What is Intermittent Fasting?
Intermittent fasting or time-restricted fasting is when you follow a schedule of when you eat (and when you don’t eat) during the day.
Instead of focusing on what you eat, this dietary practice helps you focus on when to eat so that you have more freedom to enjoy the foods you currently have in your diet.
There are a number of different approaches to intermittent fasting such as the twice-a-week method (5:2), alternate-day fasting (ADF), one meal a day (OMAD), periodic 24-hour fasts, and intermittent fasts that create eating windows of different durations most commonly 20:4 (fast:eat), 18:6, and 16:8 intermittent fasting.
What Does Intermittent Fasting Do For Your Body?
Intermittent fasting is a gift to your body if you decide to give it a shot. It re-educates your hormones to return to more regulated functioning and can help lose weight over time (if that’s something your body needs).
If you practice intermittent fasting consistently, it can help blood glucose, blood pressure, and liver function markers to normalize. It can also be used as a preventive tool against heart disease, strokes, cancer, fatty liver, polycystic ovarian syndrome, and Alzheimer’s disease (Trepanowski et al., 2017).
For those who sustainably integrate an intermittent fasting practice into their lives, over time it can help manage type-2 diabetes and even obesity. Experimental and clinical studies show that intermittent fasting leads to improvements in insulin sensitivity and glucose control (MP Mattson, VD Longo, M Harvie, 2017).
Amongst men, it has been shown to lower insulin levels and blood pressure while improving insulin sensitivity without losing or gaining any weight (Sutton et al., 2018).
Health Benefits of 16:8 Intermittent Fasting Rules
Dr. Frank Lipman, an internationally recognized functional medicine doctor, recommends intermittent fasting using the 16:8 approach to realize the majority of benefits – that means you eat for an 8-hour window and fast for the other 16 hours.
This is the best place for most people to start, since it may take some time to adjust when implementing these intermittent fasting rules in your routine. Basically, you eat for an 8-hour window and fast for the other 16 hours. (And in the next section, we discuss how you can slowly phase intermittent fasting into your routine!)
There are so many benefits to trying intermittent fasting. Your blood levels of natural human growth hormone (HGH) can increase which promotes fat burning and weight loss as well as muscle gain.
Your body also enhances its resistance to oxidative stress, which if left unchecked can lead to atherosclerosis, cancer, diabetes, rheumatoid arthritis, and so much more (Ahmed et al., 2019).
As if you might need more reasons to try it, intermittent fasting can help fight inflammation, which is also another common cause of other diseases.
It takes about 10 days of intermittent fasting to notice a difference in your energy levels. You’ll feel more energized and upbeat throughout the day.
How Long Should You Plan to Intermittent Fast
If you’re new to intermittent fasting, fasting for 16 hours/day multiple days per week can be intimidating. Rest assured, you can start with a smaller commitment just a few days per week, and slowly work your way to both longer fasting windows as doing so more days each week.
Dr. Frank Lipman’s intermittent fasting rules are baked into his How To Be Well Health Program on MasterHealth.
Starting point: His plan suggests a good starting point for intermittent fasting for most people to be 3 fasts per week for 14 hours per fast.
Minimum effective amount: Dr. Lipman’s minimum recommended starting point to get any real benefit is 3 fasts per week for 12 hours per fast. This is a perfectly good place to start!
Mastering the habit: Dr. Lipman’s MasterHealth program monitors your consistency and makes recommendations over time to make small, incremental changes to your fasting windows or frequency until you reach 7 daily fasts for 16 hours per fast and maintain an 8-hour eating window.
But remember… Go at your own pace. Sometimes you need to take a small step back to get further adjusted before you can move forward, and this isn’t a race. Consistency is key and you will reap its rewards.
Can I Eat Breakfast When Fasting?
It all depends on your fasting strategy since you get to choose which times you eat and those that you fast. With all this flexibility, you could choose to skip breakfast, skip dinner, or just shift around your core meal times.
Dr. Lipman’s 16:8 intermittent fasting rules suggest fasting for 16 hours overnight from evening to morning and eating for an 8-hour window during the day.
Here are a few strategies that you can consider:
You can choose any 8 hours during the day to eat, and for this, you simply skip breakfast. You can eat for 8 hours from 11 am to 7 pm.
If you wake up earlier and have a lot to do earlier in the day, eat earlier. An option you can try is to eat breakfast as soon as you can in the morning, and then skip dinner that night. You can try eating from 7 am to 3 pm.
Don’t skip anything!
You still have the option to eat three meals a day. Just eat breakfast a little later in the morning, and eat dinner a little earlier. As long as you take a break for 16 hours, you are following the 16:8 intermittent fasting rules.
