There are various schedules IF can take, with anything from a simple 12 hour fast, for example no food at all between 8pm and 8am (which many people do anyway) to not eating for days. The two most popular regimes are 16/8 (fast for 16 hours, eat only during an 8 hour window) or alternate day, so skipping one whole day of eating then resuming food again the following day.
I was interviewed on my thoughts on intermittent fasting and unfortunately the article didn’t go to print but here’s what I think of IF:
It’s a tool, but quite an advanced one that really isn’t necessary for most people. I do think being in touch with your hunger is great, so if you’re not hungry, or you’re not a breakfast person, for example, fine, don’t force yourself to eat! You’ll likely feel hungry later instead and overall it will balance out. But forcing it onto someone who doesn’t do well skipping meals isn’t the way to go. It’s hard to stick to, doesn’t make people feel good, and from a health perspective there are plenty of other options to help a persona reach their health goals. If cutting calories is the goal for example, this can still be done while spreading food over the day.
IF is only disordered if that’s the point of view the person is coming from. There are plenty of physically and mentally healthy people who skip meals or deliberately fast to no ill psychological effect. But of there is an eating disorder or issues around food present, I would never recommend IF as this can reinforce disordered eating patterns and disrupt natural appetite cues.
Human bodies are remarkably clever and if we are really able to tune into what our body is asking for, we’ll be able to eat the right types and amounts of food when our body needs it. Unfortunately many people have lost this intuition. Forcing yourself to eat at certain times and fast others, dictated by an app, takes you further away from being able to listen to what your body is telling you.
Biohacking is a word I don’t like. Essentially it means using nutritional, exercise, supplement and lifestyle strategies to be the best and healthiest you can be. But actually being really healthy doesn’t have to be that complicated. Add to that the fact that all people are unique and we have different needs, and there’s no way one protocol is going to be optimal for everyone. If eating a certain way makes you feel your best then great, but no one size will fit all and in fact some people fare terribly skipping meals.
Do it as just that – a trial. Keep a rigid diary of what and when you eat, energy levels, how well you can exercise or perform in the gym, sleep, mood, hunger, cravings for foods. If the goal is to improve health markers such as cholesterol or blood sugar, measure these objectively by getting tests done with your doctor. Do it for a couple of weeks and evaluate how you think it’s been for you. Don’t feel bad if IF turns out to be not right for you. You’ve not failed, it just means there’s something out there more suitable for you.