Intermittent Fasting: My Personal Experience + What The Science Says
In Episode 1 of my recently launched podcast Holistic Health Radio I spoke about Intermittent Fasting, the proposed benefits, and who it’s appropriate for. Many of you found this podcast super interesting and wanted to know more about the research, which excites the geek within me. So in today’s post we’re going through exactly what the science says so you can make the best choices when it comes to your health. But first I want to start with this…
My Experience With Intermittent Fasting
I can honestly say my experience with intermittent fasting was very short lived, but I wanted to see what the hype was about. I was in a good headspace being fully recovered for many years from an eating disorder, and knew that if it didn’t work I’d happily go back to my normal eating pattern – no guilt, no feelings of failure.
I wanted to try the least offensive version so decided to trial a 16:8 pattern of intermittent fasting (16 hours fasting window, 8 hours feeding window) for a week in January this year. But here’s the thing…
I only lasted 2 days!
I personally LOVE breakfast and also find that if I don’t eat enough close to bed I have a terrible night’s sleep. I was also hangry and lightheaded from going that long without food. I couldn’t think or function to the best of my ability, and I found myself constantly thinking about food. That factor alone made me go “Experiment over!!!”
But this is just my personal experience, so let’s take a look at the science…
What The Research Says
You’ll see a lot of news articles online that promote the benefits of intermittent fasting which include:
Reduced body fat, without a significant loss in muscle massReduced whole body inflammationBetter blood glucose control and insulin sensitivityImproved gut healthBalanced hunger and fullness hormonesAnd the list goes on!
However, many of these articles fail to mention that the proposed benefits are actually from studies on male mice – not humans.
Testing an intermittent fasting regime on mice where all variables can be controlled in a lab and seeing some positive results on obesity, or blood glucose control is GREAT, but it doesn’t mean this is applicable to humans. Humans function very differently to mice. We’re also more difficult to control, so what is practical and safe for us might be very different to those mice studies.
With that being said, there’s also some really interesting research emerging on time-restricted eating with Dr. Satchin Panda leading the way in linking the benefits of Intermittent fasting with circadian rhythms (our body clock) and gut health.
Nonetheless I can only draw conclusions on the available evidence we have right now, which is this: intermittent fasting could benefit us in many ways, as shown in animal models, but there’s still a lot we don’t know.
Some of the questions I’d like answered in prospective research include:
Are the benefits of Intermittent Fasting due to calorie restriction? Or would there still be benefits if intake is kept the same?Do night owls or morning larks function better on intermittent fasting? Interestingly, we all have our own personal circadian rhythmsDoes the number of meals consumed within the feeding window make any difference?What about the nutrient density of foods? Intermittent fasting doesn’t tell you WHAT to eat, just WHEN, but we know that some foods contain more nutrients and have a better impact on our function and wellbeing than others.
Who Is Intermittent Fasting Good/NOT Good For?
I personally don’t recommend this style of eating because of the population I work with. Intermittent fasting is not appropriate for those recovering from an eating disorder or trying to heal their relationship with food, exercise and their body. It distracts from attunement and the process of learning to trust your body and it’s needs.
In addition, intermittent fasting is also NOT suitable for:
- Females who are trying to conceive, are currently pregnant or breastfeeding
- Females who are struggling with Hypothalamic Amenorrhea
- Growing kids and teensThose with ongoing health conditions such as diabetes, or chronic fatiguePeople who are highly activeThose going through periods of intense stress
Like I said, it’s not for everyone! But in saying that – you do you boo! If you find that you can safely and adequately fuel your body during intermittent fasting, it doesn’t lead to any disordered eating behaviour or hormonal issues, and makes your life feel bigger and easier – then go for it! But if you’re latching on to this as the next thing to “fix” your body or life somehow, I urge you to look inwards, not outwards for the answer.
As an intuitive eating coach and advocate I will continually urge my community to ditch dieting or eating patterns that don’t serve them in favour of a more compassionate approach to nutrition, exercise and their bodies where hunger and fullness are appreciated regardless of the exact time of day. However, as a health professional I also know the importance of explaining the available evidence so people can make their own decisions based on science, not misleading headlines in the news.
Hi future friends, I’m Sarah King, a Health At Every Size (HAES) Exercise Physiologist and health coach.
Science, not trends is the foundation of my approach. By nourishing the body and mind with scientific facts we can build foundations for a life of realness, not just wellness.