Every day, there seems to be a new weight-loss diet in the news. One of the things I’ve found is that most good programs work, as long as you stick to the program. In my experience, I’ve realized that changing someone’s mindset to their weight-loss approach and understanding how to fit a “program” into their lifestyle and belief system increases the changes of success. Recently, I’ve seen a lot of interest in the concept of “intermittent fasting.” Although this has been around for awhile, it’s only recently gathering interest as a strategy to facilitate weight loss and/or improve overall health and well-being. That being said, you may have patients asking you about this in the near future, if not already. Let’s discuss the benefits of intermittent fasting and explore the best situations in which this strategy can be an effective option to discuss with your doctor of chiropractic.

What Is Intermittent Fasting?

Intermittent fasting is the process whereby one avoids food intake for a specific period of time. Two terms you need to know for this discussion are fasting state and feeding state. Fasting state refers to the length of time one avoids eating. Keep in mind that during the fasting state, fluids are still essential. Drinking water, tea or even coffee is acceptable. The feeding state refers to the length of time one can eat. There’s no strict timing of eating during this state. You can eat one meal, two meals, three meals or more during this state. The point is to eat naturally, rather than trying to fit in a whole day’s worth at once.

Let’s take a look at some of the different fasting programs out there; then we’ll get into the benefits of intermittent fasting while shattering some of the myths surrounding the concept of fasting.

Alternate-day fasting: This involves a 36-hour fast with a 12-hour feeding state. Basically, the patient fasts every other day. If they last ate at 8 p.m. on Monday, they wouldn’t eat until 8 a.m. on Wednesday, followed by a feeding state until 8 p.m. Wednesday, and then fasting again for 36 hours.

Eat-stop-eat: This strategy involves a 24-hour fast, one to two times per week.

Lean gains: A 16-hour fast followed by an eight-hour window of feeding. If the patient ate dinner at 8 p.m., they wouldn’t eat again until noon the next day.

Warrior diet: A 20-hour fast followed by a four-hour window of food intake.

One last fasting method is what we call random. Some proponents of this model believe mixing up fasting times is similar to what our ancestors did and keeps the body guessing. Your body doesn’t adapt as quickly when it’s kept on its toes.

The 16-hour fast / eight-hour feed (lean gains) seems to be the most doable for the majority of people. Fasting has to become part of someone’s lifestyle. The more difficult it becomes, the greater the chance you will quit, just like any other diet strategy.

The Benefits of Fasting

Although countless experts advocate the many benefits of intermittent fasting, understand that the research in humans is in its infancy. Many studies have been done on mice and rats, showing improved insulin sensitivity, increased resistance to neuronal damage, reduced cognitive impairment, cardiovascular protection, increased lifespan, and prevention of progressive deterioration of glucose tolerance.