When you hear the word "fasting" plus "diet" in the same sentence, you probably think of a "fad" diet.
However, there is now more and more research suggesting that having "super low-calorie days," or "fasting," mixed into your normal eating plan could improve your health.
Intermittent Fasting (IF) is a strategically planned and occasional "starvation." If you cycle periods of regular eating with fasting, you will severely restrict your calorie intake.
There isn't a "one size fits all" approach to fasting. People will fast for hours. Some may choose to fast for a full day or even longer.
There is a lot of "star power" to this diet from Hugh Jackman to Jimmy Kimmel, along with Beyoncé, Justin Theroux, Nicole Kidman, Jennifer Lopez, and more.
One of the more commonly known fasting systems is the 5:2 diet. This means restricting calories for two non-consecutive days a week and eating without calorie restraints on the other five days. Jimmy Kimmel did the 5:2 diet.
Hugh Jackman, to get in shape for his role as Wolverine in 2013, did a 16:8 diet. So he fasted for 16 hours and only ate within an 8-hour window
Fasting can affect cell and hormone function. This may improve your overall health and extend your life, according to several studies and evolving research.
Periodic or "intermittent" fasting was linked to lower risks of the following in a published study from 2019 in Cell Metabolism.
Many cells "die" and stem cells become "activated" which starts a process of "regeneration."
This "regeneration" process gives rise to new, younger cells, or something called "autophagy."
Autophagy allows the "orderly degradation and recycling of cellular components."
Furthermore, there occurs within cells a process called "metabolic switching" when you are alternating between fasting and eating.
This is where cells use up their fuel stores and convert fat to energy. It has been referred to as "flipping a switch" from fat-storing.
Abstaining from food many hours "could" aid in treating certain health conditions. The New England Journal of Medicine (NEJM) has published that Intermittent Fasting (IF) can help with the following.
Health is very individualized. So what helps one person, may not have the same effect on your health.
Reduce blood pressure
Weight loss for obesity
Improve insulin resistance
Improve and stabilize blood sugar levels
Decrease the "bad" cholesterol or low-density lipoprotein (LDL)
These are all good things to aim for and can also be achieved with many balanced approaches to diet.
Diets and food choices are highly individualized.
It can help with weight loss, however, the results will differ for everyone.
An intermittent fasting program may lead to weight loss. However, intermittent fasting is not a practical or sustainable long-term solution for everyone.
Always ask a health professional to help you safely plan. Make sure you are eating the right foods—both on fasting and non-fasting days. Remember the goal is good health. The goal is the "long-game."
Any restrictive diet obviously should be under the guidance of a medical professional—especially if there are medical comorbidities or medications taken for a condition such as diabetes.
Determine with a trained healthcare professional in nutrition which approach system makes sense for you and your lifestyle.
For some—maybe it is.
However, especially under the guidance and monitoring of your physician if you have medical conditions you are trying to manage with it, such as diabetes, hypertension, obesity, or a supplement to managing cancer.
As of now, the long-term effects of fasting diets aren't well understood. Research has been more short time and mostly from animal studies.
Most Americans eat three meals a day plus snacks. So you will have to ask yourself that question.
The transition to Intermittent Fasting (IF) can be challenging, with the following early on.
For these reasons, many people drop Intermittent Fasting (IF) early on.
Usually, after two weeks, or even a month, your body and brain will adapt and find a "new norm."
Since there is not that much human research—physicians should monitor their patients throughout the process of Intermittent Fasting (IF)—especially in the beginning transition.
If you were to start Intermittent Fasting (IF), consider gradually increasing the duration and frequency of fasting—not "jumping all in."
Just getting started with the clinical symptoms of being hungry and irritable.
Also the desire to "reward" yourself for fasting by then binging or eating with poor dietary choices on non-fasting days. Not to mention a "loss" of sensible portion control.
The brain stimulates more of the appetite hormones from the hypothalamus or the "hunger center" of your brain.
These hormones are released when your body is deprived of food, by choice or involuntarily.
This can trigger overeating.
Eating time does not mean binge. It does not mean consuming enough calories for a long winter hibernating. It means to think and make wise choices.
Here is a novel idea.
Instead of an "extreme" and "elimination-based" dietary approach, focus on eating more fruits and vegetables.
Here are some thoughts from a Gastroenterologist ...choose healthy calories and add whole-food-based nutrients. Avoid an extreme, "all-or-nothing" approach to eating...or in life for that matter.
Balance. Portion control. Keep nutrition simple. Eat Smart. Eat Healthy.