Author: Dr. Michelle Durkin on 1 June 2021
I have been intermittent fasting on and off for approximately 3 years now and I really enjoy it and see the benefits. Five years ago I would have been a little skeptical because I used to be one of those people who would get a little bit “hangry” if I missed a meal.
So what exactly is intermittent fasting and why would someone try it?
Intermittent fasting is best described as shortening your eating window in your day. Instead of eating 3 meals, and maybe snacks, over a 16 hour period and fasting for 8 hours (when you are sleeping), you eat over an 8-12 hour period and fast for 12-16 hours instead.
The easiest way to accomplish this effectively is to skip or delay breakfast.
What??? Isn’t breakfast the most important meal of the day?
Well – it depends.
What needs to be emphasized is that intermittent fasting is a strategy that isn’t appropriate for everyone.
I would only recommend intermittent fasting to someone who is already eating a nutrient dense diet with a higher amount of good fats, adequate protein, lots of colourful veggies, and a low intake of grain-based carbohydrates.
This is not for someone eating your standard North American diet OR the Canada Food Guide. This is for a person who is fully fat-adapted and isn’t dependent on simple carbohydrates for energy.
I would also not recommend intermittent fasting for children, teenagers, or women who are still menstruating and have higher stress levels.
One of the best ways to know if you’re fat-adapted is whether or not you’re hungry first thing in the morning.
If you’re hungry first thing in the morning, trying to force yourself to skip breakfast is a recipe for disaster (fatigue, headaches, irritability) and potential over-eating later in the day (due to hormone dysregulation). This used to be me.
I started to change my breakfast from whole grain cereals, fruit smoothies, and oatmeal to ones that included more protein and good fats – eggs with veggies, leftovers, avocado with veggies instead of fruit in my smoothies, and muffins made out of zucchini and almond butter instead of whole wheat flour or oats. Over time I noticed that I no longer had that starving feeling first thing in the morning. I became more fat-adapted.
Be aware however that some people never get to a point where they feel like they can skip breakfast, and that is OK too.
Listening to your own body trumps anything that anyone else says — even if they’re an “expert”.
With all of that said, skipping or delaying breakfast — often referred to as intermittent fasting — has been shown to offer numerous health benefits. Here are just a few:
One trick you can use to delay your first meal without the experience of low energy, brain fog, or headaches is to add some medium-chain triglycerides (MCTs) to your morning coffee instead of milk and/or sugar.
Approximately 2 teaspoons of coconut oil, grass-fed butter or MCT oil that you buy at the health food store will be enough to keep your brain sharp & energy high until your first meal. Some people also add cinnamon to further enhance fat-burning and blood sugar balance.
So here’s the bottom line – intermittent fasting can have a place in a healthy eating strategy, provided you’re already fat-adapted, you’re eating whole, natural food when you do eat, and you tune in to your body’s hunger and satiety signals.
If you want to read more information on this topic and the science behind it I recommend the book The Obesity Code by Dr. Jason Fung.
Now I would love to hear from you! Have you ever tried intermittent fasting? Leave a comment below and I’ll be back next week with another edition of Doctor as Teacher Tuesday!
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