Intermittent Fasting for Health
The benefits of Intermittent Fasting (IF) continue to turn up in research and studies.
- improved insulin sensitivity, blood glucose, and lipid levels
- relief from inflammation
- improved metabolic efficiency and reduction in body fat composition
- increased energy, decreased lethargy
- improved mood and mental clarity
- reduced LDL and total cholesterol
- helps prevent, slow progressing, and possibly reverse type 2 diabetes
- protection from cardiovascular disease
- improved pancreatic function
And of course one of the best benefits of IF – less time spent agonizing over meal planning and perfecting your diet.
For 18 years I’ve studied nutrition, changing my diet around to meet my current goals – bulk, cut, health, lean gains, etc… I’ve done a 0 carb diet, low fat meals, I subsisted on a Chanko diet once for a month, tried paleo eating, juicing, hell at one point I even ate nothing but apples and canned tuna for about 4 weeks straight. So far nothing has been as easy or felt as good at intermittent fasting.
Many of these so-called ‘fad diets’ require drastic changes to your daily routine, and most of them are some what unhealthy to adopt as long term lifestyle nutrition strategies. Strict diets I tend to give up on after several weeks or several months, depending on how ‘hard core’ it is. Intermittent fasting doesn’t require strict eating or limit the foods you can eat, within reason. All you have to do is wait until after noon to break your fast and stop eating a couple hours before bed. The food itself doesn’t change unless you specifically want it to.
Then there’s the problem of find a workout plan that fits around your eating schedule, or allows you to still train efficiently with low energy or lacking nutrition. An intermittent fasting eating plan can simply be tailored around your workout in order to provide the most energy when you need it and accommodate a post workout shake and meal. And in fact some people swear by fasted training – a concept I don’t really understand or care for, but it works for some.
Nowadays I fast from 8pm until 11am the next day, and workout at noon. I have tons of energy all the time, and I feel great for my workouts. During the afternoon and dinner meals I’m able to get in all of the protein and other nutrients that I need for training and proper health. However, this does not seem to be an optimal IF strategy based on research.
Optimal Scheduling of Intermittent Fasting
There numerous studies presenting evidence that eating breakfast helps prevent obesity, especially in children (and mice). Some findings suggest that skipping breakfast leads to unplanned late night eating. And then of course eating late at night further potentates the possibility of obesity. Therefore, the most beneficial form of IF might be to eat early in the morning and start fasting after lunch.
Research has found that eating whole grains, low fat dairy products, and fruit for breakfast has a positive influence on body fat when compared to skipping breakfast. Even consuming ready-to-eat cereals seems to have a preferred effect on body fat and nutrient profiles than skipping breakfast, with the exception of increase carbohydrate intake.
The takeaway seems to be to eat low-fat, fibrous, nutritionally (not caloric) dense breakfast foods, and then stop eating after lunch in order to elicit the benefits of fasting.
Personally I believe this would be a slightly more difficult strategy – I find it easier to keep fasting than to start fasting. You’ll really need to discover what works best for you. Plus, kids shouldn’t really be fasting anyway, so in my opinion you can ignore those kid-specific studies.
https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/20497776 Breakfast skippers have higher BMI and waist circumference.
https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/25458992 Eating grains, dairy, and fruit for breakfast is good.
https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/20065977 Breakfast eating helps prevent obesity.
https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/24982814 Late night eating combined with breakfast skipping further enhances the potential for obesity.
https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/22425331 IF associated with lower risk of diabetes, lower BMI, and lower blood glucose.
https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/18805103 IF helps reduce cardiovascular disease.
https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/24993615 Again, IF is better at preserving lean body mass.
https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/17607017 IF helps your body to burn fat for fuel.