So what is intermittent fasting?
Intermittent fasting (IF) is a way of scheduling your meals so that your body goes 16 hours without caloric intake. The goal is to cycle 8-hour periods of eating with 16 hours of fasting. When limiting the time frame in which meals are consumed, your body will reap the benefits of caloric restriction.
There are various eating schedules that work well. Here are the two most effective schedules:
- Eat two meals per day within a 6-8 hour window and fast for 16 hours. The easiest way to do this is to have your first meal at noon, and your second meal around 6 or 7 PM. It’s encouraged to drink lots of water and calorie-free teas or black coffee in the morning.
- Eating every-other-day (Normal meals throughout one day then fasting for a 20-24 hour period the next day)
Intermittent fasting happens to mimic the conditions from which humans evolved: An environment of periodic food scarcity punctuated with periods of abundance. This is in sharp contrast to today’s food landscape of 24/7 access to calorie-dense and nutrient-deficient foods on nearly every street corner.
The many rewards of IF
The physiological effects of IF are immense. Here are a few benefits you gain when limiting the time in which you eat:
- Improved insulin sensitivity and decreased blood sugar levels (which is the principal imbalance in type 2 diabetes)
- Inducement of autophagy (the process by which the body rids itself of inefficient and/or damaging cells thereby streamlining physiologic processes)
- Body fat is burned (through a shift in energy utilization from blood sugar to stored fat) largely through an increased production of human growth hormone (hGH)
All of these advantages are enhanced with exercise. Exercising at the end of a fasting period amplifies all of these beneficial processes.
Intermittent fasting can reduce or even eliminate the need for insulin in type-2 diabetics
Over recent history, type 2 diabetes has been addressed primarily with pharmaceuticals that lower blood sugar levels. Diabetics are also given diet modifications such as consuming more fruits and vegetables and less refined sugars. There is now increasing evidence, however, that intermittent fasting holds promise as a true cure for the underlying imbalance in type 2 diabetes: insulin resistance1.
A recent case report in the British Medical Journal demonstrates that insulin-dependent diabetics were able to reduce their diabetic medications and even stop taking insulin entirely with regular intermittent fasting.
Free and easy
The implications of intermittent fasting for the treatment of type 2 diabetes is huge for several reasons, not the least of which is this: It is free! It is a strategy that does not require anything from a pharmacy, any special herb, or even needing to buy a new “superfood”.
Instead, all it requires is structure and planning on when meals are eaten. It is still important, of course, that anyone employing intermittent fasting consumes wholesome food when they do eat. But IF doesn’t require any “special” food aside from whole foods high in fiber and phytonutrients.
The simplicity of intermittent fasting is profound. Both healthy individuals and type 2 diabetics can optimize their health, feel better, and live longer. There is preliminary data showing that intermittent fasting can also help prevent cancer and Alzheimer’s disease. For many individuals, the cellular, hormonal, and physiologic gains from IF help promote and maintain peak health throughout one’s life.
- Therapeutic use of intermittent fasting for people with type 2 diabetes as an alternative to insulin, Suleiman Furmli, Rami Elmasry, Megan Ramos, Jason Fung