In concept, intermittent fasting (IF) is simple: Don’t eat for a period of time and then do eat for for a period of time. Repeat until you look like Batman.
But since it’s likely more complicated than that (isn’t it always?) we asked what-to-put-in-your-mouth-when expert and naturopathic doctor Kristin Wootton to give us the skinny on the newest (or is it oldest?) fat-cutting trend.
Is breakfast the new least important meal of the day?
Put simply, you spend more time not eating in the day than eating. What’s nice about IF is that it focuses more on the timing of food rather than food choices. So, you’re not really getting rid of breakfast, you’re just having it later in the day and hopefully avoiding a lot of those high-sugar morning foods.
What’s the upside to omitting the omelet?
There are a lot of reported benefits, some more researched than others. The biggest reason people jump on the wagon is for weight management. The idea is to improve your insulin sensitivity and reteach your body to burn fat as fuel. Less fat equals a reduced risk of developing other health concerns such as high cholesterol, heart disease, etc. It’s a great way to learn about how your body works and its relationship with food. You get a better understanding of the nutrients your body actually needs to function and the effects of eating foods that are higher in sugar and carbs.
And the downside?
Just because IF has a lot of hype doesn’t mean it’s safe for everyone. Any change to diet can be hard on the system. If you’re currently stressed or if you have a poor relationship with food and eating, it may not be the best time to try. It can alter hormone levels, too, so address any outstanding hormone imbalance (thyroid issues, diabetes, fertility concerns, etc.) first. Lastly, if you’re an intense athlete, you may want to think twice before doing this daily as properly timed fuel can make a huge difference for muscle growth, repair, and performance.
Nah, I’m more of a mathlete. How do I get started without hurting myself?
Slowly and simply. Shift the first meal of the day an hour at a time and end the last meal at a consistent time—this gradually increases the fasting window and gives the body a glimpse at the fasting life. Start with once a week and slowly increase to two to three days a week. And even as a mathlete, it’s better to fast on days that are less physically demanding so your body has the fuel it needs.
And then I can eat whatever I want, right?
This is not an excuse to eat garbage.