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Intermittent Fasting

If you’re looking to improve your metabolic health but counting calories doesn’t appeal to you, consider watching the clock instead. Intermittent fasting has helped many people reach their weight and wellness goals. “Intermittent fasting is the practice of caloric restriction based on hours of the day, with the understanding that it’s not only what you’re eating that is important, but also how you eat it,” says Rachel Kilpatrick, M.D., an endocrinologist at Washington Regional Endocrinology Clinic.

“Benefits of intermittent fasting can include weight loss, improved insulin sensitivity for people with diabetes, and reduced inflammation and inflammatory markers,” Kilpatrick says. Research shows that intermittent fasting may also help prevent cardiovascular disease, cancer and improve sleep.

Dr. Kilpatrick describes three popular types of intermittent fasting:

  • 16/8 Fasting: This plan requires fasting for 16 consecutive hours and then eating normally for the next 8 hours.
  • 5/2 Fasting: This requires a 24-hour fast on two non-consecutive days of the week. Then, on the other five days of the week, eat normally.
  • Alternate Day Fasting: Following this plan means fasting every other day and eating normally on the remaining days.

While an individual practicing any form of fasting likely loses weight simply by consuming fewer overall calories, intermittent fasting goes a step further to prevent the body from storing fat. After the body has gone 12 hours without food, all the sugar stored in the liver has been used and, looking for a replacement energy source, the body begins using ketones that are stored in fat.

Still, intermittent fasting is not for everyone. “Some people respond really well to it and some, unfortunately, do not,” Kilpatrick says. “For instance, if you find it leads to problems with binge eating at the end of the day or increased appetite at the end of the day, it may be something you want to potentially avoid.”

For those who want to try intermittent fasting, Kilpatrick recommends taking a gradual, phased-in approach. “You could begin by delaying breakfast for the first hour after waking,” she says. “Or, in the evening, refrain from eating 3 to 4 hours before bedtime.”

Research on intermittent fasting shows health benefits | National Institute on Aging (nih.gov)