What is Intermittent Fasting? (And should you try it?)

Pip Jarvis
intermittent fasting clock

The 5:2 Diet, 16/8 method, alternate day fasting, Warrior Diet… With a variety of methods and catchy titles, there’s no denying intermittent fasting is one of the biggest wellness trends in recent years. But what is intermittent fasting, exactly? And what does it do?

If you’re ever considered skipping your morning meal to optimise your health, read on. The Alignment Studio’s Nutritional Therapist, Tara Doherty, explains the basics, benefits and best practices of fasting.

What is intermittent Fasting?

Intermittent fasting is time-restricted eating, in some form on a regular basis and is one of the most important steps we can take to achieve healthy ageing.

Intermittent fasting has definitely become a topic of extreme interest recently and is a very normal, natural and healthy thing to do. Food hasn’t always been so readily available. Historically, we had no choice but to fast on a relatively frequent basis and consequently, our bodies designed ways to adapt and thrive in times of scarcity.

Benefits of intermittent Fasting

In my experience, intermittent fasting can definitely turn your health around and set you firmly on the path to longevity. The current access to an overabundance of food is so recent that our body hasn’t caught up with the changes and is struggling to cope with the excessive amounts of food we now consume. We have not evolved to handle three meals a day, with snacks in between.

• Improves mental clarity and concentration
• Helps with weight loss
• Lowers blood sugar and improves insulin sensitivity
• Improves fat-burning
• Lowers blood cholesterol
• Helps prevent Alzheimer’s disease
• Decreases inflammation

Intermittent Fasting Protocols

Intermittent fasting restricts when you eat, rather than what you eat. You can try fasting once a week to begin with to get your body accustomed to the process. The best way to do this is to stop eating at 7pm and then start eating again at 7am the following day. Most of the time you are sleeping so it’s not such a stretch. Gradually increase the number of days each week and then begin to shrink your eating window.

Personally, I use intermittent fasting in a 15-9 pattern, meaning each day my eating window is approximately 9 hours and then I fast the other 15 hours. Some people choose to increase to 16-8; however, we are all biologically unique and we need to listen to our bodies.

Another intermittent fasting regime many people benefit from is the 5:2 diet, whereby you are calorie restricted for two days and eat whatever you like for the balance of the week. Or the Eat/Stop/Eat option which requires a day of normal eating, followed by a day of fasting (<500cal).

Whichever fasting regime you follow, the key is to start slowly, increasing your fasting periods over time, in a methodical manner.

Intermittent fasting & Exercise

When first beginning to fast, you may need to modify your exercise routine and only take yoga or Pilates on your intermittent fasting days.

For those who are already combining fasting with exercising, benefits can be found by burst training, directly after fasting and before eating, for between five and thirty minutes. The combination of intermittent fasting and high intensity exercise may assist with reducing accelerated ageing, cancer and Alzheimer’s disease. In addition, exercise helps gets your blood sugar under control and helps you build more muscle.

Supporting intermittent fasting with good nutrition

Choosing nutrient-dense foods after the fasting period is critical for overall health. A fast should be supported by eating foods that are high in fibre, vitamins, minerals and other nutrients to help keep blood sugar levels steady. Keeping well hydrated is also critical and a factor which is often ignored while fasting.

Before starting intermittent fasting…

Whether you want to fast or not, always remember that an integrated approach is essential for optimal health. This means incorporating physical exercise and stress management, optimising sleep, reducing toxins and maintaining a healthy gut.

People who have malabsorption, are at risk of low blood sugar or have other medical conditions, should seek the advice of their doctor before starting a fasting protocol.

To learn more about intermittent fasting and healthy ageing, book an integrative nutrition appointment with Tara today!

Want more nutrition info? Read this article on following an anti-inflammatory diet.

Disclaimer: This blog is for general informational purposes only and does not constitute the practice of medicine, nursing or other professional health care services, including the giving of medical advice, and no health care provider/patient relationship is formed. The use of information on this blog or materials linked from this blog is at the user’s own risk. The content of this blog is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Users should not disregard, or delay in obtaining, medical advice for any medical condition they may have, and should seek the assistance of their health care professionals for any such conditions.

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