Intermittent fasting is growing in popularity. For those unfamiliar with the practice, intermittent fasting is when a person purposefully fasts for most of the day and takes in calories only within a specific block of time. Typically the fast lasts between 12 and 16 hours.
Our hunter-gatherer ancestors didn’t have the modern luxuries of grocery stores, refrigerators or easy access to food. As a result, humans have evolved to be able to function without food for extended periods of time. Fasting has also been practiced for centuries for religious or spiritual reasons.
According to the National Institute on Aging, fasting improves biomarkers of disease, reduces oxidative stress, and preserves learning and memory functioning. High insulin levels are often the culprit for diabetes and obesity. Between meals, insulin levels will go down and fat cells can then release stored sugars to be used as energy. We lose weight and improve our health if insulin levels fall. The idea of intermittent fasting is to allow the levels to go down far and long enough that we begin to burn off our fat stores.
Our metabolisms have adapted to a daytime-food, nighttime-sleep schedule. Late-night eating is linked to a higher risk of obesity and diabetes. While studies show fasting to be effective, it’s often hard for people to follow.
It’s important to find a schedule that works with your lifestyle for it to be effective and sustainable, especially when combined with a plant-based diet. Many find eating between noon and 8 p.m. works best.
If you usually eat breakfast, this may be a challenge for you. In time, your body will adapt and the feelings of hunger will subside. When fasting you can have caffeine, which acts as an appetite suppressant. Stay away from creamers, sugar or other calories in your coffee or tea; those calories will break your fast. Stick to an all-natural, zero-calorie sweetener like stevia or monk fruit.
Drink plenty of water. Often when we feel hungry, our body is confusing it with thirst. Consuming water first thing in the morning will help alleviate hunger pangs and flush out your system from overnight.
Army veteran Jennifer Campbell is a certified personal trainer with a master’s degree in nutrition education. She is commander of the California American Legion’s 24th District.