What is intermittent fasting and how does it impact your health?

You’ve probably heard of intermittent fasting, right? Whether you read about it from a celebrity lifestyle site or overheard someone talking about it at a fitness class, we bet you’ve been curious about it. It’s one of the hottest trends in the wellness world lately, and for good reason! But as with all wellness trends it’s important to buckle down, do your research and understand the science before hopping on to the proverbial health bandwagon. Let’s dive in!

How do you do intermittent fasting?

Intermittent fasting is an eating cycle in which you go through periods of “fasting” and shorten the window in which you consume food. Although there are many ways to incorporate this process, one of the most popular ways to intermittently fast is to stop eating after your last meal of the day (let’s say dinner at 7pm, for example) and fast until the first meal of the day (breakfast). This will usually allow for a fasting period of 12-16 hours, the majority of which you’ll sleep through.

The intermittent fasting trend has been around for ages

Although it’s becoming increasingly popular among wellness gurus today, intermittent fasting isn’t a new concept. In fact, many cultures and religions have incorporated fasting practices in their society for centuries. Think about it – historically, people weren’t living by the “3 meals a day” concept with mindless snacking in between.

From an evolutionary standpoint, human beings evolved in periods where abundant amounts of food weren’t always readily available. Our ancestors didn’t have grocery stores and restaurants around the corner from their huts and caves. Instead they had to hunt and gather their food, and even lived through periods of famine where they were forced to fast and food sources were scarce.

Should you practice intermittent fasting?

There are many benefits that come with fasting and it’s been proven to be an effective method to improve overall health and wellness. For starters, it can significantly improve our gut health and digestion. Our migrating motor complex (MMC), a major factor in the digestion process, is only activated when our bodies are not digesting and are in a fasting state. This is the mechanism that scans our body, creating a “sweeping motion” to push food debris down to the large intestine. Think of it like a zamboni on the ice – it can only successfully do a “deep clean” of the ice if there isn’t anyone skating around!

Like anything else, however, bio-individuality comes into play, and what works for one person may not necessarily work for another. Women, for example, should practice intermittent fasting differently than men, because the results and side effects can vary.

How is intermittent fasting different for women and men?

Due to our hormones and menstrual cycles, the rules are a little different when it comes to intermittent fasting for us ladies. Because of this, fasting shouldn’t be practiced every day of the week, as doing so can throw our hormones out of whack. Moreover, it’s best for females to practice fasting through days 1-14 of a 28 day cycle. Studies have shown that it can even be helpful on the first day of a period to help mitigate any PMS symptoms!

It’s also important to keep in mind that there are certain factors than can affect a fast . If you have a heavy load of refined carbs or alcohol the day before, for example, your body might not have a positive reaction to intermittent fasting.

What are the benefits of intermittent fasting?

So what’s all of the buzz about? Science shows that there are numerous benefits our body experiences when we fast. Just like our cells, brain, organs and other mechanics of our body require sleep/rest in order to optimally function, so does our digestive system. Research has shown that intermittent fasting results in an increase of good gut bacteria, a decrease in insulin resistance and reduced inflammation. Here are some other scientifically proven benefits:

7 benefits of intermittent fasting

1. Boosts mitochondrial biogensis (the creation of new mitochondria)

Mitochondria provide the cells in our body with energy. All of our cells are powered by hundreds of mitochondria that act as “batteries” to help our body fulfill it’s functions. Their job is to take the food we consume and convert it into energy. When this happens, we have more brain power to complete tasks and tackle our day.

2. Reduces inflammation

Inflammation is the source of many health issues, including fatigue, skin irritation, low energy and digestive discomfort. Intermittent fasting stimulates autophagy, which is a process in which the body destroys old/damaged cells (that cause inflammation) as a way of repairing, cleansing and protecting itself. As a result, we experience less free radical damage and a boost in our overall health.

3. Supports weight loss

Intermittent fasting can help us burn fat by helping our metabolism to work more effectively. When we eat, our body uses glucose (sugar) as its primary source of energy and stores whatever is left over as glycogen. When there’s no glucose in our body, it begins breaking down the glycogen to use as fuel, and when this runs out (during a fasted state), it will begin to use fat as it’s main fuel source. This is also known as ketosis.

4. Increases energy

It turns out eating consistently throughout the day can be a recipe for fatigue, brain fog and low energy. Carbs, for example, are a great source of energy, but our body converts them into blood sugar, and after it’s either used up or stored, our blood sugar drops, taking our energy and mental clarity down with it. The difference with intermittentfasting is our body uses fat as it’s main source of fuel, which is digested at a slower rate and needs to be processed by the liver. With this process, there are no “rises” and “drops”, meaning we have more energy and generally feel better.

5. Improves digestion

Fasting is similar to rebooting a computer. Sometimes, when we have too many tabs open, our computer can freeze, and we don’t exactly know where the main issue is. But if we turn it off and re-start it, more often than not it starts working again. Fasting is a great way to give our system a “reboot”, and it allow it to take a break from digesting & assimilating food. In the long term, this can actually improve digestion, limit inflammation, promote healthy gut flora, decrease bloating and more.

6. Enhances immunity

Do you ever notice that when you’re sick your stop eating or just don’t eat as much? When we’re fighting infection, our human instinct is to focus on resting and our body looks for ways to reduce internal stress so it can use it’s energy on beating the bug. Whenever we eat, our immune system kicks into gear to scan our food for any threats, so fasting allows our immune system to rest and preserve it’s energy. Since fasting also stimulates autophagy processes old damaged cells are destroyed, ultimately making our immune system stronger.

7. Optimizes brain function

As we age, there’s less blood flow/circulation to the brain and our neurons actually get smaller, which can affect things like memory and focus. Research has shown that intermittent fasting actually protects our brain cells from regeneration, helping us to stay mentally sharp, boosting our memory and protecting us from diseases such as Alzheimer’s.


About The Movement Boutique in Toronto – Pilates, Chiropractic, Functional Medicine

TMB The Movement Boutique

Located on Yonge Street in Toronto, The Movement Boutique serves the areas of Summerhill, Rosedale and Yorkdale with Pilates classes and much more. Our philosophy is centred on a holistic, multimodal approach to health, grounded in the latest therapeutic techniques and clinical research. Our approach: Optimal health cannot be attained through a single therapeutic lens; injuries are often the result of a constellation of lifestyle issues, including dysfunctional movement patterns, trauma, nutritional deficiencies or destructive habits of mind.