One of the latest get-healthy-and-fit trends generating buzz is intermittent fasting. As with all things trendy, it promises to offer a definitive cure to all your health needs. You may even be hearing about it first-hand from friends, family, and followers. What’s the deal with this health trend? Is it truly something we should all do to optimize our health, or is it yet another overpromise that we can expect to be here today and gone tomorrow?
What is Intermittent Fasting?
Intermittent fasting utilizes a repeating cycle of fasting and eating in an attempt to achieve health benefits. There are a variety of approaches and theories about intermittent fasting, but all of them break up the day or week into defined periods of fasting and eating.
Possibly the most straightforward intermittent fasting strategy involves lengthening the period between dinner and the following day’s breakfast—since you’re likely to sleep through most of it. With this model, you may eat your last meal of the day at 8 p.m., and then not eat again until noon the next day, although you can consume non-caloric beverages, including water, black coffee, or tea. In this way, you fast for 16 hours.
What are the Promised Benefits of Intermittent Fasting?
Those who advocate for intermittent fasting tout such health benefits as weight loss, improved metabolism, a reduced chance of developing cancer and other diseases including heart disease, type 2 diabetes, and Alzheimer’s disease, and longevity.
When we experience a prolonged period without food, our bodies’ processes change to protect us until our next meal. Those process changes include hormone regulation, cellular repair, and even genetic reactions. During a fast, we also experience a reduction in insulin and blood sugar levels and an increase in human growth hormone.
Is Intermittent Fasting Safe?
The Harvard School of Public Health reports that while studies of periodic calorie restrictions in animals have been shown to increase lifespan and improve reactions to metabolic stress, there have been less definitively conclusive results from human studies. One risk of intermittent fasting is that a participant will overeat during non-fasting periods to compensate after a period of feeling hungry. If a primary goal of the fast is weightloss, such behavior can result in cumulatively higher calorie consumption, thus impeding the intended weight loss.
How Can I Tell if I Should Try Intermittent Fasting?
As with all diet and exercise routines, do not attempt to make any changes without first consulting your doctor. He or she will explain to you what your specific benefits and potential risks may be of intermittent fasting. Whether your goals are weight loss, longevity, or mitigating the risk of developing a catastrophic condition, your doctor will work with you to put a safe and effective health and wellness plan in place that you can execute together.