatory conditions, such as arthritis or asthma.
Perhaps most exciting is the effect it has on our internal repair systems; at the cellular level, intermittent fasting triggers a switch from a growth (anabolic) state to favor maintenance and repair. During this state, your cells prioritize the removal of toxins, DNA repair, stress resistance, and improved antioxidant defenses. All together, these benefits can improve quality of life well beyond weight loss. Intermittent fasting comes with a vast number of benefits ranging from improved memory and cognition to cardiovascular protection and improved healing.
When your body is functioning optimally, it shows in your skin. This is because your skin is in a constant state of repair as it battles the elements. UV light, clogged pores, and dryness are all stressors that can cause your skin to look less than ideal. Intermittent fasting puts your cells in the position to fight off these stressors and promote a state of healing and recovery.
How Insulin Impacts our Bodies
Insulin impacts how our bodies handle sugar. If you eat carbohydrates (grains, rice, flour) they are converted into simple sugars for energy. Insulin, a hormone made by the pancreas, brings sugars into your cells. If these sugars are not used, they are converted to fat and stored.
Between meals, your insulin levels go down. When this happens, your cells burn their stored sugars and fats for energy. If this happens long enough, you can lose weight.
Say for example you eat 3 meals a day and you’re not a healthy eater. Intermittent fasting could help with your overall health because it restricts your caloric-intake window. In other words, if you only eat two meals per day, you simply have less time to consume extra calories.
Having reduced insulin levels can actually help to improve the skin; constant high levels of insulin not only contribute to type II diabetes and polycystic ovarian syndrome (PCOS), it can also lead to acne, skin tags, and oily skin.
Ghrelin is the hunger hormone. This hormone is usually released a few minutes before eating, causing you to get hungry. Because ghrelin turns on your appetite, it can also cause you to gain weight. This hormone is released on a cycle throughout the day. Fasting can disrupt this cycle, causing you to feel less hungry.
Types of Intermittent Fasting
There are 6 common types of intermittent fasting that you can learn about to see which one suits you. The one I have chosen is the 16/8 which means I have my last meal by 7pm and I don’t eat again until 11am or later the next day. As I mentioned earlier, I don’t want to miss a meal, but I’ve found that I cannot possibly eat as much food as I used to simply because there aren’t enough hours in the eating window. Since I use the countdown method I’m motivated to continue fasting until I reach the 16th hour.
What Can You Drink During Intermittent Fasting
You can drink water, coffee or tea during the fasting window, but you cannot have any additives that are caloric, like these:
- A squeeze of lemon has 1 calorie
- 1 oz of 2% milk has 15 calories
- 1 sugar cube has 15 calories
If you truly want your body to go into ketosis you must forgo anything with calories. You could add a natural spice for flavor, e.g., cinnamon or nutmeg. My mom uses a natural sweetener called Pure Monk Fruit in her coffee which does not have calories. She also swears that this particular one doesn’t have an aftertaste.
Intermittent fasting is something to discuss with a doctor if you’re going to stick with it long-term. You’ll also want to be careful not to restrict your calorie intake too much. Problems can arise if you’re not taking in enough calories.