The Beginner's Guide to Intermittent Fasting

Experts weigh in on the diet everyone is talking about this year
A Beginner's Guide Intermittent Fasting
A Beginner's Guide Intermittent Fasting
May 27, 2019

As a year-round lifestyle option, intermittent fasting (IF) is right up there with the ketogenic diet when it comes to the latest eating habits. With IF, you consume all your calories in a shortened, eight-hour window, allowing you to fast for the other 16 hours of the day.

Why pros say It works

The idea, explains Sandra Henein, a certified integrative and holistic health coach and teacher at Dubai’s Method MVT studio, is that IF can reduce inflammation. “It gives your gut a chance to repair between meals so it’s not overworking,” she says. IF can slow the aging process, as it allows the cells to renew and repair. It also speeds up the metabolism so your body is better at burning energy, and reduces brain fog while protecting our brains from stress. “Chronic inflammation is the culprit in many diseases that we know of today, which is why I always work with my clients to reduce that first,” adds Henein. IF is safe and incredibly effective, agrees Monique Tello, MD, MPH, in an article for Harvard University’s blog. The way it works is by allowing our insulin levels to drop between meals. Our body starts to burn fat when it doesn’t have a supply of sugar readily available.

How to Do it correctly

IF is particularly successful when the overnight fasting period is extended. “We have evolved to be in sync with the day/night cycle – a circadian rhythm,” says Tello. “Our metabolism has adapted to day-time food, night-time sleep.” Because of this, regularly eating late at night can have negative health associations. In one study by the University of Alabama, simply changing the timings of meals and increasing the overnight fast caused benefits for the body’s metabolism. “Here’s the deal: there is some good, scientific evidence suggesting that circadian-rhythm fasting, when combined with a healthy diet and lifestyle, can be a particularly effective approach to weight loss,” says Tello. However, before you rush to put down that breakfast bowl, IF isn’t for everyone. “It needs to be closely monitored,” says Henein. The safest way is to shorten the fasting window to 12 hours, instead of 16-18; be less rigorous and regimented, so try it up to three days a week, instead of seven; and keep a close eye on any imbalances in your body. Men and women alike should strive to focus on whole foods, with no sugars and snacks. Fill up with protein-rich dishes and healthy fats. IF also requires specialised guidance for anyone who has struggled with eating disorders in the past, has advanced diabetes, or has other medical conditions, notes Tello. If all this sounds too complicated, start small. “Avoid snacking or eating at night, all the time,” says Tello.