by Stephanie Margolis, R.D.
Intermittent fasting is not something new, it has been part of many religions and cultures for centuries; however, its popularity has growth as of late with the emergence of new research showing potential health benefits. You may see sources telling you to intermittent fast, but that term can mean so much, so here we are going to dive into what this fasting thing is about.
The good news about this recent trend is that it’s not just a fad promoted by companies or influencers, there is real science behind the why. In both lab rat and human studies, scientists are looking for changes in weight status, glucose regulation, lipid (HDL, LDL, cholesterol) profiles, and inflammatory markers. These are all ways to measure ones’ health and disease risk. In the short-term (22 days to 5 weeks) many studies showed insulin levels decreasing, HGH(human growth hormone) levels increasing, and cell repair happening. It is noteworthy the HGH increased dramatically in several studies, because this hormone naturally helps the body promote fat loss and increase lean muscle. Additionally, when the body is fasting the gut and cells can rest and repair improving the gut microbiome (strongly linked to improved overall health). In the longer term, intermittent fasting has been linked to lowered inflammatory markers, improved brain health, and slowing of the aging process in both animals and humans.
Not a one-size-fits-all
This is all super exciting but fasting can come in many shapes. Fasting consists of restricting calorie intake during certain times (fasting) and choosing foods as often and necessary as desired (feeding). These fasting and feeding times are cycled and do not focus on WHAT you eat but WHEN you eat. There are three main types of fasting (outside of religious fasting) that have been studied: alternate day fasting; modified fasting; and time-restricted fasting. Let’s take a glance at the details and study resultsof each type:
*These finding are a summary of 16 studies
Timing Can Be Everything
As you’ve probably concluded from above, the time-restricted fasting can be an effective way to improve your health. This schedule is also fantastic for moms because not eating for an entire day will make you hangry, and no one wants mamma hangry! When we really look at time restricted fasting the research has shown that consuming energy earlier in the day, combined with nightly fasting, can give you the best results. There are several reasons why:
- Nighttime eating can disrupt your circadian rhythm and is associated with higher risk for obesity, diabetes, cardiovascular disease, and cancer (particularly breast cancer).
- Gastric emptying and blood flow are higher during the daytime. This means your stomach digests food faster and your body metabolizes it faster in the earlier hours.
- As the day goes on your metabolic response to glucose gets slower. This means foods you eat later in the day take longer for your metabolism to process.
Intermittent fasting can have many health benefits beyond weight loss, especially time restricted fasting. Eating your food earlier in the day and allowing your body at least 12 hours to rest has been proven to improve your current and future health. While these studies only focus on the “when” of eating, we can’t forget about the WHAT. Choosing foods that are wholesome, unprocessed, and filled with vitamins and minerals is best. If you want and example of what intermittent fasting can look like for you, check out our meal plan!