Medically Reviewed by Dr. Bryan Seigel D.C., P.L.C.
It’s easier than you think to take advantage of the health benefits of intermittent fasting.
Going hungry is good. Millions of grandmothers all over the globe are howling in disagreement, but hang on. Making your grandmother happy (and enjoying some of her delicious chocolate chip cookies) is nice, but might not be the best choice for optimal health.
The world of intermittent fasting
Intermittent fasting, restricted feeding windows, and OMAD are all aiming to accomplish the same thing: improvement in health and biomarkers by letting your body repair your tissues without having to divert energy to digestion and assimilation. It sounds like a magic pill, except the magic is in your own body and you make it happen by avoiding food for a while.
Some people choose intermittent fasting as a method to lose weight, and it seems to be quite effective! While initial theories for weight loss on this way of eating centered around reduced calorie consumption, this has since been proven to be false. Experiments with isocaloric diets (meaning diets that have the same number of calories) showed that those who ate their meals in a restricted timeframe lost more fat and showed greater muscle ratios than those who ate throughout the day.
There are a lot of health benefits of intermittent fasting:
- Decreased oxidative stress
- Improved body composition/fat loss
- Reduces risk of neurodegeneration
- Stimulates autophagy (cellular cleanup and repair)
- Improves insulin sensitivity
- Supports balanced hormones
So what exactly is intermittent fasting (IF)?
The easiest way to get started with IF and to begin seeing some of these benefits is with a circadian fast. This is the easiest type of daily fast. You would choose a 12 hour daylight window to eat in, leaving a few hours before bed when you stop eating. Then you would fast overnight for 12 hours. An example of this is beginning to eat at 7am, and being finished with food for the day at 7pm.
The next step is also the most popular, because it’s an easy and sustainable practice, and it has a shorter eating window. People who choose an IF lifestyle often stick with a 16/8 or 18/6 window, and these are based on personal preference. There isn’t a whole lot of evidence to show much difference in benefits between the two. In these kinds of daily fasts, you would fast for 16 or 18 hours, then eat in an 8 or 6 hour window.
The most strict form of IF is called OMAD – One Meal A Day. If you think this sounds too difficult to try, just think about how easy your meal prep will be, and how much time you’ll save! That’s only a side benefit though. Those who do OMAD tend to get used to it after only a few days, and the practice helps to rewire the way you think about food. This way of eating is exceptional at cutting down on snacking and maximizing nutrient intake (as long as you create a well-formulated ketogenic menu, of course).
Part of the hormone regulation aspect of intermittent fasting results in a rebalancing of ghrelin and leptin, which tell your brain when you should be hungry and when you’re satisfied. This is the root of why you get used to this way of eating so quickly, and why it becomes easy to stick to. You’re no longer thinking about food all the time, and ravenous hunger is tamed.
With these points in your favor, it’s easy to see how people who choose a ketogenic diet and intermittent fasting for weight loss see such dramatic success. It’s great for building muscle too, which we’ll be discussing in another part of this series!