Does Intermittent Fasting Work?
Many of our patients ask us, “Does intermittent fasting work?” Questions like this are common now that fasting is gaining more attention in the United States. The short answer is yes, but it must be done properly to achieve the best results. Almost anybody can fast for brief periods of time, as long as they consult their physician first. Here we explore intermittent fasting in greater detail to give you a better understanding of this fascinating subject.
Fasting simply means not consuming calories for a certain amount of time. It’s often done as a spiritual practice or a form of medical therapy. Fasting has been practiced for thousands of years by almost every culture and religion throughout history.
Intermittent fasting has come into the spotlight over the past few years. It often involves limiting your caloric intake to a brief window of time, often 8 hours or less per day. Many prominent voices are rediscovering and sharing the numerous benefits of this ancient tradition with their audiences.
There are many benefits of intermittent fasting. Animal studies suggest it may reduce risk factors associated with a wide variety of age-related conditions such as diabetes, cancer, cardiovascular disease, and neurological disorders. Fasting can also be an effective method for healthy weight loss, hormone and hunger regulation, reducing oxidative stress, as well as improving memory and symptoms of aging.
Everybody fasts for a few hours as they sleep overnight. This is why we call the first meal of the day “breakfast.” Intermittent fasting takes this a step further by adding an additional 2-6 hours of fasting after waking and before sleeping. The exact ratio of eating to fasting hours (or days) can vary widely depending on one’s needs and goals. However, we often recommend that our patients begin with a 16/8 scenario where they limit their food intake to only 8 hours per day.
How Does Intermittent Fasting Work?
Intermittent fasting works for various reasons. It’s one of the best ways to naturally regulate your hormonal rhythms and promote a healthy metabolism. The human body simply isn’t meant to consume calories at all hours of the day and night.
Fasting involves going for long periods of time without eating. This may sound hard at first, but once your body adapts, it becomes quite easy. One of the main goals of fasting is to keep your insulin levels low. This allows your body to access its fat stores for energy instead of the calories contained in food. As a result, the body becomes more sensitive to insulin, which improves glucose metabolism in the future. Insulin resistance, by contrast, often associates with obesity, diabetes, and blood sugar fluctuations.
Another primary benefit of some longer intermittent fasts is autophagy. Simply put, this process is like cellular recycling. It’s an element of your body’s natural healing mechanism that disposes of pathogens, damaged proteins, and cellular waste. Many studies document the effects of fasting on autophagy, and the data shows a clear correlation. It may play a significant role in slowing symptoms of aging by reducing inflammation, oxidative damage, and dysfunctional cells.
While everyone’s body is different, we recommend at least an 18-hour fast to promote autophagy and insulin sensitivity. Other options include alternate-day or “one meal a day” (OMAD) fasts that add up to nearly 24 hours without calories.
Intermittent fasting is one method of healthy weight management. There are countless ways to fast, but many people choose to restrict meals to only a few hours each day. During a fast, you can consume unlimited coffee, tea, water, and some forms of bone broth that replenish salt levels. In some cases, drinking coffee may even improve autophagy during a fast.
Remember to always keep fluid intake high throughout, and proper salt intake will also guard against dizziness, headaches, and other unpleasant symptoms. When breaking your fast, please don’t overdo it! Simply eat your favorite fruit or a normal-sized meal.
Intermittent fasting does work, and it’s one of the easiest ways to lose weight, reduce inflammation, and improve various symptoms of aging. Consult your physician or contact us directly for more information. We’d be happy to help you develop a plan to suit your unique needs and goals.
Aceso Total Health P.C.
7160 S. 29th St., Suite 7
Lincoln, NE 68516
Based in Lincoln, NE, our patient - centered, healthcare experience is integrated, proactive and personalized, leading to a more balanced and happier you.