I started Intermittent Fasting (IF) about 5-6 years ago. Since then, I have fasted nearly every single day. That in and of itself is rather mind-blowing to me—I have done almost 2,000 fasts! That said, the types of fast I do and the purpose behind why I fast have changed drastically. I thought I’d share my journey with you, corroborated by scientific research for those of you that require more data-based evidence (like me!).
I can think. I can wait. I can fast.Hermann Hesse
Benefits of Intermittent Fasting
There are many well-documented researches that delineate the physical and mental health benefits of IF.
It is most popularly known as a diet strategy for weight loss. The narrowed eating window is helpful for reducing calorie consumption for individuals; however, it is important to keep in mind that: the only sure method of losing weight is to be at a calorie deficit. In other words, regardless the size of your eating window or how long you have fasted, as long as your caloric consumption exceeds your caloric expenditure, you will not lose weight!
Besides weight management, studies have discovered IF to have neuroprotective effects by enhancing hippocampal neurogenesis and long-term potentiation (LTP) at hippocampal synapses (Baik, Sang-Ha et al.). In short, IF activates the mechanisms that fortify our central nervous system against injuries, both acute and chronic, such as Alzheimer’s, Dementia, etc.
Another benefit of IF is the induction of autophagy, which is a metabolic process that our body employs to dispose of damaged cells. This quality is commonly associated with anti-aging! Typically, autophagy begins when glucose and insulin levels have dropped significantly (Bagherniya, Mohammad et al.).
Finally, the last efficacy of IF that I am going to share here is: mental clarity. When we fast, our norepinephrine levels increase; it is a hormone and a neurotransmitter that enhance mental focus, and memory storage and retrieval (Fung and Moore).
Types of Fasts
- The Warrior Diet
Eat only one large meal a day
- Eat Stop Eat // 24 Hour Fast
Pick one day of the week and fast the entire day
- Time-restricted Fast
Fast for 12+ hours every day and reduce your eating window
A popular one is: 18/6
18 hours fast and 6 hours eating window;
14 hours fast and 10 hours eating window
- Alternate Day Fast
Fast every other day
- 5:2 Fast
Eat as you normally would for 5 days, restrict your calorie intake to 500-600 on the other 2 days
Tips to Get Started & Risks to Avoid
In my years of fasting, I have tried all of the fasts listed above, for various reasons. I first stumbled across IF when I was trying to lose weight. I was assiduous in my fasting, so much so that I overlooked and neglected all biological signals, and subsequently lost my period. As a beginning faster, I had no way of discerning: how much I was supposed to suppress my hunger cues; which cues were derived from hunger, which ones were from boredom; when to abort the fast, etc.
I will share some of my tips (from personal experience and research) but since all of us are different, please note that what works for me may not work for you.
1. Start Slow
I leaped straight into a daily 16/8 Time-Restricted Fast (16 hours fasted, 8 hours eating window) as a beginner. After nearly a month of 16/8, I felt rather good and confident, so I increased my fasting window to 18 hours, while at the same time reducing my caloric intake because I was trying to lose weight ASAP—huge mistake! This foolishness and naïveté lost me my period, which took me months to recover. To avoid making my mistake, I’d recommend starting with a smaller fasting window, say 12 hours, and slowly work your way up.
2. Drink LOTS of Water
You may be tempted to be strictly drinking caffeinated beverages to stave off hunger but those are diuretics. It is highly—HIGHLY—recommended that you drink a copious amount of water to remain hydrated.
3. It’s Okay to Abandon a Fast
Some days you may be so so so close to completing your fast yet your blood sugar has already dropped too low and you are beginning to feel dizzy. Abandon fast. Eat. The beauty of this social construct of time is you will get another 24 hours the next day to fast! In the grand scheme of things, one incomplete fast really doesn’t make any difference.
My Current Routine
Currently, I fast 14+ hours daily, unless I am feeling unwell. My body prefers this fasted state in the morning wherein my thoughts are crisp and agile. While I fast, I drink an obscene amount of water, along with some black coffee. I no longer fast for weight management, rather mental clarity and personal preference.
That’s it! I hope this post was informative. Let me know if you have any questions! I’ll be happy to impart my flawed wisdom! 😉