Intermittent Fasting and Your Health — Here’s the Skinny

empty plate with clock and utensils illustrating intermittent fasting

Over the last few years, intermittent fasting has become increasingly popular. Skipping a few meals is not only believed to be good for your waistline but also good for your health. However, are these claims true? And if so, how does intermittent fasting work?

Several types of fasting diets exist, and the information about intermittent fasting can be confusing. But new evidence is beginning to show how and why fasting diets might be good for your health. From your head to your heart, intermittent fasting seems to be ideal for some individuals. If done right, intermittent fasting might just let you live a happier and healthier life.

First Things First — What is Intermittent Fasting?

Fasting has been around since the beginning of humanity. Of course, back in the Stone Age, fasting diets were likely forced on our ancestors simply because food was not as abundant. (If only there were grocery stores around!) Today, fasting diets are a choice. Some people fast for spiritual reasons, and others in an attempt to lose weight. Fasting diets though might actually be a means to improve your health.

Intermittent fasting relates to fasting diets where regular periods of fasting occur. You skip meals for hours to days at a time followed by your normal eating routine. Overall, there are three main types of intermittent fasting diets:

guide to intermittent fasting
Download the FREE Guide to Intermittent Fasting!

Alternate Day Fasting:

This pattern of fasting is exactly like it sounds…fast one day, eat the next.

The 5:2 Fasting Diet:

In this diet, one eats normally for five days and then fasts for two Typically, however, the fasting days reduce calorie intake to about 25 percent of the normal diet rather than eliminate food altogether.

Time-Restricted Fasting:

Time-restricted means you concentrate your eating into a few hours of the day and fast the rest of the time. Ideally, 10 to 16 hours of fasting each day.

Does Intermittent Fasting Make You Healthier?

For years now, skeptics have doubted the benefits of intermittent fasting. Though research involving lab animals looked to be promising, studies on people were previously pretty rare.  Recent research involving actual human beings, however, is now showing the benefits of fasting diets. Here are some of the ways intermittent fasting can lead to a higher quality of life:

  1. Lowers Risk for Diabetes. If your fasting diet allows at least 10 hours of fasting at a time, then this can reduce your chances of diabetes. With diabetes, many individuals have insulin resistance where their cells do not respond as well to the hormone. When fasting, insulin and blood glucose levels can drop much lower. As a result, your cells become more sensitive to insulin and require less of it to function well. Thus, your chances for developing diabetes (insulin resistance) is less.
  2. Enhances Brain Function. Intermittent fasting has been shown to help memory and learning. Researchers believe fasting diets impose mild stress on your system. Just like vigorous exercise, this stress can be helpful when combined with adequate recovery time. When it comes to your brain, fasting has been shown to release various proteins and hormones that protect your brain’s cells. In fact, not only is memory and learning improved, but intermittent fasting may reduce risks for Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s diseases.
  3. Increases Longevity. Some studies show that lifespan can increase for those on fasting diets. Overall, intermittent fasting appears to reduce oxidative stress in the body. This, in turn, makes it less likely to develop chronic diseases like heart disease and may deter some cancers. The bottom line is that fasting diets appear to improve both the quality and length of life on average.
  4. Leads to Weight Loss. Some studies suggest intermittent fasting is no better than other diets when it comes to weight loss, but the devil’s in the details. The key to any fasting diet is not to make up for lost time when you resume eating. In other words, eating a healthy diet with plenty of fruits and vegetables is important. If you include healthy eating with fasting diets, your ability to shed some pounds increases substantially.

Fasting Diets — Best Practices

Intermittent fasting comes with a few precautions to consider. Notably, it helps to avoid binging when your fasting period comes to an end. Binge eating, especially unhealthy foods, can undermine all the positive health effects fasting diets provide. Likewise, regardless of your fasting diet type, you should avoid eating in the evening and before bedtime. This not only helps promote better health but better sleep as well.  Giving attention to the factors just mentioned will help you get the most out of fasting.

While intermittent fasting is not for everyone, it can be beneficial in many ways. Try to pick a diet type that best fits your lifestyle. This will help you sustain good habits. Also, fasting should be avoided if you have diabetes, are pregnant, or have an eating disorder. With these best practices, you will likely find intermittent fasting improves your energy, your mind, and your quality of life.

Interested in trying intermittent fasting, but don’t know where to start? Download the free Beginner’s Guide (including a checklist for success) to get you started.

About the Author

Dawna is a mom of two young kids, puppy lover, ice cream lover, chocolate lover, and lover of any ice cream with chunks of chocolate in it. She is the author of seven books, a business owner, certified health coach, motivational speaker, and creator of the 5-Day Detox and the 14-Day Clean-Eating Program. Dawna appears regularly on local and national television. She has appeared on the Today show, Martha, MSNBC, HSN, and morning news programs on NBC, CBS, ABC, and Fox. Dawna is a highly sought-after speaker and has done speaking engagements for Chobani, Disney, American Heart Association, Mass Mutual, Wharton Business School, Women’s Entertainment Television, PGA Tour, Super Bowl Leadership Forum, Susan G. Komen, and many more.
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