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by Lauren Davies September 22, 2023 3 min read

Fasting has a long history, dating back to the ancient Greeks, who used it as a natural form of medicine to reduce illnesses. Today, fasting has grown in popularity, and many benefits have been associated with not eating for a period of time. While diets primarily focus on what to eat, fasting is all about when you eat (or don't eat).

There are also many different types of fasting; one that gets a lot of attention is intermittent fasting, which is defined as cycling between periods of eating and not eating for a minimum of 12 hours. There are also different approaches to intermittent fasting, with two of the most popular being:

  • Alternate-day fasting: Eating a healthy diet one day and fasting the next, either completely or with a much lower calorie intake than usual
  • Time-restricted fasting: Eating as you normally would, but only within an eight-hour period, then fasting for the remaining sixteen-hours. This is often referred to as 16:8

6 Intermittent Fasting Benefits

There's no one-size-fits-all approach to fasting since every person has nutritional requirements specific to their individual health and goals. For people with certain health issues or underlying imbalances, fasting may not always be appropriate, and it is important to consider the level right for you.

Let's take a look at 6 big intermittent fasting benefits:

  1. Support healthy levels of inflammation. Periods of fasting give your body a break from digestion and allow cells to repair, reducing oxidative stress
  2. Improved blood sugar regulation and hormone balance. Fasting may help your body manage its glucose better by becoming more sensitive to insulin, the hormone involved in blood sugar relation. Extended periods of not eating, encourages the body to turn to stored glucose (glycogen) for energy. Lower blood sugar levels reduces the need for insulin secretion and supports blood sugar balance
  3. Enhanced heart health. Fasting may improve many risk factors linked to heart health by supporting healthier levels of inflammation
  4. Support weight loss. Fasting can make it easier to maintain a calorie deficit if you are eating during a certain time period, avoiding snacking between meals or eating after dinner. Also, by lowering insulin levels during fasting, you may start to use more body fat reserves for energy
  5. Improved mood and cognition. Intermittent fasting has shown to increase levels of brain derived neurotrophic factor (BDNF), a hormone that supports overall brain health. A deficiency in BDNF has been linked to low mood and other brain issues.
  6. Accelerated detoxification and repair. The digestive rest from intermittent fasting can help accelerate the process of autophagy, also known as self-eating. This is the body's way of cleaning up old, damaged cells so that it can then make healthier, newer ones

How to Get Started

Most people will benefit from a 12-hour fast and the easiest way to achieve this is to incorporate most of it overnight when you are sleeping. Simply stop eating for 12 hours from dinner to breakfast. For example, if you eat dinner around 6/7pm then have breakfast from 6/7am the following day. You may experience additional benefits of intermittent fasting by eating your last meal 3 hours before bed.

The "12-3" fast has been found to be the most beneficial for the brain and overall health, by giving the body plenty of time to complete digestion and supporting optimal sleep. Before making additional changes to your diet, you could work towards eating your last meal of the day by 6pm and not eat anything again until 8am the next morning. This provides a full 14-hours of fasting and a 10-hour eating window, which has shown to have improvements in sleep, blood sugar regulation, weight loss and more.

While there are many health benefits associated with fasting, it's always most important to go back to your current health and goals to decide on an appropriate schedule, anywhere from 12-16 hours seems to be most popular and effective. Getting started is simple. The first part is choosing a time frame to stop eating and start eating, which you can adjust as you become more experienced or understand what works best for you.

Not everyone is ready to exercise 5 days a week, fast after dinner or stop snacking. The good news is, you don't have to start there because there are many other ways to boost your metabolism and burn body fat. Learn about a simple fasting tip to start with today in this podcast.

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