There's a lot of hype at the moment around Keto and Intermittent Fasting (IF) as everyone continues to hunt for the 'quick fix' or cure-all solution to all their health woes. Fat loss, blood glucose management, digestive healing, cellular regeneration and repair and convenience are just a few of the touted benefits. As with all nutrition approaches, there's no 'one size fits all' because we are all genetically and metabolically different. This is our opportunity to learn and adapt different approaches to eating to tailor a style that suits your specific body and lifestyle. Let's breakdown what IF is, the benefits and downfalls, if it's suitable for you and should you give it a try.
Based on the fact that you are hanging with our tribe, we are going to assume that you are eating a diet predominately based on whole nutrient-dense foods. We will discuss IF on the basis of consuming a real food diet, NOT a standard Australian diet full of highly processed junk. Let's dive in.
What is Intermittent Fasting (IF)? IF is an approach based on periods of fasting and feeding. Whether you realise it or not, all of us already do this everyday. For example, we eat our dinner at 7pm then don't eat again until we wake in the morning and have breakfast at say, 7am. You have just done a 12 hour fast and the feeding window is then the next 12 hours until 7pm that night. That would be a 12/12 IF. One of the most popular fasting schedules is 16/8 where you might eat dinner at 7pm then fast until 11am the next day then eat as required until 7pm again. Some people will do a full 24 hour fast, or longer, once a week or month. In the 'feeding' window you eat as you would usually eat. Consuming nutrient dense, high quality foods and ideally in larger main meals rather than a constant grazing across this time. This allows your body to rest and digest the foods. In the feeding window it is important to eat enough food, making sure that our bodies are well nourished. If too much caloric or nutrient restriction occurs, our bodies tend to see this as 'starvation' and will hold on to fat stores. When this happens, the IF fasting benefits will not be seen.
A good approach to begin IF is to gradually extend that fasting window to see where it feels good for you. Perhaps start to stretch the 12/12 to a 13/11 for a few days then a 14/10 and see how you're feeling. You might find you can extend the fast longer over time, or perhaps you an extended fast doesn't suit you. Any fasting period is going to bring some benefits.
The Benefits of IF? The benefits of IF can be many and varied but for most will include fat loss due to the body accessing stored fat for fuel during the periods of fasting. Additionally there will likely be improved insulin sensitivity, cellular repair and regeneration. When our bodies are not constantly in a state of digestion they can go to rest and repair mode and start to heal damaged cells, repair the body and especially the gut. Improved cardiovascular disease risk by influencing cholesterol in a positive manner, decreased inflammation and improvements in brain health and many more depending on the timing of the fast and the food quality during the feed.
The Downfalls of IF? If you are someone who has or had disordered eating, this might not be for you. Creating restrictions around food, even just meal timings, could exacerbate this issue. Metabolic deregulation and hormone disruption could be an issue if under-eating during the feeding window occurs and if your bodies nutritional needs are not being met.
Should you try it? Maybe. If you want to. We think there are great benefits to be seen by doing IF in a nutrient sufficient and balanced way that is helping to remove stress from your life, not adding to it. We would strongly suggest working with a health practitioner to decide if this is right for you as well as doing your own research. Here are our recommended reference points below.