Intermittent Fasting Is Hard, but It Doesn’t Have to Be
Author: Millennia TEA’s Official Science Steeper, Allison Tannis MsC RHN
How to Add Intermittent Fasting into a Healthy Lifestyle Easily, According to Science
When was the last time you ate? Food is always around. As humans, we didn’t evolve in a world where there were big refrigerators, stocked pantries, quick drive-thrus, and 24-hour convenience stores. Food was scarcer as humans evolved and as such the body created adaptations so it can function physically and cognitively during periods without sustenance. Being deprived of food for a few hours is actually a good thing: it allows your insulin levels to drop so fat cells can release their stored energy. Thus, intuitively, intermittent fasting makes sense if your goal is weight management. But, is intermittent fasting effective at weight loss? It is so hard to do, most people can’t stick with it. With intermittent fasting having benefits including blood sugar control and heart disease, it’s worth finding a way to make it easy to incorporate into a healthy lifestyle. According to science, it’s possible. But, it may not be the intermittent fasting you’re reading about in social media. Come and let’s weigh in on the research to find out what’s the best way to add intermittent fasting into a healthy lifestyle.
“According to science, the easier intermittent fasting that is part of a healthy lifestyle, may not be what you’re reading about on social media.”
What is Intermittent Fasting?
The basic idea behind all forms of intermittent fasting is to avoid eating for certain periods of time. There are many forms of intermittent fasting, some are part of certain religious practices, while some trendy forms have evolved from popular books in our diet-obsessed culture.
Intermittent Fasting Timing
Intermittent fasting comes in a number of different forms, with various timing:
- Eating every other day (eating normally or a little extra one day, then only eat a meager 500 calories the next).
- Eat normally for 5 days a week while only small amounts 2 days a week.
- Restricting the time you eat during the day (some versions include eating for 6, 8, or 10 hours).
How Does Intermittent Fasting Work?
One analogy is you could compare the eating and fasting cycle of intermittent fasting to exercise and rest. The body doesn’t build muscle during exercise, it does it during rest. The idea is if you give the body time to rest, it has a better chance of repairing. Yet, most of us nibble and snack all day long: first thing each morning, we consume a cup of dairy-rich, sugar-containing coffee and late into the night we snack while streaming new episodes of our favourite shows. In other words, the Western diet can include eating up to 18 hours of the day. That’s not offering your body much rest. Nor, does it offer our fat cells much of a chance to use that stored energy. Not to mention, the constant eating triggers insulin release – over time insulin resistance can occur (a predisposition to diabetes).
Eat Less for Longevity
The idea of eating a little less for health outcomes is not new. Longevity studies have long suggested that forms of eating less, including intermittent fasting, may activate (turn on) certain genes that encourage cells to repair and tidy up, getting rid of things like damaged proteins. It may also help mitochondria, the battery packs that produce energy inside every cell in your body. More human clinical trials are needed yet to see if these theories work in real life.
Intermittent Fasting is Hard
Ultimately, intermittent fasting studies in humans show it does cause weight loss, but is no more effective than any other diet. Worst of all most people find it difficult to fast. In a study, researchers compared a reduced-calorie diet (25% fewer calories) with an intermittent fasting diet in overweight women. Both groups lost weight. On one hand, the intermittent fasting group had improvements in insulin responses in their bodies. On the other hand, the intermittent fasting group had a really high dropout rate. Intermittent fasting can be difficult to maintain. Many versions of intermittent fasting diets are hard – they aren’t long-term, sustainable eating plans.
Intermittent Fasting Doesn’t Have to be Hard
Regular intervals of eating healthy foods are part of a healthy lifestyle and intermittent fasting from after dinner until breakfast can be an easy way to incorporate this dieting philosophy into your routine if you choose.
4 Ways to Make Intermittent Fasting Easier
1. Consciously eat healthy foods throughout the day
Consciously eating when your body tells you it is hungry can help you develop healthy eating habits and increase your tolerance to longer periods of intermittent fasting. Many people eat at night because they are hungry – they didn’t eat enough during the day.
2. Focus on vegetables and protein sources for dinner
Choosing foods for dinner that are rich in fiber and protein can help you feel full and satisfied into the evening, helping you lengthen your intermittent fasting overnight.
3. Swap your evening beverage
Consuming drinks that contain sugars during the evening continues to influence your insulin levels, preventing your body from starting its fasting and recovery period. Consider switching out your alcoholic beverage for water, herbal tea, or fresh leaf tea.
4. Have a slow start to your day
Start your day with a glass of water. This allows your body to have a slower start and prolongs your fast. Immediately reaching for a cup of coffee first thing in the morning is a sudden jolt to your just awakening system – plus, the cream and sugar will cause your insulin levels to spike. Fresh tea leaves can be used to brew a healthy, comforting, and warm morning mug alternative that won’t break your fast.
Best Way to Start Your Day for Intermittent Fasting
Fresh Camellia sinensis leaves are an excellent source of antioxidants and health-promoting nutrients, including catechins and epigallocatechin 3-gallate (EGCG). A great deal of scientific interest has been focused on the beneficial health effects of green tea – the dried form of fresh tea leaves. Populations that heavily drink green tea have lower risks of type 2 diabetes and lower rates of death from coronary heart disease. This is linked to EGCG’s beneficial effects on glucose (blood sugar control), weight management, and bad cholesterol.
The effects of green tea consumption on metabolic and anthropometric indices in patients with type 2 diabetes. J Res Med Sci 2013 Dec; 18(12):1080-1086.
Impact of intermittent fasting on health and disease processes. Ageing Res Rev 2017 Oct; 39:46-58.
How good a diet is intermittent fasting? Scientific America, 2020 Sept 1.
Differential effects of alternate-day fasting versus daily calorie restriction on insulin resistance. Obesity 2019 Sept;27(9):1443-1450.
Comparison of intermittent fasting versus caloric restriction in obese subjects: a two year follow-up. J Nutr Health Aging 2017;21(6):681-685.