Intermittent fasting is one of the most popular new trends in health and dieting, and for good reason. Fasting for as few as 16 hours induces a state of cellular cleanup known as autophagy, which is important for reducing aging and decreasing rates of cancer, heart disease, Alzheimer’s, and systemic inflammation.
Given the lack of available food throughout most of human history, our bodies evolved to thrive during periods without eating. When we are not eating, our cells take a break from reproducing and go into an important clean-up mode.
However, very few people today go for more than 12 hours at a time without a snack or meal. We now live in a society with an overabundance of food, which means that our cells rarely get a chance to repair themselves.
Getting the benefits of fasting is easy. Studies show that only 16-18 hours are required for the benefits of autophagy to set in. Because you can count your sleep time hours in this total, all you need to do to intermittently fast is to skip dinner or breakfast on occasion. For example, if you finish dinner by 6:00 PM, you can break your fast as early as 10:00 AM the next morning. That is not difficult for most.
It is important to avoid snacking during the fast, even on a banana or a small breakfast. If you do feel hunger, you can drink coffee and water and eat a spoonful or two of coconut oil during this time to suppress hunger and help induce ketosis, which has a host of benefits similar to those of intermittent fasting.
If you feel light headed or otherwise unhealthy, then break your fast until you can work slowly up to 16 hours. Don’t force yourself.
Once you become accustomed to intermittent fasting, most people experience a state of productivity and clear-headedness during their fast, and often don’t miss the lethargic feeling they get after a large meal.
It is also important to break your fast slowly. Although you will have a condensed eating window, you will want to ease into your first meal of the day with something small—perhaps a bowl of yogurt and some berries. After you’ve digested that, you can have a full meal. This will help avoid swings in your blood sugar.
Intermittent fasting should be done in conjunction with a healthy, whole-food diet that eliminates processed food. But a whole-food diet will only take you so far, and a few days a week of intermittent fasting can make you much healthier if implemented properly.