Written by Dr Sandra Miranda, ND

You have probably come across this idea of intermittent fasting.   It is definitely one of the most popular health trends nowadays.  But most people are so confused about it, what are the benefits, how to do it, is it right for you, are there any disadvantages?

There are some good studies that show that it can help you lose weight, it can have a powerful effect on your body and brain, it can increase longevity and even decrease cancer risk.  

For beginners, the idea would be not to eat for at least 12, 14 or even 16 hours.  Some fast from 7 am to 7 pm.  The idea is that you have a good breakfast at 7 am and then only drink water throughout the day and have a healthy dinner at 7 pm. 

Others stop eating at 7 pm or 8 pm and will start eating the next day at either 11 am or 12 noon.  This is the most popular method of doing intermittent fasting.  However, it is important to note that people who are under a lot of stress or burned out benefit a great deal from having a good breakfast that gives them a minimum of 15 g of protein.   For patients who are fatigued and burned out, doing this type of intermittent fasting may actually exhaust them further.

A healthier way of doing intermittent fasting would be to make lunch our main meal and stop eating at 4 pm and then start eating again 8 am (16 hours fast).  This way you can break the fast with a healthy breakfast that will give you the nutrients that you need to get through and focus during a busy day of work. 

Another downfall of intermittent fasting to be aware of is that these recommendations usually don’t focus on which foods you should eat but rather when to eat them.  But the truth is that most people will not experience all the wonderful benefits of this type of fasting unless they are also trying to eat low glycemic index foods during the hours that you are allowed to eat.  This means avoiding the high glycemic index ones such as sugars, pop and simple and refined carbohydrates, etc. 

In fact, there are some reports that suggest that if you stop eating for a long period of time, your body becomes even more sensitive to the insulin release meaning that you may be increasing your chances of storing fat with high glycemic index foods if you are not careful with your choices.

If you do decide to try intermittent fasting, think about what are the best times to fast for your body and also be careful not to want to reward yourself after doing the hard work of fasting for a long period of time.  There is a danger of indulging in unhealthy treats.