Intermittent Fasting – what’s all the fuss about?

Most of us have heard of ‘Intermittent Fasting’ but many of us are perhaps wondering ‘what’s all the fuss about’..? What does it even mean?

I wanted to take a closer look at this relatively ‘new’ trend and decided to give it a go myself. I was keen to see if it would have any effect on some of the hormonal changes I’ve been experiencing during this delightful 50+ phase of my life. I have only been at it a week or so but it has been a rather fun experiment – although I am jumping ahead of myself. Let’s start at the beginning; what is Intermittent fasting?

IF is more of a ‘pattern of eating than an actual diet’ [1]. Its foundations lie in the proven principle that organised, deliberate and regular fasting actually leads to several health benefits, which include:

  • Regulating blood sugar levels (keeping insulin more under control) [2]
  • Helps reverse type 2 diabetes [2]
  • Improves concentration, focus and mental clarity [2]
  • 
Helps with weight, fat burning and fat loss [2]
  • Increases energy levels [2]
  • Helps to reduce inflammation [2]
  • Helps increase growth hormone [2]
  • Can slow the ageing process [3]
  • Can help prevent heart disease [3]

This all sounds pretty amazing doesn’t it? Well, it certainly caught my attention, which is why I thought I’d give it a go. My first step was to ascertain how long I needed to fast for exactly?

I discovered that there are many different types of fasts. The most typical are those that involve fasting for less than 24 hours (needless to say, this is the one I chose..!). It means having an ‘eating window’ [4] of several hours and you do not eat any food outside of those hours. For example, the most common form of intermittent fasting is having an ‘eating window’ of 8 hours in the day and fasting the remaining 16 hours. This means that a person can eat between 11.00 – 19.00 or 13.00 – 21.00 and only drink water, tea or coffee (black) outside of those times. Another form is the 20/4 scenario, which involves fasting for 20 hours and having an eating window of just 4 hours. This may not be everyone’s cup of tea, so to speak but IF is inherently flexible because you can tailor make the hours to suit your own lifestyle, wants and needs. In other words, intermittent fasting does not focus on what you eat but when you eat [5].

There are many other intermittent fasting scenarios, of course, [for more information, click here] but apparently the best results come after a minimum fasting time of 16 hours and the most beneficial results are for those who can fast up to 24 hours or longer [6]- although this is less practical or workable for most people. According to P.D. Mangan, the length of the fast has to do with lowering the insulin levels of the body. High insulin can lead to inflammation and diabetes to name just two culprits affecting many people’s well-being today and trying to keep those insulin levels under control is an important aspect of reclaiming our health and keeping it..! For more on the science behind intermittent fasting, click here.

What was my experience?

Admittedly, staying busy seems key. When I had enough to do I rarely thought about it and time passed relatively quickly. Having moments with less to do, however, made the fast more challenging. I tended to focus on it more and recognised the importance of distractions. As for the type of fast, I found that an eating window between 10.00 and 18.00 tended to suit me best but I adjusted that somewhat on days that I knew I was going out for dinner. My birthday even ‘fell’ during my experimental week (typical..!) but I knew fasting was not something I had to do every day, so that helped take the pressure off. I chose to do it on the days that it worked out easily and the other days I simply let it go, which worked rather well.

Furthermore, I continued to exercise very early in the morning (which is my preference and not a prerequisite at all, I hasten to add) and so far this penchant of mine has not been negatively impacted in any way.

I also noticed that when I woke up early, I felt a little less foggy than usual – I am curious to see if this is just a side effect of starting something new or whether it remains an ongoing phenomenon.

Any noticeable benefits this early in the game?

One thing I did observe is how well I slept..! I have not been sleeping very soundly of late (hormonal much?) and realised that this whole undertaking seems to have improved my sleep somehow (despite the fact that this is not even listed as one of the benefits… go figure)! Again, time will tell if this is simply my version of ‘beginners luck’ or a continual benefit I may enjoy for a while to come.

I have decided to try it for a month just to give it a proper chance and see if I notice any real and lasting change. I am curious and rather excited, which may just be two more fun side effects of intermittent fasting..!


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