Amy Shah, MD, is double board-certified doctor who received her medical training from Cornell, Harvard and Columbia Universities. She has a thriving medical practice in the Phoenix area, where she sees more than 5,000 patients each year. In 2015, Dr. Shah was named one of the “Top 100 Women in Wellness to Watch” by MindBodyGreen and was a guest on the Dr. Oz show.
Fasting helps you build a better brain, too. Intermittent fasting increases a protein in your brain called BDNF that researchers have nicknamed “Miracle-Gro for your brain.”[7] BDNF improves learning and memory and can help you forge stronger neural pathways, making your brain run faster and more efficiently, which is especially important as you age.
Hello Maria, I can honestly say I look forward to my morning black coffee now, just as much as I enjoy a cup with a little cream, once my eating window opens late afternoon. My easiest “go-to” tip is adding just the smallest pinch of pink Himalayan salt to my coffee. It really works to smooth out the black coffee bitterness! Good luck with your IF journey, Maria!
A 2018 review of intermittent fasting in obese people showed that reducing calorie intake one to six days per week over at least 12 weeks was effective for reducing body weight on an average of 7 kilograms (15 lb); the results were not different from a simple calorie restricted diet, and the clinical trials reviewed were run mostly on middle-aged women from the US and the UK, limiting interpretation of the results.[25] Intermittent fasting has not been studied in children, the elderly, or underweight people, and could be harmful in these populations.[25][26]
I started IT about 6 weeks ago. I eat between 12 noon and 8 pm. This works best for me and I have found easily sustainable. The results so far have blown my mind. I have an autoimmune disease and struggled with bloating, multiple food intolerance, gut pain, frequent urination, sugar cravings. All of these symptoms are gone. My hunger is controlled and I can enjoy lovely family dinners again. I think ideally eating earlier in the day would be better, but due to my schedule this works better for me and I am happy with the results.
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Before the Nobel Prize was awarded to Yoshinori Ohsumi, other researchers were making groundbreaking discoveries about autophagy. In 2009, an article was published in Cell Metabolism entitled Autophagy Is Required to Maintain Muscle Mass. In this article, researchers described how deactivating an important autophagy gene resulted in a profound loss in muscle mass and strength.
Each of these plans is designed to get your body used to being in a fasted state for prolonged periods of time, but how each one will work with your particular lifestyle is something that only you can figure out. As you get into intermittent fasting, give these methods a try and see what ones seem like the right fit. And, if you want some good fasting tips, don’t hesitate to reach out to intermittent fasting forums online; a little community support can go a long way towards helping you get into a routine that works.
IF makes intuitive sense. The food we eat is broken down by enzymes in our gut and eventually ends up as molecules in our bloodstream. Carbohydrates, particularly sugars and refined grains (think white flours and rice), are quickly broken down into sugar, which our cells use for energy. If our cells don’t use it all, we store it in our fat cells as, well, fat. But sugar can only enter our cells with insulin, a hormone made in the pancreas. Insulin brings sugar into the fat cells and keeps it there.
Most people make an IF schedule that requires them to fast for 12 to 16 hours a day. During the rest of the time, they eat normal meals and snacks. Sticking to this eating window isn’t as hard at it sounds because most people sleep for about eight of their fasting hours. In addition you’re encouraged to enjoy zero-calorie drinks, like water, tea, and coffee.
The 5:2 diet, also known as the “Fast Diet,” involves restricting calories two days a week to 500 calories per day (with two 250 calorie meals), while eating normally for the other five days. For example, you might eat all of your regular meals Saturday through Wednesday, and eat 500 calories per day on Thursdays and Fridays.There isn’t a ton of research to back up this diet, although it was publicized by Michael Mosley, a British journalist and doctor. Since it doesn’t completely restrict food on the fasting days, it may also be an effective way to ease into fasting without shocking your system. The Fast Diet is considered safe for men and women.
While the idea of fasting can be overwhelming, especially if you haven’t done it before, intermittent fasting can actually be a lot easier than many other types of eating plans. Since you are fasting for time restricted chunks of the day, you’ll be eating less food, which eliminates a lot of the stress around having to meal prep. During the periods of time in which you're eating, you’ll still want to focus mainly on healthy fats, clean protein, and carbohydrates from whole food sources—but this isn’t an excuse to hit the drive-thru and load up on sugar the rest of the time! Here are some of the effects of intermittent fasting:
After that timespan, your body goes into what is known as the post–absorptive state, which is just a fancy way of saying that your body isn’t processing a meal. The post–absorptive state lasts until 8 to 12 hours after your last meal, which is when you enter the fasted state. It is much easier for you body to burn fat in the fasted state because your insulin levels are low.
While some nutrition experts contend that IF only works because it helps people naturally limit food intake, others disagree. They believe that intermittent fasting results are better than typical meal schedules with the same amount of calories and other nutrients. Studies have even suggested that abstaining from food for several hours a day does more than just limit the amount of calories you consume.
IF makes intuitive sense. The food we eat is broken down by enzymes in our gut and eventually ends up as molecules in our bloodstream. Carbohydrates, particularly sugars and refined grains (think white flours and rice), are quickly broken down into sugar, which our cells use for energy. If our cells don’t use it all, we store it in our fat cells as, well, fat. But sugar can only enter our cells with insulin, a hormone made in the pancreas. Insulin brings sugar into the fat cells and keeps it there.
What and when you eat during the feeding window also depends on when you work out. On days you exercise, carbs are more important than fat. On rest days, fat intake should be higher. Protein consumption should be fairly high every day, though it will vary based on goals, gender, age, body fat and activity levels. Regardless of your specific program, whole, unprocessed foods should make up the majority of your calorie intake. However, when there isn’t time for a meal, a protein shake or meal replacement bar is acceptable (in moderation).
I was very curious about this, so I asked the opinion of metabolic expert Dr. Deborah Wexler, Director of the Massachusetts General Hospital Diabetes Center and associate professor at Harvard Medical School. Here is what she told me. “There is evidence to suggest that the circadian rhythm fasting approach, where meals are restricted to an eight to 10-hour period of the daytime, is effective,” she confirmed, though generally she recommends that people “use an eating approach that works for them and is sustainable to them.”

I don’t recommend that you go straight for a 1-2 day fast, but begin by restricting yourself to certain eating windows. Typically people restrict themselves to the hours of 5pm – 11pm. People often refer to their fasting windows by numbers: 19/5 or 21/3, for example, means 19 hours of fasting and 5 hours eating or 21 hours fasting and 3 hours eating, respectively.


It can level up your brain, including positively counteracting conditions like Parkinson’s, Alzheimer’s, and dementia. As explained here in this TEDx talk by Mark Mattson, Professor at Johns Hopkins University and Chief of the Laboratory of Neurosciences at the National Institute on Aging fasting is grounded in serious research and more studies are coming out showing the benefits:
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