Ultimately, you should experiment to figure out what works best for you.
What Can You Drink While Intermittent Fasting?
Yes, you can drink water while fasting! When fasting for 16 hours, staying hydrated is very important, and that means drinking water.
Drinking water doesn’t affect your blood sugar or insulin levels, so you can safely drink water while following these 16:8 intermittent fasting rules. Water can also help you feel full, especially in the last couple of hours of the fasting period.
While fasting, you can drink a number of other fluids that don’t have any calories or invoke a blood sugar response.
Can I drink coffee or tea while intermittent fasting?
Aside from water, you may be able to drink black coffee, unsweetened tea, or any other beverage that doesn’t have calories.
They can give you an energy boost if you need it at any point during your fast. When drinking coffee or tea, you have to make sure that there is no sugar, milk, cream, sweeteners, or anything of the sort to ensure you’re sticking to no calories.
If you get food cravings, try diluting apple cider vinegar with water and drinking it to keep them at ease and give you the sense of feeling “full” (Lim et al., 2016).
Intermittent Fasting For Women
There are multiple health benefits to intermittent fasting, but is it any different for women?
For starters, it is best to avoid intermittent fasting if you are pregnant, or breastfeeding.
Intermittent Fasting for Women over 40
Around age 40, women start to notice a difference in their hormone production. Fasting can disrupt the production of estrogen, which leads to hormonal disruptions. This can include mood swings, or in more serious cases, fertility issues (Kumar & Kaur, 2013).
If you are starting to fast after 40 years of age, run a hormone blood panel before so that you know your baseline. After starting, keep checking periodically (every few months) to make sure that intermittent fasting isn’t leading to any major hormone disruptions. It may also be good to discuss with your doctor or fertility specialist if you are planning to conceive.
Intermittent Fasting for Women over 50
For women over 50, intermittent fasting can be such a helpful tool to help them have more control over their bodies. It could help with weight loss, and minimize the chances of developing age-related illnesses, such as cardiovascular disease or hypertension.
Fasting lowers blood pressure by reshaping the gut, which can be beneficial for women over 50 (Rodriguez, 2021). Weight loss can be a major concern for women over 50 because of their metabolism, joint aches, muscle mass decreases, and more.
Will I Lose Weight If I Fast?
Most likely, but not always. Over time, you could lose weight because you will be less tempted to snack after dinner. When using the 16:8 intermittent fasting style your body will turn to stored fat for energy after roughly 16 hours and causing the body to release ketones into the bloodstream, which encourages weight loss (Collier, 2013).
If you are already lean, and you pack in calories during your eating window you can still maintain or even gain weight. However, many people who are overweight or obese (even some who are lean) do tend to lose weight when incorporating intermittent fasting into their routines.
You can notice a difference after just 10 days of following these intermittent fasting rules. However, every body is unique in its own way, and sometimes it can take up to 8-10 weeks (Collier, 2013) before seeing a consistent change in body weight. It all depends on your body and how you react to different methods.
In the first 10 days, your body is going to be adjusting, and a reasonable rate of change to look for could be a pound lost a week. The longer you stick with it, the more visible results you may see – including a difference in your abdominal fat and waist circumference.
Tips on Getting Started
- Start with a modest commitment, and slowly increase how long and how often you’ll fast. We cover the best way to get started in the next section!
- Give your body a month to get used to the intermittent fasting rules. While annoying side effects like constipation, cramps, and headaches can occur during fasting, most often these side effects go away as your body gets used to fasting.
- Stay busy! It keeps your mind off of food and it’s easier to fast if you’re busy with other things during the day.
- You will get hungry at your accustomed meal times, but it will pass. Hunger will come and go like a wave, so you just have to get used to ignoring it. Try replacing the hunger with some water or a no-caloric beverage!
- Stick to a low-carbohydrate, high-fat diet before fasting to make it easier. This will help you feel more full throughout the day.
- Do all your usual activities and continue your usual exercise routine. Eventually, your body will get all the energy it needs from your body fat.
It might be hard to stay on top of something like this because of so many other things you need to worry about: jobs, family, school, time management, etc. Intermittent fasting is something that takes a small tweak to your lifestyle, you don’t have to learn anything new.
Of course, it can be frustrating if you don’t see results right away, but it will be worth it! Over time, you will see results and, everyone will have different results, so you need to find what works for you and your body. Your energy and mood will start improving almost immediately.
It’s Not For Everyone
Intermittent fasting is not indicated for:
- Pregnant or breastfeeding women
- Children under 18
- Malnourished or underweight (BMI<20)
If you are taking medication, consult your doctor or physician.
This post was originally written by MasterHealth and published on MasterHealth.