If you’ve read about intermittent fasting but aren’t sure if it’s right for you, the quick answer is: maybe. As a weight loss and fitness expert, I’ve been following intermittent fasting for a very long time—sifting through the science, watching patterns with the hundreds of thousands of clients I’ve coached, and figuring out what really works and what doesn’t.
Simply put, intermittent fasting is a diet that alternates periods of eating with periods of not eating. In addition to its ability to help you blast through a weight loss plateau and burn fat, there is an impressive list of therapeutic benefits:
1. Protects your brain.
When my son, Grant, suffered from a severe traumatic brain injury after being in a hit-and-run accident, I researched everything that could support his recovery. Intermittent fasting combined with a ketogenic diet was an amazing combination that made a huge difference in helping to heal his brain.
2. Slows aging.
Intermittent fasting mimics caloric restriction, which is the most effective way we know of to increase life span. When you fast, it gives your cells the ability to detox and recycle, so your body can slow down aging and even prevent age-related diseases.
3. Fights cancer.
Studies have shown that fasting can prevent cancer and even slow or stop its progression! It can also kill cancer cells while boosting the immune system.
If the above aren’t enough to get you excited about the possibilities of intermittent fasting, here are some more benefits: It increases insulin sensitivity, decreases the risk of cardiovascular disease, boosts energy, and enhances mental focus.
These are the different ways to fast.
When it comes to intermittent fasting, there are several options. Some people eat only during an eight-hour window. For example, you can eat from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m., then fast from 6 p.m. to 10 a.m. Or you can fast for 24 to 36 hours once or twice weekly. There are also several ways to deal with hunger cravings and stay hydrated. You can stick with just water or add some combination of coffee, green tea, and fiber. My good friend, Dr. Kellyann Petrucci, author of The Bone Broth Diet, recommends drinking bone broth during a fast. I’ve tried this fasting technique, and it’s my absolute favorite way to do it.
How to know if fasting is right for you.
In my experience, fasting isn’t for everyone. First, I will say that women need to be more regimented about when they eat. Whether it’s because we’re natural fat storers or because we have babies—women’s systems are just more complicated, so proceed with caution.
In general, pregnant women shouldn’t fast, and neither should women with infertility issues. Those who have adrenal problems (which also tend to primarily affect women), blood sugar imbalance, or diabetes should also pass on intermittent fasting. If none of the above issues apply to you, and you’ve cleared it with your doctor, then you get the green light to give it try!