The Skinny on Intermittent Fasting
As we arrive in January, a new year with new resolutions and/or goals, we’re confident the most popular of these is aimed at losing weight and improving overall health. We are excited to bring this HOT topic to the table explaining the benefits of Intermittent Fasting (IF) and how it may help to achieve your resolution and goal.
Trying to avoid added weight gain and/or shedding excess weight is a challenge. It’s even more so with a spinal cord injury (SCI). There’s been a lot of interest and success in our SCI support groups around the topic of intermittent fasting. So, we are here to break it down and explain what IF is and why it works.
What is Intermittent Fasting (IF)?
Intermittent fasting is an eating pattern that cycles between periods of eating and not eating (fasting). It doesn’t specify which foods you should eat but rather when you should eat them. Listen up... you don’t have to give up your favorite foods! Woohoo!! Repeat, you don’t have to give up our favorite food choices… Do we have your attention now? Allow us to explain.
How it works:
When fasting occurs it creates a slow burning of the glucose (carbs/sugar) stored in the liver. This process may take 10 to 12 hours to happen. Once glucose stores are burned up, the body searches for other things to use for energy… stored body fats. Now our body fat becomes our energy source. And who wouldn’t want to burn through their body fat? By the way, this process is called "metabolic switching". But you know how we can be. We like to graze food throughout the entire day, and eating that way doesn’t allow our bodies to run through our glucose stores to arrive at the fat burning stage. And if we aren’t burning the stored fat, and we continue to eat more than we need, we aren’t going to lose weight. It’s that simple. That’s why our population is becoming overweight!
Benefits of IF:
Studies have shown that intermittent fasting has benefits for many health conditions such as obesity, Type 2 diabetes, cardiovascular disease, cancers, neurologic disorders and weight loss. It’s a win/win. Hence, why we are sharing with our friends. Healthy benefits!!
Intermittent fasting may:
Help you lose weight and belly fat, without having to consciously restrict calories.
Stabilize blood sugar levels.
Increase resistance to stress.
Decrease blood pressure and cholesterol levels.
Improve resting heart rate.
Improve brain health and memory.
Promote cellular repair that removes waste and toxic material from the cells.
Help you differentiate between “actual” hunger and “mental” hunger. Fasting for short periods helps you differentiate between the impulse to eat and actual, physical hunger.
We’ve talked a bit about the benefits. Any cons?
You may be uncomfortable as your body adapts to your new eating pattern. Similar to an inactive person starting a new exercise program, there is an adjustment period.
Don't expect immediate results either. It can take a few weeks before your body adapts to the point where you'll start dropping pounds and experiencing improved health. Patience our little grasshoppers.
While fasting does have some astonishing health and longevity benefits, when it comes to body composition total calorie intake still matters. In other words, even though you’re fasting, if you’re eating too many calories, you’re not going to lose the fat. And if you’re going to consume fewer calories, you need to make sure that you eat a healthy diet to avoid malnutrition. This includes eating fruits, vegetables, whole grains, nuts, and beans. Just smaller portions, basically. And remember to stay well hydrated. It’s still a carefully executed juggling act but very doable.
Intermittent Fasting Methods:
There are several different ways of doing intermittent fasting — all of which involve splitting the day or week into eating and fasting periods. During the fasting periods, you eat very little or nothing at all.
The 16/8 Diet: Generally, you want to fast for a 16-hour window and restrict your eating window to 8 hours. Again, eat for 8 hours and no food for 16 hours. This allows your body to burn through to the fats. With this approach you keep the bulk of your fasting window during sleep. So, if my last meal was 7pm on Monday, I wouldn’t eat again until 11am on Tuesday. Many people find this method to be the simplest, most sustainable and easiest to stick to. It’s also the most popular.
The 5:2 Diet: With this method you consume only 500–600 calories on two non-consecutive days of the week, but eat normally the other 5 days.
Eat-Stop-Eat: This involves fasting for 24 hours, once or twice a week, for example by not eating from dinner one day until dinner the next day.
By reducing your calorie intake, all of these methods should result in weight loss as long as you don’t cheat during fasting times. Message us if you need additional directions or a pep talk. We are here to help as we are trying this method also, so you’re not alone.
Who shouldn’t do it?
Fasting has many health benefits but you may be wondering who shouldn’t adopt a fasting lifestyle. It’s important to know that fasting is NOT appropriate for children, pregnant women, or people with diabetes who run the risk of low blood sugar, especially if they are taking insulin or oral medications. And for anyone who has been diagnosed with an eating disorder, fasting may not be an appropriate choice. In addition, those of us with an SCI need to be cautious if you have low blood pressure or take medications that should not be taken on an empty stomach. In general, if you have any health conditions, you should consult with a medical professional to determine if intermittent fasting is appropriate for you.
All that being said, intermittent fasting has an outstanding safety profile. There is nothing dangerous about not eating for a while if you’re healthy and well-nourished overall. Just saying, here is another option to assist in decreasing that stubborn belly fat and be healthy too.
It’s all good, so keep on rollin’.
Roberta Palmer, RN and Patty Kunze, BSN, RNC
The Rollin’ RNs ™