Intermittent fasting has been getting more attention lately. Should you try it?

By By Carolyn Brown, MS, RD
Advertisement
Photo: Xphi Dech Pha Ti / EyeEm / Getty Images

As a registered dietitian, I customize food plans and advise clients all over the world from our Foodtrainers offices. Every day, several of these clients come in asking about different fad diets and food trends. Some are silly and easily dismissible (looking at you, juice cleanses). Others are "new" (but often very old) and potentially useful. Intermittent fasting falls into that category.

Between our office and Instagram, I now hear questions on a daily basis about intermittent fasting (IF). Many fans of IF say that it can make you leaner, stronger, and faster, while boosting your energy and helping you sleep better. Okay, with benefits like these, should we all be fasting?

When you hear the word fasting, you may think religious fasting or hunger strikes, like the kind that Gandhi did. But fasting has been used as a mechanism for healing for centuries too.

That's because digestion takes up a lot of physical energy. The idea is that by taking a break from eating, your body can focus on other processes, like regulating hormones, decreasing stress, and reducing inflammation. Even though fasting is becoming more popular (it's commonly recommended as part of a keto diet), it's actually an old-school concept, tracing back Ayurvedic medicine, which says to avoid snacks for this reason. (More: Everything You Need to Know About Intermittent Fasting)

Research on the benefits is still very new, but the anecdotal evidence looks fairly strong. We even use IF in our office as part of a weeklong "Foodtrainers Squeeze" reset program, and hundreds of participants report fantastic improvements in their energy, weight, and sleep. There are several types of intermittent fasting, from intro level to full-blown water fasts (which I do not recommend unless supervised by a doctor). I also do not recommend IF during pregnancy or for those with a history of disordered eating/restriction.

The intro/medium level of IF is what I use most often with clients, called 16:8. This means having a 16-hour food-free window, then an eight-hour window of regular meals. So if breakfast is at 10 a.m., you need to eat dinner by 6 p.m. At Foodtrainers, we have run hundreds of clients through this, and we find the optimal timing of meals is 10 a.m. breakfast (do not skip breakfast!!! This is not about skipping meals), 2 p.m. lunch, 6 p.m. dinner. Then, as we say at Foodtrainers, the kitchen is closed! (If you're hungry in the morning, try these easy breakfasts you can make in 5 minutes.)

Of course, this is not always possible if you have a real life and like to socialize and don't bring your dinner to work. So I'd suggest trying this two to three days a week to start, on days when you have total control of your meals, and see how you feel. It's not something to be employed 24/7/365.

As always, the quality of your diet is still key: Tons of veggies, lean proteins like wild fish, organic chicken, pasture-raised eggs, and good fats like olive oil, coconut oil, nuts, seeds, and avocado are ideal. The goal is to have nourishing, solid meals, not to starve yourself.

As for liquids, if it's outside of your eight-hour eating window, you want to keep it to mostly calorie-free beverages. Here's the deal on what you can drink during intermittent fasting:

  • Water is important and a freebie. Drink as much as you can (~80 to 90 ounces for most people).
  • Tea is your friend. I love loose-leaf teas.
  • No sodas (even diet) or fruit juices.
  • Your morning coffee is fine. There is a rule among the bulletproof/paleo/keto communities that your body remains in a fasting state as long as you consume under 50 calories of fat (think coconut oil in your coffee, a splash of whole coconut milk, unsweetened/homemade almond milk, or even a splash of heavy cream). Hallelujah coffee gods!
  • Alcohol is a no. Not only is alcohol caloric, and most likely taking place outside of your eight-hour eating window, it is still a toxic compound and puts your body through stress to metabolize and get rid of. So skip alcohol, and stick to water, tea and sparkling water on IF days.

Comments (16)

Anonymous
February 2, 2019
My life is totally transformed after I followed this diet. https://bit.ly/2safCoC Have Lost 27 pounds in last 1 month and feeling great about myself.
Anonymous
January 16, 2019
Did you know there’s a “deep detox” you can do first thing in the morning to burn more fat? And the good news is It only takes 13-seconds! Here it is: https://bit.ly/2x45lQy
Anonymous
December 18, 2018
Losing weight is not so difficult with the right guidance and methods. What worked for me was this amazing guide: https://bit.ly/2QvsWDd Explains the science of losing weight, right foods to eat, foods to avoid, tips and tricks to lose weight quickly and stay healthy.
Anonymous
December 18, 2018
The simple 30 second ritual that stops fat storage: https://bit.ly/2LjBabD
Anonymous
December 17, 2018
Sometimes you may need to lose a lot of weight quickly. I've tested this plan because i was looking for a way to lose weight fast before an event, and it worked wonders. Do you have trouble losing weight? You came to the right place. Get ready for weight loss without hunger. Try this program >> https://bit.ly/howtoloseweightveryfast
Anonymous
November 16, 2018
This controversial method can make you lean fast: https://bit.ly/2DmMBxk
Anonymous
October 30, 2018
Losing weight is not so difficult with proper guidance and discipline. What helped me in my desire to lose weight and get fit was this amazing weight loss program. watch the video here: => https://the2weekdietnow.com
Anonymous
October 19, 2018
Unusual weight loss method that actually works: https://bit.ly/2NeMdD5
Anonymous
October 13, 2018
The Secret to Losing Unwanted Weight Fast and Keeping It Off: https://bit.ly/2pRzPPy
Anonymous
October 9, 2018
Lost 41 pounds and 4 dress sizes. I am in the best shape of my life. Wish I had seen this amazing video earlier: https://bit.ly/2xZoIIy
Anonymous
August 8, 2018
Hi. While there are endless diets, supplements, and meal replacement plans claiming to ensure rapid weight loss, most lack any scientific evidence. There are, however, some strategies backed by science that do have an impact on weight management. Being a healthy weight offers many health benefits, as well as a feeling of wellbeing. Some start off by making dietary changes while others hire personal trainers and begin working out three times a week. Do you have trouble losing weight? Or would you like to lose faster? You’ve come to the right place. If you want to read more, click hete to find out more: https://bit.ly/2ib9C92
Anonymous
July 7, 2018
Did you know there’s a “deep detox” you can do first thing in the morning to burn more fat? And the good news is It only takes 13-seconds! Here it is: https://bit.ly/2x45lQy
Anonymous
June 25, 2018
My life is totally transformed after I followed this diet.https://bit.ly/2safCoC Have Lost 27 pounds in last 1 month and feeling great about myself.
Anonymous
June 13, 2018
Great tip about IF.... People are having success losing belly fat with this... http://bit.ly/2t5HZop
Anonymous
June 11, 2018
Discover The #1 Detox Tea That Melts Away Fat EFFORTLESSLY: https://bit.ly/2Laaysp
Anonymous
June 7, 2018
Hi guys, I've been battling with weight loss for many years and tried many diets but the only thing that works for me is this product which is doing very well world wide. So check it out here if you are interested : http://www.lnk123.com/SHpqN