While it can be used in conjunction with dieting, intermittent fasting—also called periodic fasting—is not dieting. It's not about voluntarily starving yourself, either—that would fall into the category of an eating disorder. It's a way of eating that allows for a certain period of time between meals to give your digestive system (and gut...there's that word again!) a break to fully digest food from the previous meal.
What's the Best Method of Intermittent Fasting?
There are all kinds of ways to fast between meals. Here's one study, for example, that found that taking in all of your dietary requirements during an eight-hour period during the day and "fasting" for the rest of the day (16 hours) could decrease fat mass. This is the most popular form of intermittent fasting, known as the 16/8 method. Since I'm trained as an Ayurvedic Health Counselor, I recommend Ayurveda's methodology (read more about its food principles here). The ancient, holistic healing science doesn't have a trendy name for its way of eating like "intermittent fasting"; it just is the way it is!
Here's the ideal meal schedule for your digestive system, according to Ayurveda:
- 6-7 a.m. Breakfast
Allow for about six hours to pass between meals. No snacking.
- 12-1 p.m. Lunch
Make lunch the most substantial meal of the day, not dinner. Allow for about six hours to pass between meals. No snacking.
- 6-7 p.m. Dinner
Eat dinner at least two hours before bedtime. Fast for 12 hours between dinner and breakfast. No snacking.
Fasting does not include depriving yourself of liquids, so keep drinking plenty of water throughout the day and enjoy that cup of coffee or tea, but stay away from sugary drinks.
In general, Ayurveda is a fan of regular, healthy, cooked meals and is not a fan of snacks. But if you just can't go for six hours in between meals without one, choose healthy, non-processed options that support your body's system, such as cooked vegetables or fruits, rather than making it work harder to digest something like cheese and crackers or a sugar-filled "energy" bar.
The Benefits of Intermittent Fasting
You'll feel more energized and less heavy and foggy-minded all day!
Ayurveda believes, and now modern science is catching up to believe, that a healthy digestive system means a healthy body and mind. You AREN'T what you EAT—you ARE what you DIGEST. In order to have a healthy digestive system, we need to give it time to process the food we eat—you know, send the nutrients and good stuff where it needs to go and get rid of the toxins and bad stuff. Without fully digesting before a next feeding, your system gets overloaded and out of whack...it can't process what you're putting into it to its full and magical capacity. And that leads to toxicity in the body and ultimately, disease in all its ugly forms.
Who Should Not Fast?
Intermittent fasting is not for everyone. If you have a history of eating disorders or are pregnant, for instance, this is not the way for you. Of course, always consult your doctor or a registered dietician before making lifestyle changes if you have any chronic health issues.