You’ve probably heard of intermittent fasting, and how it can have health benefits, including weight loss. Kate Hudson was just quoted in the Wall Street Journal talking about the energy boost fasting has given her. Jennifer Aniston, Kourtney Kardashian and Molly Sims are reportedly fans as well. And recent research is showing that blood pressure, cholesterol and blood sugars can be lowered using fasting, at least in the short term. We asked Dr. Jason Fung, author of Complete Guide to Fasting and a leader in the field of fasting, about this diet trend, its benefits, and more.
Can you please tell us a bit about your background and how you became focused on fasting?
I am a kidney specialist and deal with a lot of Type 2 diabetes. I realized that Type 2 diabetes is largely reversible with weight loss, so the key is to find a way for patients to lose weight consistently. Fasting seemed, from a medical perspective, to be very advantageous, but there were few people using it, so I became an expert in it.
What exactly is intermittent fasting?
Fasting is simply the period of time that you are not eating. So, if you don’t eat from dinner (say, 6 pm) to breakfast (say, 8 am) that is a 14-hour fasting period, and that’s where the word breakfast comes from (“break fast”). When you eat, your body stores calories (as body fat), and when you fast, your body burns calories. So, if you want to lose body fat, then increasing the fasting period is an effective way to do it.
What are the major health benefits?
Possible benefits include weight loss, control of blood sugars, reversal of Type 2 diabetes, reversal of fatty liver disease, lowering cholesterol, improving cognitive ability, reducing the risk of Alzheimers disease, improving energy, and activating autophagy, a cellular renewal process.
What are some common misunderstandings about fasting?
- Fasting doesn’t make you tired – it actually it gives you energy.
- Fasting doesn’t slow your metabolic rate. In fact, it doesn’t cause any so called starvation mode.
- Fasting is not unhealthy.
- Fasting does not cause eating disorders.
Is there anyone who shouldn’t do it?
Pregnant or breastfeeding women, anyone who is underweight or malnourished, should not do extended fasting (>24 hours). Anybody can do a 14 hour fast (see above example dinner to breakfast, literally what everybody did in the 1970s, and rare today).
When is the best time to workout if you do intermittent fasting?
The best time to work out is after fasting. It’s called training in the fasted state.
Anything else you’d like to share?
Fasting is free, simple, and available to anybody. There’s a huge amount of benefits for a small amount of learning.
Note: Before trying any new way of eating, please be sure to consult with a medical professional.