I’m sure you have all heard of someone getting great results with weight loss on an intermittent fast. Even though it may seem like the latest “fad” (which in some respects it is), historically, fasting has been used as both a religious and a medical practice for thousands of years. Intermittent fasting has shown improvements in blood sugar levels, reducing inflammation, lowering blood pressure, improving cardiovascular health, cognitive function and physical performance.

Intermittent fasting essentially ‘resets’ the body, allowing it to heal as the body is less busy consuming the next meal and can focus on repair work instead. Our cells therefore have an increased resistance to stress and disease. It also resets our important signalling to our brain to let us know when we are hungry and when we are full. With increased accessibility to food these days, often we stop listening to what our body needs and override these signals to the point where they stop working. This can be a really important step in dealing with weight issues.

As wonderful as all these benefits sound, there are also numerous potential risks reported in medical research. These include nausea, fluid retention, alopecia (hair loss), bladder issues, irregular periods, anxiety, depression, stress, fatigue,  abnormal liver function tests and decreased bone density, not to mention nutritional deficiencies.

When not to do intermittent fasting

We are fortunate that this has been such a popular topic with researchers, who, since the 5:2 diet was released, have been looking further into what is the ‘best’ long term option that is full of the wonderful benefits of fasting, but minimises the side effects. That being said, there are certain circumstances where ANY fasting is not recommended. This includes fatty liver disease, pregnancy and breastfeeding, mismanaged diabetes, high cortisol levels or when we are under excessive amounts of stress. It is also highly important that the food consumed in an intermittent fast is as nutritiously dense as possible. And even then, it is still advisable to take the right supplements, ensuring you have optimal nutrition and your body doesn’t view the fast as physically stressful.

Recommendations for women

The latest recommendation for women is actually a 10 hour window of eating. This will ensure that, in particular our hormones and stress are not impacted. It also ensures our metabolism doesn’t slow down to compensate for the ‘famine’.

In between each meal within the 10 hours, it is best (for anyone, not just intermittent fasters) to have a 3 hour break where the body can thoroughly digest the meal and concentrate on other functions. During this time, herbal teas and water are great. If the body doesn’t get a break, it can’t move the food through our digestive tract. It also can’t engage in necessary repair work to keep us at optimal health.

So, what does this mean for you?

Your health requires your individual attention. If you just do the same as someone else, rarely will you get the same results. Really think about where you are at from a health perspective and what you would like to achieve.  Obviously, if you are working out early in the morning, you require fuel for performance. So perhaps you would consider an earlier dinner?  Finishing food for the day at 5:30pm would mean you could happily have a 7:30 breakfast. But for some people, if you are too hungry before going to bed, you won’t sleep as deeply. You may even have difficulty getting to sleep in the first place. Hmmm…

Intermittent fasting really does require thought, commitment, dedication and patience with yourself. If you would like support to ensure that what you are doing is right for you and will help you achieve your goals, consider a consult at Gisborne Health Essentials. We work with you on a holistic level to ensure that your health is not compromised and is in fact optimal, before and during any fasting.

Or just drop in to the shop and ask us any questions you may have. We are more than happy to help.

Happy exercising!