Intermittent Fasting 101

Everyone knows about fasting, but what about intermittent fasting? I'm sure if you've heard of it it was in the sense of losing weight. Maybe you've even tried it!

Now that the Navy DXB No Sugar Challenge (Shout out to all of you who completed it. You are AWESOME! I am so proud of you.) has been over for about 2 months, the group is talking about adding a new challenge...intermittent fasting, so I thought I'd do a little piece for those of you in the group wanting more information or not in the group and just wanting to know!


Intermittent fasting is just a certain style of eating where you alternate between periods of time when you eat and periods when you fast. This pattern doesn't restrict WHAT you eat but it does restrict WHEN you eat. It's pretty simple!

There are several different cycles, but probably the most well known is the 16/8 method. In this method your fasting window is 16 hours long leaving you with an 8 hour window to eat. For example: Each day you will eat from 10am-6pm and fast from 6pm to 10am. Not much different than eating an early dinner, going to bed, sleeping in the next morning and having a late breakfast!


When you think of fasting the first thing that pops into your head is probably losing weight, but there is so much research now on the other benefits of intermittent fasting!

  • Weight Loss: since this is probably most familiar to you, I'll start here. When you have fewer hours to eat, naturally you may eat fewer calories. Fewer calories then leads to a smaller you! Intermittent fasting also decreases hormones that encourage your body to store fat and increases hormones that help to burn fat.

  • Heart Health: intermittent fasting has been shown to decrease LDL cholesterol (your bad cholesterol), triglycerides, blood sugar, and insulin resistance. This is very good, since all of these things can be harmful to your heart long-term if they are high!

  • Inflammation and Cancer: some research has seen intermittent fasting decrease the amount of inflammation in the body and potentially prevent cancer. Inflammation is one of the factors that contributes to many chronic diseases like heart disease, diabetes, autoimmune disorders, and cancer, so keeping inflammation as low as possible is important.

  • Brain Health and Anti-Aging: intermittent fasting may be able to balance brain hormones, help grow new nerve cells in the brain, prevent Alzheimer's, and increase your life-span. These studies were done in rats, so we cannot say for sure what happens in humans, but it's promising!


It sounds great, doesn't it? With all of the benefits that I just mentioned it would seem like this could be "it"...the key to great health, but there are actually quite a few groups of people who SHOULD NOT try intermittent fasting.

  • Those who have diabetes or any problems balancing their blood sugar: since intermittent fasting involves a much longer stretch without food than your body is used to, this means that if you have any condition where you cannot regulate your blood sugar, you may run into problems.

  • Women who are trying to get pregnant or have a history of hormone imbalances: your body has to feel safe in order to have a healthy hormones and get pregnant. Intermittent fasting can send a signal to your body saying, "I'm not sure when I will get food again" and this can throw off hormones (especially for women).

  • Women who are pregnant or breastfeeding: the nutrient/calorie needs of these women are higher and require a consistent intake. The long stretch without calories coming in can reduce milk supply and be dangerous for pregnant women.

  • Anyone who is already underweight or has a history of eating disorders: if you are underweight, fasting is not for you. If you have a history of an unhealthy relationship with food, the "rules" of intermittent fasting can trigger previous behaviors.

Is intermittent fasting for you? Only you can decide. I hope this provides a little insight into your decision!

If you want more in-depth information, here is a great website:

Your friend the dietitian,

Taylor Hansen, MS, RD

"At some point in your life your health will become your number one priority. Why not make that sooner rather than later?" -Unknown

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