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To Fast or Not to Fast?




Just to be clear, you already fast.

Every day.

Every time you snuggle in bed for the night, you’re not eating for hours in a row. And then you break the fast by eating . . . well, breakfast.


So fasting itself is not the issue.


The trending topic of Intermittent Fasting highlights fasting for weight control.


There are different ways to get that done:

Some fans of fasting suggest fasting 2 out of every 7 days, other more extremists support fasting every other day and moderates would rather you eat during an 8 hour window and fast for the other 16 each day.


Importantly, the majority of fasting enthusiasts support eating well when you’re allowed to eat: no processed foods and limited sugar and alcohol. They suggest focusing on whole grains, lean proteins and lots of veggies and fruit.


Sound familiar?


The truth is, fasting is just another way to limit the number of calories you take into your body in one day.


You can count calories, fat grams, carbs or hours.

All will help you decrease the amount of food you would normally eat. Which inevitably leads to weight loss and maintenance of weight loss.


There are many, many health advantages of losing weight if you are overweight or obese, but fasting may have at least one benefit in addition to those.


It looks like fasting on its own can decrease overall insulin levels thereby reducing any effects of insulin resistance. It may also help in decreasing inflammation and its consequences, but more studies have to be done to determine the magnitude of any effect.


The idea with fasting is that it gives your body a chance to get a rest from insulin (which is only released in response to food intake) and therefore reduces fat storage, promotes fat metabolism (using fat for energy) and potentially inflammation.


Even so, any fasting regimen is not recommended for diabetics, pregnant or lactating women or those with current or a history of eating disorders. Anyone who might be considering starting a fasting program must consult with their physician before starting.


I’m not a fan of not eating anything all day. If a healthy person wanted to try intermittent fasting, I would only recommend the fasting protocols that happen in one day—8 hour eating window and 16 hours off. A small study showed the hormonal benefit of that one, so if fasting sounds good to you, you may want to work your way up to that.


But, if you’re going to do it for the health benefit you might consider your timing as well.


Insulin sensitivity decreases throughout the day, so there’s a hormonal advantage to eating earlier in the day and stopping earlier as well.


The study referenced above had their participants eating between 7am and 3pm. It turns out that’s very different than eating between noon and 8pm.


Eating later has greater potential to disrupt sleep and poor sleep sets you up for disordered hunger hormones leading to increased hunger the next day. No fun, particularly if you’re trying fast.


Anything that promotes earlier dinner times, no nighttime snacking and better sleep . . . that’s a recipe for success.




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