Intermittent fasting, or time restricted eating, is a popular trend right now in the nutrition and fitness world, but what are the benefits? There are a myriad of benefits, in fact, as long as you do it right. So, first, what is it?
What is Intermittent Fasting, or Time Restricted Eating?
Intermittent fasting is a practice that involves eating each day within a certain window of time and fasting, or not eating, for the remaining hours of the day. This diet plan does not indicate which foods you can or cannot eat, it primarily concerns itself with the time frame of your daily food consumption.
Most fasts will be daily fasts up to 16 hours, or 24 hour fasts several times per week. Most commonly, a beginner just starting with intermittent fasting will begin with 12 hour windows, which means eating for 12 hours and abstaining for 12 hours. Over time, you can begin easing into longer fasts and shorter windows of eating time, shifting into fasts that last 16 hours and eating windows that are only 8 hours in length.
Studies have shown that the optimal benefits are achieved when the window is eating for between 8 and 10 hours and fasting for between 14 and 16 hours.
Where Did Intermittent Fasting Come From?
Intermittent fasting is thought to be the eating style of our ancestors. In a hunter-gatherer society, food would not have been readily available in the same way that it is for us today. People would have naturally defaulted to this style of eating, with time restricted eating throughout the day, and longer fasting periods appearing at various times throughout the year. It is considered a more natural style of eating.
Why Choose Intermittent Fasting?
While intermittent fasting may seem like a trend, albeit a science-backed one, there are a number of great benefits that can be achieved from employing it. Some of these benefits include:
- Weight loss (loss of body and belly fat without the need for calorie counting)
- Reduction of insulin resistance (can protect against type 2 diabetes)
- Reduction of inflammation (inflammation is often the root cause behind chronic disease)
- Improved heart health (reduction of heart disease risk factors like LDL cholesterol, blood triglycerides, inflammatory markers, blood sugar, and insulin resistance)
- Prevention of cancer
- Brain health (increase in brain hormone BDNF which may aid in growth of nerve cells and protect against Alzheimer’s disease)
Things to Keep in Mind Before You Begin
Before you begin implementing time restricted eating into your daily schedule, it’s recommended that you check with your physician to ensure that you are safely able to use this practice. It’s also important to remember that fasting from food does not include fasting from necessary medications, so you should consider medications that need to be taken with food when you determine your time restricted eating window.
Dr. Satchin Panda on Practical Implementation of Time Restricted Eating and Shift Work Strategies with Dr. Rhonda Patrick of Found My Fitness