The Health Benefits of Intermittent Fasting
Intermittent fasting (I.F.) is receiving a lot of attention in the news and social media these days. What has long been a traditional practice in many religions and cultures is now gaining recognition for its potential health benefits, including heart health. This article by Dr. David Jockers, a well-known natural medicine doctor, caught our attention. It outlines some of the benefits of intermittent fasting. Given how much attention I.F. is receiving, we thought we’d take a closer look.
NOTE: Before you begin any new health or fitness program, including intermittent fasting, you should discuss it with your physician. What works for one person might not be advisable for another!
What Is Intermittent Fasting?
Fasting is the practice of not eating any food for a certain number of hours in the 24-hour cycle of a day. As Dr. Jockers states in his article, fasting has been practiced for thousands of years for religious and spiritual reasons. In recent years, it has received more attention for the role it might play in healthy weight loss, as discussed in this article from Harvard Medical School researchers.
I.F. can allow the insulin levels to go down far enough and for long enough that the body can begin to burn off fat.
Recent research seems to indicate that when you fast makes a difference. You need to limit the hours of when you eat. Researchers have found that for fasting be most effective, you should eat earlier in the day, ideally between 7 am to 3 pm, or even 10 am to 6 pm. It would be best if you did not eat in the evening before bedtime. You may consume non-caloric drinks such as tea or water.
Heart benefits of I.F.:
In his article, Dr. Jockers states that I.F. can improve heart health in several substantive ways;
- Decreases Inflammation and Oxidative Stress
- Improves Mitochondrial Health
- Enhances Insulin Sensitivity
- Improves Cholesterol & Triglycerides
- Burns Excess Body Fat
- Repairs Dysfunctional Cells
- Improves Blood Pressure
- Strengthens Blood Vessels
How to start intermittent fasting:
If you’re ready to try I.F., we suggest you start slowly with shorter periods of fasting and work your way up gradually. Below we summarize Dr. Jocker’s recommendations. We recommend you review these to understand the process and then visit his article for more comprehensive guidance.
Again, remember to discuss I.F. with your personal physician to determine if it’s right for your body and health needs. Women, especially, need to talk to their physicians before they undertake more advanced I.F. practices.
Simple Fast: Fasting for 12 hours with a 12-hour eating window. The 12-hour fast includes your overnight sleep, it’s easier to follow. It starts from the time you finish dinner until breakfast the next morning. You can increase your fasting to 14-hours if, after one to two weeks, you find your body tolerates it well.
Cycle Fast: This is a more advanced form of fasting with a 16-hour fasting window and done just three times a week. Pick your three days of the week that will be most convenient for your lifestyle. If you finish dinner at 6 pm, you will not eat again until 10 am the next day.
Strong Fast: This increases your fasting to a 16-18-hour daily fasting window. It’s an advanced form of fasting and is not for everyone. If you finish dinner at 6 pm, you won’t eat again until noon the next day.
A few tips of Dr. Jockers’ tips for I.F.:
- Stay well hydrated.
- Add a pinch of salt to replace electrolytes.
- Eat enough to meet your calorie and nutrient requirements.
- Make sure to get plenty of good quality sleep.
- Exercise regularly.
- Reduce your stress levels.
- I.F. is a lifestyle choice.