Trying to lose weight or improve your blood sugar? Intermittent fasting might be worth a try.
As a rule, I don’t do diets. I always recommend the slow and steady approach of cutting out empty calories and increasing your physical activity to lose a few pounds, or get your cholesterol, blood sugar or blood pressure under control. For most people, that works really well, but sometimes, after a certain age, and especially if you’re already pretty careful about your diet and exercise, the slow and steady approach feels like you’re swimming upstream – exhausted but getting nowhere.
Recently, I did some research on Intermittent Fasting, AKA, Alternate Day Fasting, or the 5:2 Diet, for a job assignment. Apparently, Jimmy Kimmel’s a fan, and I’ve gotta tell you – I’m intrigued.
Here’s how it works:
Fasting days can be:
- 2 non-consecutive days each week, you eat or drink only about 25% of daily calorie needs. That comes to about 300-500 calories for most women, and about 400-600 calories for most men – just enough to sustain you. The other 5 days, you eat a healthy diet, moderate in calories
- Fasting days, with no-calorie foods and beverages – think diet jello, sugar-free popsicles, and water or unsweetened tea, alternated with eat-anything-you-want days
- Eat nothing for 12-20 hours each day, and for the other 4-6 hours, eat one meal, and maybe a snack
Here are the benefits:
- Intermittent or Alternate Day fasting will result in weight loss, but the same can be said for the slow and steady, cut out empty calories approach. The benefit of the fasting approach, is that in research studies, more people stuck with it for longer – ie. It’s easier to do long-term, and probably offers more flexibility
- Intermittent fasting promotes abdominal visceral fat loss (the fat that’s deep within your abdomen, not the “pinch an inch” kind). According to the research, subjects saw less insulin resistance, and improvements in blood sugar levels, triglycerides, and LDL or bad cholesterol. Hmmm…
The thing is, no one is really sure why or how it works. It might be as simple as, fasting forces you to cut out late night eating a few days each week. Or it might be related to regulating circadian rhythms, and how the body produces certain hormones that help with weight and insulin/glucose regulation.
Want to try it? Here’s a post from the New York Times which explains a bit more about it, and provides some links to the research. While there is no evidence that intermittent fasting is harmful, if you're going to try it, make sure you talk to a registered dietitian to make sure you're doing it correctly - that means, not over-doing it on fasting days, and choosing the right foods for the days you are eating.
Whatever eating pattern you follow, it’s important to do what makes you feel best. Some people may feel too tired or weak if they go a full day without eating anything significant, and that can backfire, especially on your exercise.
Have you ever tried Intermittent Fasting? How did you feel, and what were the results?