Have you heard of this? I was waiting for Barre class to start this morning, and I overheard two women discussing intermittent fasting and one of the women explained that’s why she looked like she had lost some weight. I apologized to them for eavesdropping, but I was curious and wanted to know more. Just last week, I had a been asked by a friend if I knew anything about intermittent fasting.
I recently completed my training and certification in Nutrition and Wellness Counseling, and I learned the nutrition basics and all about how our digestion system works and the mechanics of our body’s processing of carbohydrates into energy. My textbooks did not address intermittent fasting, so I turned to the world wide web to learn more.
Apparently, Intermittent Fasting (IF) is a new-ish thing that is becoming more popular and has, of course, spawned diet plans and books with detailed instructions. The basic premise is that by putting your body in a state of “fasting”, you allow your fat cells to release their stored sugar to use for energy. The way IF works is that it allows the insulin levels to go down far enough and for long enough that we burn off our fat.
The evidence is varied regarding how many hours you need to fast. Most experts agree that anything less that 13 hours is ineffective. Some fasting plans say you need a ratio of 16:8–meaning you must fast for 16 hours and can only eat during an 8 hour window. That seems quite restrictive, and it should be noted that during that 8 hours, you have to make sure you are fueling your body with whole foods–fruits, vegetables, unrefined grains (brown rice, whole wheat breads) and that you are not exceeding a reasonable caloric limit. In other words, if you consume 4,000 calories in 8 hours, you most likely won’t lose weight (unless you’re a high performance athlete).
Several other questions come to mind with such a plan. Can you have anything to drink during the fasting hours? One study that I read stated that as long as the beverage is under 50 calories, then it’s ok. So, if you add a splash of milk to your morning coffee, it shouldn’t “break” the fasting state. I then came across this YouTube video that discusses acceptable beverages that you can drink during your fast, and according to this video, milk is NOT allowed. And if you are a morning exerciser-it’s recommended to do your workout just before you are scheduled to eat.
And now back to the woman at Barre class today. The “faster” that I spoke with said she has been working up to a longer fast-16 hours and that she can’t say that she has lost any weight, but she (and her friends) have commented that she looks more toned and fit. She did admit to me that she actually “cheats” her fast by drinking an airborne drink, which she says gives her some energy. After hearing that, I can’t say I’m exactly sold on the whole IF phenomenon.
After reading a few studies on IF, I’m not sure if it is the right choice for me. My goal is to not eat after dinner, which enables me to have (most days) a12 hour fast. I agree that there can be some benefits of keeping your insulin levels low throughout the day by not snacking between meals. Of course, none of this should be done without first consulting your doctor; especially if you have any medical conditions or take any medications.
The truth is that striving to eat a balanced diet-full of fruits, vegetables and whole unprocessed foods should be the standard for all of us. In the long run, it’s important to find what works for you but keep in mind that you should eat in a way that is sustainable in the long run. There’s no such thing as a quick fix when it comes to your health and well being.
See you in the produce aisle!