The word fasting might instantly send your mind into the thoughts of a growling stomach, withholding meals for days. On the contrary, that's not the premise behind intermittent fasting. Although people have been practicing forms of intermittent fasting for years because of spiritual, religious and health reasons, it's recently become a much less scary and more approachable health trend.
In ancient times, fasting was used to heal and even extend the life of aging people. But somehow over the last century or so, it became associated with starvation and eating disorders. And while it is important to be sure you're fasting correctly, maybe even under the supervision of a physician, intermittent fasting definitely offers an array of health benefits worth talking about. (Ed's note: If you have a history of eating disorders, please consult with a licensed physician before attempting to intermittent fast.)
So, what is intermittent fasting, and why would you want to give it a try? Let me break it down:
What is intermittent fasting?
Intermittent fasting is essentially the phrase used to describe an eating pattern. It's not necessarily about the foods you eat, but instead when you're eating in general. Although the word "fasting" can be intimidating, you actually fast every day while you sleep. The word intermittent is used because you're not completely eliminating eating. Instead, you're developing a schedule that simply allows your body to go longer without food. Depending on what intermittent fasting schedule works best for you, there's usually about a 12 to 16 hour window without food.
Can I drink while fasting?
This is a very common question that a lot of people aren't sure about. You absolutely can drink liquids while you're fasting. It's encouraged! In fact, don't treat your consumption of water throughout the day any different. A good rule of thumb to go by is that if the liquid contains 50 calories or less, it's ok to drink. So that means you still want to get in as much water as you can throughout the day and you're usual coffee or tea works as well as long as it's not loaded with dairy and sugars. Bone broth is also a good option.
What should my eating schedule be?
There are different ways you can work intermittent fasting into your schedule. One of the most popular options people choose when creating their eating pattern is only eating within a six to eight hour window throughout the day. For example, you only eat between the hours of noon and 8pm. This creates a 16 hour window for your body to enter fasting mode. This kind of schedule is great for the novice faster because you spend most of your fasting time sleeping. If you're just beginning, starting with a 12 hour window in between meals is a good idea too, eat your dinner by 7pm then make sure you're not eating before 7am. Slowly work your way up to noon.
What are the benefits?
Although fasting doesn't have to be about losing weight, it can be a side effect or benefit. This happens because when you fast, your body is better able to sustain and balance insulin levels and remain in a state of ketosis (that word probably sounds familiar if you've heard of the very popular ketogenic diet), which means your body is burning fat instead of sugar or carbs. Other benefits include improved cell function, increased cognitive function and reduced inflammation among other things.