Intermittent Fasting: A Common-Sense Approach to Meal-Timing

A friend of mine recently lost 15 pounds in the span of about 6 weeks.  In addition to augmenting her daily allotment of leafy greens, focusing on healthy fats, and ensuring adequate protein, she shared another “secret” to her success: intermittent fasting. 

An article published in the August issue of the Journal of the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics reviews the latest available research on intermittent fasting, or IF, defining the practice as “periods of voluntary abstinence from food and drink.”  While more research needs to be conducted on human subjects, studies suggest that intermittent fasting promotes some weight loss. 

The question is, what kind of intermittent fasting is sustainable?  The article compares three non-religious IF regimens: complete alternate-day fasting, modified fasting regimens (for more on this, see the 5:2 diet), and time-restricted feeding. 

If you’re an active person who exercises regularly, you may find that the last regimen, time-restricted feeding, suits you well.  Or, as it turns out was the case with me personally, you’re already following this regimen as part of a healthy lifestyle. 

Let’s break it down in terms of schedule:

We’ve all heard and heeded the good advice to consume your last meal or snack of the day at least two hours before bedtime.  So, assuming lights out at 10pm, that would translate into a 7pm dinner with wiggle room to have a treat before 8pm.  Wake up, dress, drink some unsweetened tea or water on the way out the door, and consume your first meal of the day no earlier than 8am.  You’ve consumed zero energy (calories) for 12 hours.  Sound familiar?  This, my friends, is intermittent fasting! 

Now, compare this scenario with one you may be familiar with from student days, travelling across time zones, or when you had a change in your work schedule: you slump home past 10pm, exhausted.  It’s been a hectic day, so despite your best intentions, you haven’t eaten in hours and you’re famished.  You stuff your face, crawl into bed, and your sleep feels disrupted at best.  Although the research in humans is limited, animal research suggests that when nighttime feeding becomes routine, circadian rhythm is disrupted, and weight gain may follow.

Whether you’re struggling with shedding a couple of extra pounds, or are looking for a simple way to regulate intake, time-restricted IF may be right for you.  In otherwise healthy individuals, it just makes sense!