A Beginner’s Guide to Intermittent Fasting

When we hear the term “fasting,” we may think of religious traditions. The idea of not eating for health reasons triggers fears of eating too little or not eating healthily. However, intermittent fasting is a huge trend in the nutrition world, and not just among body builders or bikini competitors—as it turns out, fasting actually has some pretty demonstrable health benefits.

Although fasting can be healthy, it’s a practice that involves complex research and careful planning. Here’s what you need to know about why people fast, what it’s health benefits are and how to do it right.

Autophagy and Detoxification

When we talk about fasting for short periods of time, one of the first health benefits cited by proponents is the process of autophagy. While our bodies are digesting food (a period that can last up to eight hours, according to The Mayo Clinic), our cells are spending their time sequestering energy from the food we’ve taken in. When we’re not digesting, though, our cells can move into a process called autophagy.

Autophagy is a cellular process in which your cells essentially detoxify themselves from the inside out.

“Autophagy is a self-degradative process that is important for balancing sources of energy at critical times in development and in response to nutrient stress,” states a study published by researchers at the University of Chicago. “Autophagy also plays a housekeeping role in removing misfolded or aggregated proteins, clearing damaged organelles, such as mitochondria, endoplasmic reticulum and peroxisomes, as well as eliminating intracellular pathogens.”

Let’s put that into layman’s terms. When your body is in starvation mode—usually 12 to 16 hours after you’ve eating calorie-containing foods—your cells start to go inside themselves for energy. In doing so, they get rid of damaged cell components (organelles), which is essentially a detoxification process.

The Benefits of Ketosis

Ketosis (not to be confused with ketoacidosis) is a state that some nutritionists believe to be beneficial for health. While ketoacidosis can be life-threatening for diabetics, ketosis is simply a state in which your body burns fat (rather than glucose) for energy, producing a substance called ketones in the process.

When your body is in ketosis and running on fat rather than sugar, you can lose extra weight, decrease triglycerides (a marker of cardiovascular disease) and balance your hormones, as hormones are manufactured by fat and cholesterol.

Calories and Longevity

Another reason to believe that periodic fasting is good for us is the very well-proven fact that calorie restriction increases longevity. We’re not saying you should stop eating altogether, but periods of famine seem to increase nutrient absorption, decrease cellular stress and reduce inflammation.

“Calorie Restriction (CR) without malnutrition is the most powerful nutritional intervention that has consistently been shown to increase maximal and average lifespan in a variety of organisms …” says a research paper published in the US National Library of Medicine. “Far from merely stretching the life of an old, ill and weak animal, CR extends longevity by preventing chronic diseases, and by preserving metabolic and biological functions at more youthful-like state.”

Fasting Methodologies and How to Fast

With all these health benefits, you may be wondering how to fast safely without affecting your nutrition or energy levels. After checking with your doctor, develop a strategy that will work for you. You should aim to fast for at least 12 to 16 hours to experience the benefits of ketosis and autophagy.

Here are a few ideas for incorporating fasting into your nutrition plan.

  • Eat dinner around 5 or 6 p.m., and then break your fast the next day around noon. Essentially, all this means is that you skip breakfast. You can have coffee or tea in the morning as long as you’re not adding sugar or milk to your beverage.
  • Do a 24-hour fast every couple of weeks. Some professionals, such as Dr. David Perlmutter, MD, author of “Grain Brain,” suggest doing a 24-hour fast every few weeks to experience the benefits of fasting.
  • Eat a regular breakfast, but have your super early—around 3 p.m. Then break your fast eating breakfast around 8 a.m. the following morning.
  • Most practitioners don’t fast every day. If you’re doing an intermittent 12- to 16-hour fast, do it 2-3 times per week. If you’re doing 24-hour fasts, do them every couple of weeks.

If you have a health condition or take regular medications, check with your doctor before testing out intermittent fasting.

72 comments

Jack Y
Jack Yabout a month ago

thanks

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Jack Y
Jack Yabout a month ago

thanks

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John J
John Jabout a month ago

thanks for sharing

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John J
John Jabout a month ago

thanks for sharing

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Beryl L
Beryl Ludwig6 months ago

Thank you🐈

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Jeanne R
Jeanne Rogersabout a year ago

TYFS

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Jeanne R
Jeanne Rogersabout a year ago

TYFS

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Jeanne R
Jeanne Rogersabout a year ago

TYFS

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Jeanne R
Jeanne Rogersabout a year ago

TYFS

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Jeanne R
Jeanne Rogersabout a year ago

TYFS

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