4 min|Rhiannon Lockhart

Time-Restricted Eating for Overall Health: Your Guide to Intermittent Fasting

Wellness, Nutrition, Mind Health, Gut Health, Heart Health

Intermittent fasting has gained considerable popularity in recent years as a potential solution for weight management and overall health improvement. This dietary approach involves cycling between periods of eating and fasting. There are a variety of methods that we’ll explore in this blog, and determine whether fasting is the best approach for you.

What is intermittent fasting?

Simply put, intermittent fasting is periods of voluntary abstinence from eating or drinking. (1) With the rise in fasting for anything from weight loss to diabetes management, various ways to fast have also become more known.

Some forms of intermittent fasting include:

  1. Complete alternate-day fasting: your week is split by some fasting days and some eating days.

  2. Modified fasting regimes: on days that you fast, you consume low-energy foods (typically 20-25 percent of your daily energy needs.

  3. Religious fasting: many religions still practice fasting, like Ramadan. Depending on the practice, food may be completely missed for a few days or take a practice like time-restricted eating.

  4. Time-restricted eating: this is most commonly used and restricts feeding windows through the day. Typically, you do this each day or most days of the week. This can be anywhere from a 12-hour overnight fast to one meal per day (OMAD)

Fasting for weight loss

One of the main drivers for fasting is weight loss. Why? Because it often works, and for some can make a difference with as little as 11 hours of overnight fasting. (1) Many people will utilize time-restricted eating for weight loss as it tends to be an easier method of caloric restriction than evaluating all of their meals through the day. Additionally, some studies show that time-restricted eating showed decreased waist circumference compared to caloric restriction. (2)

The additional benefit of fasting rather than caloric restriction for weight loss is its simplicity. No calorie counters or step counters involved, only proper planning.

Fasting for insulin sensitivity

Intermittent fasting has also had a positive impact for those looking to increase their insulin sensitivity, such as those with type 2 diabetes and polycystic ovarian syndrome (PCOS).

Various forms of fasting have proven to be beneficial to increase insulin sensitivity, including time-restricted eating (particularly early time-restricted eating), fasting with carbohydrate restriction and alternate day fasting. (3) (4) Speak to your care provider to determine which is best for you and your lifestyle.

Fasting for brain health

One major risk factor in neurological issues is metabolic disease. Intermittent fasting has shown benefits for metabolic health, as noted above. Fasting has shown promise for a range of neurological disorders including cognition, age-related decline, multiple sclerosis and stroke recovery (5)

Fasting for cancer prevention and treatment

Trials have explored the benefits of intermittent fasting, both prolonged and short-term time-restricted eating, in cancer prevention and to reduce chemotherapy-related side-effects. (6)(5) Many of the studies are inconclusive, and benefits can be cancer dependent. This means it is important to discuss the options with your care team as needs and goals through treatment can vary.

What are some of the negative impacts of intermittent fasting?

Outside of weight loss, the positive effects of intermittent fasting are inconsistent and can vary based on a number of factors including:

While intermittent fasting has a host of benefits, some people should avoid some forms of fasting that have become more dominant today, i.e. skipping breakfast. If you are consistently fasting for weight loss and having no change in body composition, it is important to discuss underlying issues with your care team, which can include an underactive thyroid or hormone issues.

Many people who may not benefit from popular fasting techniques, but want some of the positive effects may find early time-restricted eating a useful tool.

If you are pregnant or breastfeeding, experience missing or irregular menstrual cycles due to caloric restriction, have a history of disordered eating or certain medication conditions, intermittent fasting is likely not right for you.

**Always consult with a qualified healthcare professional for medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment.**

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