Inside Scoop: Have you thought of trying intermittent fasting? Here are the benefits, risks and the intermittent fasting schedule that’s right for you.
This recipe was submitted by Sarah Hollenbeck, a yoga instructor and writer for Snap Kitchen from Austin, Texas. .
Often practiced in ancient times for religious or spiritual reasons, intermittent fasting has been around for centuries. As humans used to live more in-tuned to the earth and its natural intermittent fasting schedule, eating usually only happened when the sun was up, meaning that for most of the evening and night our ancestors abstained from food. Because of this, our bodies have actually adapted to function without food for extended periods of time, relying on stored glucose and fat to burn off as energy.
The Benefits of Fasting
In today’s society, fasting has skyrocketed in popularity in recent years because of its ability to help people lose weight, prevent disease, increase mental clarity and extend quality of life. In fact, some studies have even shown that it helps manage diabetes, as it improves the body’s natural glucose levels and insulin resistance.
Another great benefit of fasting is that it gives your body a chance to heal itself. Cell regeneration begins during this time, that acts as an anti-aging and repairing mechanism for your cells. Your digestive system gets a break as well, meaning your gut lining can heal itself and your body can focus on removing waste rather than breaking down food. The intestinal healing that occurs during fasting is a big reason why the practice is so popular with those suffering from Irritable Bowel Syndrome, Small Intestinal Bacterial Overgrowth, Leaky Gut and other digestive disorders.
What to Know Before You Start
Although fasting is home to a host of great benefits for your body, there are some drawbacks to be aware of before getting started on an intermittent fasting schedule that works best for your body. A more intense fasting schedule works best when someone is on a diet that is lower in carbohydrates due to better blood sugar management. So, those whose diets rely heavily on carbs may want to reduce their carb intake before starting to fast on a consistent basis.
When first starting out on a fasting schedule, no matter which schedule you choose, the side effects can be pretty intense. You may experience mood swings, hunger and irritability. But, these side effects don’t typically last long!
Slowly your body starts to get used to this new eating schedule, and will reward you for giving it time to heal itself.
While there are a variety of fasting schedules available, some of the longer intermittent fasting schedules (such as the 24 or 72 hours fast) should only be undertaken by someone with previous fasting experience and a doctor’s supervision.
Supervision is required because fasting can make it difficult to meet your body’s nutrient needs, so it’s important that those doing intermittent fasting eat nutrient-rich foods during their eating windows to avoid malnutrition.
If you are diabetic, pregnant/ breastfeeding, take medications for a particular condition or have a serious medical condition, it’s always best to consult with your doctor before trying any intermittent fasting schedule.
Intermittent Fasting Schedules: How to Decide What’s Right For Your Body
Now that you know all the pros and cons to fasting, you can make the decision of whether or not it is right for your body. Once you’ve decided you want to give fasting a go, there are a few different types of intermittent fasting schedules that are available to you depending on your goals and previous health history.
12:12 Fasting Schedule
Most common to traditional eating patterns, this fasting schedule allows you to eat for 12 hours and then fast for 12. Since most of us sleep for 6-8 hours a day, this fasting schedule is pretty easy to maintain as it only requires avoiding late night or early morning snacking.
The 12:12 schedule won’t necessarily show results as quickly as some of the other schedules because your body does not get as much time to heal itself each day. But, that’s not to say you won’t see results! This schedule is perfect for beginners who are looking to ease into fasting or aren’t willing to abstain from food for an extended period of time.
It’s not only a great schedule for beginners and those interested in intermittent fasting, but for anyone trying to improve their health.
16:8 Fasting Schedule
This is one of the most popular schedules, as it allows for more repair time for the body (meaning results come quicker) but it’s still relatively easy for a fasting-newbie to try out. Like the 12:12 schedule, sleeping takes up a majority of the time spent fasting. All that is required is skipping breakfast or dinner, or simply fitting in all three meals during that 8-hour eating window.
Some people do it intuitively as well and not all the time. For example, sometimes when I have a really big dinner the day before, I naturally don’t eat until lunchtime the next day.
20:4 Fasting Schedule
Often dubbed the Warrior Diet, this fasting schedule is a bit extreme and is not recommended for fasting beginners. Since the eating window is so small, it can be hard to fit in the nutrients and calories needed for the entire day. So, those following this schedule will need to make sure to consume nutrient-rich and calorie-heavy foods during this time to help their body perform it’s best.
While the adjustment period for this diet can be rather intense, there are three phases to this fasting plan to help ease people into it. Those who stick to the plan, eventually getting to the point where they can fast for 20 hours each day, report deeper sleep, higher energy levels and better overall health. But again, it’s not for everyone!
24 and 72 Hour Fasting Schedules
Fasting for days at a time might seem like an impossible task, and for good reason. These fasting schedules are only recommended for those who have previous fasting experience and are under careful supervision by a doctor.
Some doctors do prescribe this fasting schedule for those suffering from diabetes, as fasting for days may help reverse insulin resistance and improve overall health. But, it is not mainstream treatment and it is not recommended by the American Diabetes Association as most of the studies are done on mice and we still don’t know enough.
24 and 72 hour intermittent fasting methods are also claimed to increase the rate of cell turnover (known as autophagy), meaning your body has the opportunity to make way for new, healthy cells that will help you function at your very best.
The Bottom Line
Overall, fasting is a great way to help your body repair itself. Since it doesn’t restrict what you eat but when, it’s also a great option for those who aren’t able (or just don’t want to) follow traditional diets. However, it’s important to put nutrition first when following a fasting schedule, as abstaining from food for an extended period of time can be harmful to your body if not done correctly. To make sure you stay healthy while you heal, check out the below infographic from Snap Kitchen that breaks down example fasting schedules and tips for transitioning to this new way of eating.
Sarah Hollenbeck is a yoga instructor and writer for Snap Kitchen from Austin, Texas. When she’s not at the yoga studio, you can often find her taking her dog on a walk or testing out new recipes in the kitchen.