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Intermittent Fasting Q&A

Published in Weight Management, For the Health of It Author: Penny Leen,APRN,CNP

Now days, intermittent fasting may be one of the most discussed diet and nutrition trends. But what does it actually mean? How does it work? And who should — and shouldn’t — consider it?

Penny Leen, APRN, CNP of CentraCare Weight Management recently paused to talk about taking a pause from eating during one’s day.

Q: What is intermittent fasting?

Penny: Intermittent fasting is the voluntary avoidance of food for health, spiritual or other reasons.

Q: What are the different types of intermittent fasting?

Penny: There are two primary fasting methods: “eating window” and “alternate day.”

Eating-window fasts usually include fasting for 16-20 hours of the day and reserving the other 4-8 hours as the “window” for eating. For example, a 16:8 fast may include fasting from 7 p.m. until 11 a.m. The period between 11 a.m. and 7 p.m. would contain all meals.

Alternate-day fasting usually refers to a pattern of eating that is regular for some days and only 500 calories per day on others. For example, a 5-2 fast would mean that an individual eats regularly five days a week and “fasts” by eating 500 calories/day on two days per week.

Q: Is there a best time (of day) to fast? What should I eat when I’m not fasting?

Penny: There is not a best time to fast. Maintain a regular meal pattern with no between meal eating. Choose non-calorie beverages and choose a variety of foods and food groups at your meals.

Q: Is intermittent fasting safe for me?

Penny: While intermittent fasting has many proven benefits, there is still a safety risk for some people. Discuss any plans to include intermittent fasting with your doctor.

Q: Who shouldn’t try intermittent fasting?

Penny: People who should NOT fast include those who are underweight or have eating disorders like anorexia, women who are pregnant or breastfeeding, and people under the age of 18.

Q: Is it OK to exercise while fasting?

Penny: Yes. You can continue all your usual activities, including exercise, while fasting.

Q: Will I feel hungry while fasting?

Penny: Some individuals experience hunger while fasting. Hunger often passes and rarely is intolerable.

Q: Who can most benefit from intermittent fasting?

Penny: Individuals who are interested in losing weight, lowering blood pressure, reducing cholesterol and improving blood sugars may benefit from intermittent fasting.

Q: What are the other health benefits of intermittent fasting?

Penny: Purported health benefits of intermittent fasting include:

  • Weight and body fat loss
  • Increased fat burning
  • Lowered blood insulin and sugar levels
  • Reversal of type 2 diabetes
  • Improved mental clarity and concentration
  • Increased energy
  • Improved blood cholesterol profile
  • Longer life
  • Reduction of inflammation

Q: How long can I expect to wait before I experience benefits from intermittent fasting?

Penny: Benefits can be experienced within days of starting an intermittent fasting plan.

Q: Should I be worried about potential negative impacts of meal skipping on my blood sugar levels?

Penny: If you have diabetes mellitus type 1 or type 2 or if you are on any prescription medications, you should consult with your primary care provider or an obesity medicine provider before engaging in intermittent fasting.

Q: What’s the best way to manage hunger while fasting?

Penny: Here are six tips to try when starting intermittent fasting.

  1. Stay hydrated — drink water, coffee, tea and other non-calorie beverages
  2. Stay busy
  3. Ride the hunger waves — they pass
  4. Follow a lower carbohydrate meal plan between fasting periods
  5. Allow one month of practice to determine if intermittent fasting is a good fit for you
  6. Maintain a regular meal pattern between fasting periods

Q: Are there side effects associated with an intermittent fasting diet?

Penny: Yes. Side effects are rare. Here’s what you might experience:

  • Hunger
  • Constipation
  • Headaches
  • Dizziness
  • Heartburn
  • Cramps

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