Intermittent Fasting: Eating in Rhythm

Whole Systems Healthcare

We live in a society where there is an abundance of food, but this can cause issues with our eating habits. For tens of thousands of years, our bodies developed a routine of eating during certain periods of the day, and then fasting for extended periods on a very regular basis, allowing the body to utilize available energy more efficiently, as well as detox and restore healthy functioning. In our modern time, intermittent fasting is one of the most powerful habits that we can implement into our daily routine that will help us to achieve better energy, mental clarity, and overall health. Scientific literature has exploded in the past few years around the benefits of intermittent fasting. To obtain the benefits of this powerful health technique, you do not need to be someone with exceptional willpower. After you start developing the daily habit of fasting, your body begins to prefer periods of not eating, making it easier to maintain an intermittent fasting routine.

There are many different types of fasts, such as juice fasts, water fasts, or specific dietary restrictions, and they can last from 12 hrs to even several months! Such longer fasts can be beneficial depending on the individual, but we are not recommending them here today. Intermittent fasting is a moderate approach to routine fasting that entails shorter periods of not eating anything between meals. While most of us fast overnight while we sleep (hence the term, “break-fast”), research has proven that you can gain significant health benefits just from slightly extending a period of not eating between meals each day. During sleep, we already fast approximately 8 hours. With intermittent fasting, a goal can be to extend the 8 hours a bit longer while we are awake, i.e., in the hours before going to sleep after waking up.

Here is a great method for implementing intermittent fasting in your everyday life, called the 16/8 method. Essentially, the method entails keeping all calorie intake within an 8 hour period of your day (e.g., 8 AM to 4 PM) and then fasting for the remaining 16 hours of the day (e.g., 4 PM to 8 AM). By maintaining this simple routine for weeks to months, you can obtain the following significant health benefits:

  1. Boost in metabolism: This occurs by optimizing the regulation of your thyroid and adrenal hormones. Establishing daily routines is key for having a healthy metabolism, and if you have been doing some of our previous recommendations towards sleeping and waking hygiene, you are already halfway there!
  2. Increase in insulin sensitivity: Insulin sensitivity is part of the fat storage mechanism in your body, and producing too much insulin on a regular basis can cause us to gain weight. When we have high levels of insulin resistance, we start developing issues like metabolic syndrome, which can progress into type II diabetes. Therefore, regulating insulin is very important and one of the first steps to sustained healthy weight management.
  3. Increase leptin sensitivity: Leptin, the “satiety hormone”, is the hormone that causes satiety, or the feeling that you are full from a meal. The more your body is receptive to this hormone, the less hunger you will have, and the less food you will require from a meal.
  4. Decrease in ghrelin: Ghrelin, the “hunger hormone”, is the hormone that is released that causes us to feel hungry. The less ghrelin we have floating around in our bloodstream, the less hungry we feel in general.
  5. Promote production of human growth hormone (HGH): HGH has also been called the “fat burning hormone”, but HGH has many other health-promoting effects in the body. For now, is it useful to remember that naturally optimizing the production of HGH is good for your overall health and will help you maintain a healthy weight.
  6. Prevent energy crashes: Through some of the mechanisms described above, intermittent fasting helps to regulate our blood sugar, which allows us to have more stable energy levels throughout the day.

As you can see, intermittent fasting is one of our most powerful tools for healthy weight management and blood sugar regulation. The following are some of the strategies that you can use to help you succeed with implementing intermittent fasting in your daily life:

  1. Refrain from purchasing snack foods while grocery shopping: If you have it, you will eat it!
  2. Plan your meals for the day: Like we have mentioned in other posts, planning is important for any sustainable change that you want to implement in your life. Try planning your meals the night before or at the start of the week to make it easier to have healthy meals on hand when you need them.
  3. You can still have tea or black coffee in the morning: Are you a coffee person? Great news! You can still have your morning coffee without breaking your fast. Just make sure to have your coffee black, without cream or sweeteners. Same applies to tea.
  4. Listen to your body: Fasting is more than just a period of not eating. It is also a period of cleansing and relaxation. But some days, things don’t go as smoothly as others. If one of your mornings or evenings is particularly hectic, overwhelming, or stressful, chances are that fasting might be counterproductive. If you feel that you are hangry (yes, it is an actual term: check here), you can stop fasting for the day and try again tomorrow.
  5. Baby steps: If you have had a habit of eating all throughout the day or at odd hours of the night, chances are that it might be challenging at first to implement an intermittent fasting routine. You can start by not eating anything after 6 PM, then 5 PM, and then 4 PM. You can also try not snacking as much (or at all)  between meals. There are many ways to start implementing intermittent fasting, so just go with what feels best for you.

Authors

  • Dr. Santiago Nevarez, ND, MAc, lived in the region of Guaynabo, Puerto Rico for the first 23 years of his life. He earned a Bachelor’s Degree in General Biology with a focus on Human Physiology from the University of Puerto Rico. After training in biomedical research methods at the National Institutes of Health–National Cancer Institute (NIH-NCI), Dr. Nevarez earned a Doctorate in Naturopathic Medicine (ND) and Master of Acupuncture (MAc) from the National University of Natural Medicine (NUNM) in Portland, Oregon. Dr. Nevarez is a Licensed Acupuncturist (LAc) and Naturopathic Doctor (ND) in the state of Maryland. Dr. Nevarez works as a Spanish-English medical interpreter at Johns Hopkins Bayview Hospital. Dr. Nevarez was first to adopt the WSHC Clinic Director model, and is currently the WSHC Baltimore Clinic Director.

  • Dr. Craig Mehrmann holds a Master of Public Health (MPH) and graduate certificates in Humanitarian Health and Health Finance and Management from Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health, a Doctorate in Naturopathic Medicine (ND) from the National University of Natural Medicine, and a Bachelor's in Science (BS) in Neuroscience from the University of Massachusetts Amherst. He serves as the founder and Executive Director of Whole Systems Healthcare and is a Medical Service Corps Officer in the 41st Infantry Brigade Combat Team of the Oregon Army National Guard.