From the moment you finish your nighttime snack until breakfast the next day, you can reduce your insulin and glucose levels, ward off diseases such as fatty liver, high blood pressure and diabetes, and improve mental clarity and concentration.
How is this possible? Through intermittent fasting.
Intermittent fasting is a natural process everyone does, though they may not realize it. It involves fasting, or not eating, in intervals, with an identified eating window chosen mindfully.
Some may choose the 16:8 option, meaning fast for 16 hours during the day and eat during an eight-hour window. Others choose 18:6 or the popular sun-up to sun-down.
During fasting hours, the only items you should have are water, tea or coffee without any additives such as sugars, creams or flavors. The goal is to keep insulin levels from rising.
There are enough scientifically proven benefits that it has become a long-standing health trend.
Personal trainer Tyler DiRienzo said, while the idea of intermittent fasting goes way back, it has definitely become more popular in the last few years, especially with the Keto diet, a low-carb, high-fat diet that helps put your body in a metabolic state.
DiRienzo said he thinks the main reason behind intermittent fasting’s popularity is “because it seems like it’s simple enough to do and there’s no really crazy detox or cleanses compared to other diets you have to do.”
Dr. Jennifer Franceschelli Hosterman, a board-certified nutrition and weight management physician with Geisinger, said intermittent fasting offers a way to lose weight and be healthy without taking a lot of time or money.
“It doesn’t require special diet foods or extensive meal prep. It can be accomplished by foods that may already be in the house and with some careful planning,” she said.
Intermittent fasting helps the body develop a calorie deficit over the course of the week. Your body then begins to use its own stored energy, resulting in weight loss, mental clarity and more.
Eating, Hosterman said, causes insulin levels to rise. Insulin is a hormone that helps the body store any remaining energy or calories that haven’t been used yet, some of which is in fat cells.
When people overeat, the body doesn’t have an opportunity to use up the energy stored in fat cells, causing the fat to accumulate.
“When you’re not eating, or in a ‘fed state,’ insulin levels are low and your body starts using your fat stores for energy and thus fat-burning can then occur,” she said.
There aren’t rules about what to eat during the eating period, but DiRienzo said fasters should keep a well-rounded diet if they want to see positive results.
“Just because you’re fasting doesn’t mean eat pizza, Doritos, a burger,” he said. “It comes down to an overall calorie expenditure. It doesn’t matter if you need 2,000 calories and you spread it out all day or in one period. Get on the right path to where you want to be.”
Hosterman said intermittent fasting is not recommended for those with eating disorders such as anorexia, bulimia or compulsive overeaters.
“If done correctly, it does not include binging in between fasts. This is one of the important reasons that a person should see their doctor prior to making any drastic changes to their diet. The goal would be to ensure that the program is safe and that the person has sound advice,” she said.
For those interesting in intermittent fasting, DiRienzo recommends beginning after dinner because fasting while sleeping overnight makes it much easier. He said the most common way to go about it is to skip breakfast, replacing it with a no-sugar, low-calorie drink such as tea or coffee, and then going about a regular day until lunchtime, when the fast is broken.
The timing is all a personal preference based on what is sustainable due to a person’s schedule.
“I’d say give it a shot as long as you’re doing it in the right way,” he said.