By now you’ve likely heard of Intermittent Fasting (IF) or know someone who’s tried it. It’s been trending as a topic in the wellness space, in part because it’s included as an arm of the popular ketogenic (“keto”) diet. This post will give you a brief intro to intermittent fasting, plus some guidance on how to make it work if you’re trying it out during the workweek.
Intermittent Fasting: What is it?
Despite being of-the-moment, intermittent fasting is actually not a new concept, and in fact, you’re probably already practicing some form of it. Essentially, it’s limiting the times when you’re eating to be within a certain window of hours. So for example, if you’re eating during the day, and sleeping at night, that’s a form of intermittent fasting that aligns with your own circadian rhythms and daylight.
Research has found that while we’re taking that extended break from eating, our body is performing a number of important functions, and that by lengthening that fasting window (and shortening the eating window) our body may reap even more of those benefits.
Intermittent fasting has been shown to provide the following benefits:
- Boosts metabolism + aids in weight loss
- Improves focus and brain function
- Reduces risk of diabetes
- Promotes longevity
An important caveat: Every body is different
Before we jump into how intermittent fasting works, remember this fundamental concept: Every body is different. From your genes, to your preferences, to your medical history, to your particular environment, to your day-to-day habits — you are a unique amalgamation of factors, and only YOU truly know what works best for your particular body and life.
So do what works for you, listen to your instincts and always monitor your physical and emotional responses when trying out a new wellness approach.
Also note that Intermittent Fasting is not appropriate for anyone with a history of eating disorders, who is pregnant or breast-feeding or who has Type 1 diabetes, and you should always check with your doctor or health practitioner before embarking on any new approach to diet or your health.
How to Intermittent Fast
There are a number of different ways that intermittent fasting can be incorporated into your week. Some of the most common approaches include:
- 12 hour fast at night: Finishing dinner by a certain time (say, 7pm) and not eating again until 12 hours later (7am the following morning)
- 16:8 approach: Limiting your daily eating window to 8 hours (for example, 2pm – 8pm) one or several days out of the week
- 5:2 approach: Based on the week rather than a day, this approach involves dramatically reducing your food intake 2 days out of the week, and eating without restriction on the other 5
If you’re new to IF, a good place to start is by trying a 12-hour window of not eating at night. See how your body reacts, and if seems to be working for you, try expanding that fasting window up to 14 or 16 hours. For some people this works well once or twice a week; for others, they find it beneficial to practice more frequently.
Tips for Trying Intermittent Fasting During the Workweek
An Intermittent fasting routing can potentially fit well into your workweek by helping you to avoid sugary temptations around breakfast time or limit your snacking during the day. If you’re planning to try IF at work, it helps to think ahead and set yourself up for success:
- When deciding to build IF into your workweek, look at your schedule and don’t choose nights when you’ll be out for social events or work dinners, or days when you have early lunch meetings scheduled for outside your planned fasting window.
- Note that coffee or tea (no sugar/sweetener added) won’t break your fast, and can even help keep you energized during the morning until your fasting window is over.
- If you have to travel for work (or pleasure) IF can be a good tool to maintain balance while eating lots of meals out and being out of your normal healthy routine.
- Remember that when you do eat, you still need to make healthy food choices (plenty of vegetables and healthy fats, limiting processed foods and added sugars), and you shouldn’t be overeating during that window of time. If you find that you are, or that your hunger is much greater, it may be a sign that IF is not a good fit for you and you’re better off sticking to your regularly timed meals.
Again, the most important thing here is to LISTEN to your body. Remember that what works for someone else may not work for you. Work WITH your body, not against it. So much of healthy living is about learning to trust the signals your body gives you to maintain a state of optimal balance.