Intermittent Fasting has tons of potential benefits, and very little drawbacks. So if you’ve heard about, or perhaps are considering intermittent fasting in the New Year, here’s the Skinny plus tips for getting started, and how to modify it to make it work with your lifestyle.
Intermittent Fasting: 18 hours with without eating, with a 6-hour “eating window” per day.
[note: this can be modified to as short as a 12-hour fasting window or extended to a 20-hour fasting window]
Potential Benefits: Improved energy, mental clarity and concentration, as well as better blood sugar and insulin levels. Intermittent fasting is also shown to improve cholesterol, blood pressure, body fat, metabolic rate, and is linked to reduction in risk factors for Alzheimer’s.
Timing of Intermittent Fasting: A daily fast, going 18 hours from your last meal of the day until your first meal of the following day. And the last meal of your day should be at least three hours before bedtime. During the six-hour window of “eating time” you’ll have two to three small meals.
Keep a journal during this month, including a log of food and drink, as well as notes about weight (optional), energy, mood, focus, analytical thinking and creativity.
Modify it to fit your lifestyle. If the full 18-hour daily fast is too intense (and we get it), try to incorporate one or all of the following 3 strategies to reap at least some of fasting’s benefits:
- Three hour window before bedtime. Leave at least 3 hours between your last meal or snack of the evening and bedtime. This has been shown to induce reduce insulin levels and improve risk factors related to Alzheimer’s.
- 12 hours each night. In addition to leaving 3 hours between your last meal/snack and bedtime, a 12-hour overnight fast helps induce ketogenesis, reduce insulin, and reduce the main component of the amyloid plaques in the brain that are linked to Alzheimer’s.
- Sugar, white carb & artificial sweetener fast. If extended fasting is too daunting, a stepping stone can be to “fast” from sugars, white carbs and artificial sweeteners for the month of June – the goal would be to break & replace habits by the time the fast is over.
Not “allowed” at any time: Artificial sweeteners, added sugars (honey, agave, etc), white, refined, processed carbs (white breads, potatoes, pasta, rice, etc). Alcohol is also discouraged during IF.
“Allowed” during the 18-hour fasting period: water, sparkling water, unsweetened tea, coffee, chicken broth or vegetable broth.
“Allowed” during the six-hour “eating” period: Real, whole foods including lean proteins, plant-based fats, vegetables, fresh-pressed vegetable juices, fresh fruits, whole grains and legumes, bone broth, lowfat plain Greek yogurt, unsweetened almond milk.
Bone broth: Bone broth is different from regular broth or stock in that it’s protein-rich and so technically is not part of a true “fast” – but if sipping bone broth throughout your 18-hour fasting period helps with compliance, then add it in.
Who should not fast: It should be noted that fasting is not for everyone and is not recommended for people with eating disorders or history of eating disorders, those who are malnourished or underweight, people younger than 18, and pregnant or breastfeeding women. People with gout, reflux disease, or taking prescription medications should check with their physician before fasting; any person taking medication that the prescriber wants taken with food should not participate in this fasting protocol.
If you have type 1 or 2 diabetes, always check with your doctor before beginning any type of fasting protocol. Individuals with diabetes who are taking insulin are advised not to participate in this type of fasting protocol. If you cannot work closely with your medical team to monitor blood sugar levels and adjust medications accordingly, do not fast.
Want more from Molly? Click here to sign up for Nutrition Bites, her weekly e-newsletter with links to her Get the Skinny TV segments here on WGNO, and her weekly column in NOLA.com|The Times-Picayune! And you can follow Molly on Facebook, Twitter, & Instagram: @MollyKimballRD