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What is Intermittent Fasting?

Content by: Erin Nugent, RD

Intermittent Fasting or "IF" has been quite the buzzword in the health and nutrition world. Are you still trying to figure out what all the hype is about? Use this article and fun slides presentation to arm yourself with the knowledge you need to answer your clients' questions. Use this to rview the various methods of fasting, a few of the potential benefits, and some important key takeaways.

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Intermittent Fasting:
- Fasting is considered the willful refraining from eating and sometimes drinking.
- The concept of intermittent fasting puts the focus on when an individual eats instead of what is being eaten.
- There are several approaches to intermittent fasting, here are some of the most popular.

1.) Modified Fasting:(sometimes referred to as 5:2 fasting) allows for normal eating habits 5 days of the week, and then eating around 500 calories (or ~25% of total calories) on the other 2 days. And it is recommended to not have the fasting days consecutively.

2.) Alternate Day Fasting Method calls for a complete fast for 24 hours 2 days of the week, again not consecutively. Complete fasting only allows for calorie free beverages such as water, black coffee, or tea.

3.) Time Restricted Fasting: (also called the 16:8 method) is a time restricted fast. This allows for normal eating 8 hours of the day, and then fasting for 16 hours. Restricting the window for food intake to only 8 hours out of the day.

A few of the benefits:

- Weight loss. Fasting puts restrictions on the daily food intake and therefore often limits calorie intake.

NOTE: Fasting also requires very little tracking or calculations, so it tends to be easier for individuals to stay consistent with this eating pattern. When you take the stress out of learning a new diet it becomes much easier to stick to it.

- Improved blood glucose control. Reducing the intake of carbohydrates helps to stabilize glucose levels naturally. Weight loss will also lead to improved insulin sensitivity. Individuals with diabetes should always consult their doctor before fasting.

- Cardiovascular health. Anecdotally, intermittent fasting can lead to lower blood pressure, triglycerides, total cholesterol, and LDL cholesterol. However it is unclear if this can be directly linked to fasting or a product of weight loss in general.

What's the Bottom Line? Be aware of the current status of research!

1. The research that has been done on fasting is largely completed with animals and a few very small cases with humans.

2. Fasting is currently not used as a treatment for weight loss or any other health condition.

3. More research is needed regarding the negative side effects of fasting, including potential nutrient deficiencies.

4. Women may be more susceptible to hormonal imbalances when in a state of fasting, and this may lead to irregular periods.

5. It is not recommended for any individuals with a history of eating disorders or disordered eating habits to follow this restrictive eating pattern.