Are you interested in losing a few extra pounds and at the same time improving your chances of living a longer, healthier life? Then keep reading to learn about intermittent fasting. There is a lot of interest recently in fasting, so I wanted to give everyone a quick update on what that is, why, and how one might do it.

The basics:
Intermittent fasting refers to alternating periods of eating and not eating. Fasting itself can refer to eating nothing at all, drinking just water, or eating a very low-calorie diet.  There are different ways to approach this and I’ll review three popular techniques below. But first…

What’s all the fuss about?
Well, weight loss and longevity are the two big selling points for adopting these interesting eating styles. There is a growing body of research to support fasting for weight loss as well as improving overall health. It appears as though something as simple as controlling when you eat and when you don’t eat could have dramatic effects on your likelihood of developing, or potentially reversing things like high blood pressure, diabetes, autoimmune disease, inflammatory bowel disease, cognitive decline, cancer, and more.

How does it work?
A very simplified explanation is that when healthy cells are exposed to caloric restriction (fasting), they go into energy conservation and repair mode. Damaged or sick cells may not survive the fast. So, in the end, you come out with fewer, but healthier cells. It’s like a “survival of the fittest” at the cellular level. We are in the early stages of research, but results are so promising, and impact so sweeping (think diabetes, heart disease, cancer, autoimmunity) that it is hard not to get excited. OK, so now I have your interest, how do you do it?

The nuts and bolts of how to fast:
As I mentioned there are a few ways to do it. Here are three popular ways:

  • Time restricted eating is perhaps the most approachable technique. This refers to extending the overnight fast to at least 12 hours. If you finish dinner at 7pm, you don’t eat anything again until 7am. That window can be extended further for added benefit. The “16:8“ fast is one popular iteration where you eat for a window of only eight hours during the day and the other 16 hours you abstain from having caloric beverages or food.
  • Another version of intermittent fasting is the “2:5” plan. That’s where on two non-consecutive days of the week you eat only 500 calories. The other five days of the week you eat your typical diet. Studies show that weight loss using this 2:5: fasting technique is just as effective as traditional low-calorie diet.
  • The third most common technique for intermittent fasting is called the fasting mimicking diet (FMD). This has been developed by longevity expert, Valter Longo.  His research is based on a specific meal plan consisting of five low-calorie days in a row, repeated once a month for three months. Benefits include not only weight loss but improved metabolic markers such as lower cholesterol, lower glucose, lower blood pressure, and more.  There’s so much to unpack with this one that I’m going to dedicate a whole separate blog to FMD with Longo’s proprietary meal plan, Prolon. Look for that coming soon.

Which one is best?
As you can see, these three techniques vary significantly. Which is best? We will need to wait for research studies comparing them to determine if one approach is better than the other. At this point, I think that being able to successfully carry out the fast might just be the most important factor in choosing which one is best for you.

How to get started?
Extending the overnight fast is something that is very accessible to most people, and it might be the easiest way to start.

Incorporating the 2:5 weekly fast is a little bit more challenging. I suggest reaching out to a healthcare provider or nutritionist to get advice on how to safely carry out the 500 calorie days.

The fasting mimicking diet (FMD) should definitely be carried out under the supervision of a healthcare provider. This multi-day fast of 700-1100 calories a day could cause side effects such as weakness, fatigue, lightheadedness. Certain people should NOT attempt the FMD: anyone with diabetes, on glucose lowering medicines, pregnant women, elderly, otherwise sick or frail people.

Are you interested in learning more or having medical supervision for a fast? I would love to help. Please call the office for a free 15 minute consultation: 203-900-4194.