You may have heard of intermittent fasting as a way to support your overall health and weight loss goals.. But what is intermittent fasting, and what are the true health benefits and risks?
Read on to learn more about what intermittent fasting is and how it works.
Spotlight On Diet And Eating Habits: What Is Intermittent Fasting?
When you hear the word fasting, it’s easy to shudder and think, “I don’t want to go hungry.”
Here’s the thing: People who embrace intermittent fasting often report that it actually gives them more energy.1
This is because intermittent fasting mimics the way our ancestors ate adapted to eating. Food was never guaranteed at set meal times or days of the week, so people went through periods of fasting until food was available again. During the summer and fall, foods were plentiful and we ate fruit in order to store fat for the winter. Come winter, less foods were in season and many animals were tucked away.
As a result of these times of sparse food, our bodies have evolved to go long periods in between meals, especially during the winter. But thanks to modern advancements in technology and agriculture, this is not the case anymore. We tend to eat much more than we need to and all too often.
So what does Dr. Gundry suggest? Intermittent fasting.
Intermittent fasting works by cycling between periods of eating and fasting. By not eating during a set schedule, our bodies may be able to run more efficiently and we might be able to optimize our health.
Let’s take a look.
Intermittent Fasting: What Really Happens When You Fast And What Are The Results?
Fasting And Weight Loss
When you fast, your body is forced to switch from running on glucose to another source. So, your body starts to convert body fat into fatty acids and then into ketones (chemicals made in your liver) as your new source of energy. This can contribute to weight loss.
In clinical trials, researchers concluded that intermittent fasting was an effective way to lose weight.2 Research also suggests that this intermittent interruption may be the key to balancing metabolism, resulting in greater weight and fat loss.3
Another study looked at intermittent fasting in people with high blood sugar who were also overweight. The patients lost an average of around 15 lbs. over a three-month time period of intermittent fasting. The participants also reported that they found the intermittent fasting eating pattern less restrictive and far easier to follow long-term than other types of diets.4
Fasting And Focus
Why do so many people who embrace intermittent fasting swear they now have more energy, focus, and clarity? Well, the ketosis caused by the body burning ketones has been scientifically linked to some key brain benefits.
Dr. Gundry says, “brain neurons can use two fuels – glucose or ketones. But the little helpers that power energy production in your cells – mitochondria – use a lot less energy when powered by ketones. They can basically extract more energy from fewer resources. The result is that your brain cells are far more efficient at using fuel.”5
According to one study, this switching between glucose and ketones made our ancestors far better equipped to survive. If you could hunt successfully when hungry, you quite simply lived longer.
The scientists also noted that this switching between glucose and ketones appears to support brain function. Though they point out that more fasting isn’t a good thing. It’s the switching between states that works the magic.6
Another clinical study found that intermittent fasting increased biological markers related to brain health and encouraged the growth of new neurons.7
So then how do you go about fasting? Let’s take a look.
The Dr. Gundry Preferred Fasting Method (And More)
During certain times of the year, Dr. Gundry prefers to eat all of his calories during a 2-hour window and fast for the other 22 hours of the day. For some, this may seem extreme or simply unsustainable.
For a more easily sustained fasting method, Dr. Gundry suggests 8:16 fasting. 8:16 fasting works by eating all of your calories during an 8 hours window, say, 10 am to 6 pm. The rest of the time you will fast and only consume water, or unsweetened tea or coffee.
For most people, this method is much easier to follow. You can have lunch and dinner with your family and friends, for example, and still get in your 16-hour fasting period. So, you might be more likely to stick to this kind of diet.
Other popular fasting methods include:
1. The Eat-Stop-Eat Method: You completely fast from eating for a full 24-hour period once or twice a week.
2. The 5:2 Method: For five days a week, your eating schedule is normal. Then, you restrict yourself to 500-600 calories on the other two days.
3. The Crescendo Method: You fast for just a few days per week. You can view this as alternate-day fasting. So, you don’t eat for 12 to 16 hours a day, every other day. You never fast on consecutive days.8,9
If you are interested in giving intermittent fasting a try, talk to your doctor about whether or not it is a good option for you.
Potential Risks Of An Intermittent Fasting Diet: Healthy Caloric Intake, Insulin Levels, And More
So, are there any risks that come with an intermittent fasting diet?
Well, to begin with, you should always talk to your doctor before embracing this kind of routine.
Secondly, there’s always a danger when restricting your calorie intake that you’ll then turn to overeating when food is finally placed before you. How many times have you been starving, only to go crazy eating twice as much food once you were able? Your appetite can go into overdrive after being deprived.
For some people, skipping meals or limiting calories in their diet can be dangerous. Especially for those on certain medications, those with insulin issues, and expectant mothers.10
So, again, always talk to your doctor before you make any drastic changes in your eating plan.
Intermittent Fasting Results: A New Way Of Eating
The benefits of intermittent fasting are certainly exciting and, if you embrace an intermittent fasting way of eating (like the 8:16 method), they’re not necessarily that restrictive.
But like any diet plan, intermittent fasting may take some getting used to. Just remember, our bodies know how to handle hunger and feeling a little hungry (especially during the winter) can actually be good for you.
So, give it a chance and commit to eating this way for at least a few weeks. Start off slow by simply going a few extra hours in between meals and then gradually increasing the length of your fast. A fasting buddy can be really helpful as well if you live with someone that’s also keen to give it a try. You’ll likely both start to notice amazing health benefits. Just remember to keep your doctor in the loop.