Intermittent Fasting Update

Intermittent fasting, or the “fasting mimicking diet” is slowly gaining credibility and hard evidence for its effectiveness not only in weight loss, but also in improvements in cardiovascular fitness, immune function, diabetes 2, longevity, and mood.

There are several ways to fast intermittently, including daily patterns, such as 8:16, in which you eat during an 8-hour window, and not at all during the other 16 hours, or simply prolonging the usual nighttime fast for up to 12 or 13 hours.

Other patterns include what is called 5:2, meaning that you eat normally for five days each week and have a severely restricted 500 or 600 calorie diet on two non-consecutive days.  As usual, there are some people who have become enthusiasts and fast for 20 hours or more at a time.  

The research currently available doesn’t support going to extremes, but rather “trusting our bodies” as dietician Aisling Pigott points out.  “Hypervigilance towards weight  and very strict rules around foods are not appropriate for people with a history of eating disorders.”  We shouldn’t be looking for a magic key or the latest fad diet, but rather getting back to the basics of nourishing and fueling our bodies.

Prolonged fasting can have knock-on effects on other areas, such as exercise, which burns protein, so that if you haven’t eaten in a while, you should go slow on major exercise routines, and be sure to eat some protein afterwards.  Almost all experts agree that not eating for at least three hours before going to bed at night can help you get better sleep.  But again, every body is different, so try out starting slow and see how it works for you.

As with any lifestyle change, intermittent fasting should not be thought of as a “quick fix”.  Improving diet and circadian rhythms is meant to be a change to how you will live the rest of your life, so work up to it slowly and take on what you think you can keep doing for the long haul.  After all, if you’re increasing your longevity, you have to be doing something you want to be doing for many years to come!