Conventional dietary wisdom tells us to eat every 3-4 hours but what if I were to tell you that there are a host of benefits that you can experience from going 16+ hours without food?
Without getting to into the nutritional science weeds, it’s not only unnecessary to eat this often, but recent research suggests that doing so is actually unhealthy and detrimental to weight loss goals. When you eat, you begin the process of digestion, and complete digestion usually takes at least six hours. So, if you’re snacking/eating another meal within that time frame you’re disrupting that process and asking your body to restart digestion. This takes energy away from other repairs your body is making as well as shortening your body’s ability to burn fat in between meals.
Benefits of Fasting
The research is very new on IF but from my personal experience with it, it has really helped me get better at listening to my body.. now I notice when I’m actually hungry vs. just eating on a schedule. I’ve actually come to enjoy the feeling of being hungry as so often in our culture we are just eating to eat. Fasting is a great way to practicing noticing and managing hunger.
Additional benefits include increased longevity, neuroprotection, increased insulin sensitivity (store carbs as muscle glycogen rather than fat), stronger resistance to stress, increased mental clarity, among many others.
Overall, fasting is like setting a reset button for your entire body, putting your body into repair mode on a cellular level.
How to Implement
There are many fasting ‘protocols’ and I’d recommend experimenting to find what works best for you! That may mean simply skipping a meal a couple of times a week and just tapping into your ‘hunger cues’, for me it means eating dinner around 8pm and not eating again until noon the next day (also known as a condensed eating window, probably the least daunting approach), you could do a single 24-hour fast, or alternate day fasting.
Now, fasting isn’t for everyone, and it shouldn’t be a struggle, it should just come naturally. There are also some prerequisites that I’d advise you have in place before giving it a try: eating a relatively healthy diet, exercising regularly, getting good sleep, and minimizing stress. I also wouldn’t recommend IF to pregnant women.
Mark’s Daily Apple has plenty of good articles written on this topic if you’re interested in learning more.