What is Intermittent Fasting and Why You Should Implement it into Your Daily Life

Cory Mazure | 13 Dec, 2021

What is IF

If you have been exposed to dieting trends over the last few years, you have almost certainly heard of the term intermittent fasting. Unfortunately, there has been a lot of misinformation on this subject, and people advertising this as the key to solving all your weight loss struggles. I do believe that there are significant benefits to this practice and hope to share my experiences with Intermittent fasting through this article to give you a better idea of all the benefits that go way past assisting with weight loss. So, what is Intermittent fasting? Intermittent fasting, or IF for short, can be simply explained as extending the time in which you do not eat throughout the day. It is commonly thought of as extending the time from the last meal of the night to the first meal of the following day. Breakfast gets it name as the meal that breaks the fast. Now that we know that IF is, what fasting intervals should we be shooting for? 

What is the Ideal IF Window?

Surprise surprise, like almost everything else in life, there is no such thing as an “ideal IF window.” What we do know though is the longer you fast, the more benefits you receive. Work schedules, levels of physical activity, and preexisting health conditions all affect someone’s “ideal” fasting length so it is advisable to attempt various lengths of fasts to see what works with you. So, what are these benefits? 

Benefits of Extending the Fasting Window

The list of benefits from fasting is ever-growing with new research, but here are some of the well-known benefits that you can expect to take advantage of. 

Fat Loss 

When you go extended periods of time without eating, your body switches from burning carbohydrates to burning fats. The longer you are in a fasted state, the more fat is burned. 


Autophagy is the process of recycling old and damaged proteins and microbes. These damaged proteins lead to plague in the brain and body’s blood vessels went left untreated. They can be converted into new amino acids if you stay fasted longer. This process starts about 18 hours into the fasting window. 

Reduced Inflammation

One of the main causes of inflammation in the arteries is sugar. When we consume carbohydrates, our blood sugar spikes which can lead to inflammation. Extended periods of time without consuming carbohydrates (in a ketogenic diet or by fasting) will help reduce inflammation as there is nothing present to spike the blood sugar.   

Insulin Sensitivity

Insulin is used to transport glucose from the bloodstream to the cells. You will have an insulin response after consuming foods (carbohydrates) with glucose in them. If you consume carbohydrates often, insulin will have to be released very often as well. As insulin is continuously released, it becomes less effective. Because there are no carbohydrates to cause an insulin release while in a fasted state, being in a fasted state will help improve insulin sensitivity and reduce the risk of insulin resistance.  

Human Growth Hormone Production

Human growth hormone is crucial for regulating our fat, muscle, tissue, and bones. It has known for protein synthesis and healing joints or other body parts that have taken damage to strenuous activities throughout the day. Human growth hormone begins being produced 12 hours into a fasted state. 

BDNF Increase

BDNF stands for Brain-Derived Neurotrophic Factor and is known to help create new brain cells. BDNF boosts learning and memory with the creation of these new brain cells. In addition to fasting, exercise has been shown to increase the production of BDNF. Low levels of BDNF are correlated to cognitive decline. BDNF production begins to increase around 24 hours into a fast, so you may have to plan for an extended fast to reap these benefits.  

Side Effects to Consider 

Unfortunately, it is not all sunshine and rainbows when it comes to fasting. There are some side effects that are commonly reported, but luckily there are ways of getting around these side effects. 

Hunger Induced Mood Swings

A typical side effect to fasting is feeling hungry, and for that hunger to negatively effect your mood. Hunger is caused by the hormone ghrelin. As you fast, ghrelin is released and hunger strikes. The first few times I tried to fast I would experience hunger induced anger around 24 hours into the fast. A couple strategies that helped me get over this hunger and the negative emotions associated with it were to drink water, light exercise, and meditate. I personally do not experience intense feelings of hunger on normal days where I fast in the range of 16 hours, but if you do, try to give those remedies a try.   

Light Headedness

Light headedness occurs when fasting due to low levels of electrolytes. To combat this, try to add salt to your water, or purchase calorie free electrolyte packets. These will do wonders in keeping you electrolytes in check during a fast.


 Newcomers to IF report feeling tired as they are not use to their body running on ketones instead of glucose. To overcome the feeling of tiredness, try to stay physically active, or drink straight black coffee. Coffee has been shown to not break a fast as long as you do not add any sugar or cream to the coffee.  

IF Strategies to Try

Now that we know more about the benefits and side effects of IF, how can you apply this practice to your life? All IF strategies revolve around the original idea of extending the window in time in which you do not eat. 


The most commonly cited practice for this is the 16:8 method, where you fast for 16 hours and eat for 8 within the 24 hour day. If you do not think you can make it the full 16, you can try 15, or 14 to start. To start, document how long you think you are currently fasting and try to extend that window little by little to find a zone that works for you. I promise you can go longer than you currently think! It is important to consider that anything under 12 hours of fasting is no longer considered IF as you do not receive any of the benefits from staying in a fasted state. 

One Meal a Day

Another common strategy is eating only one meal a day (OMD). This is definitely something to work your way up to if you are not experienced with fasting. OMD is an advisable strategy if you want to take advantage of some of the benefits of fasting that take around 24 hours to kick in, such as the increase in BDNF. 


In this strategy, you complete a 24 hour fast, once or twice a week. This is similar to OMD but with less frequency. I would recommend giving this one a try on the weekend, and try the 16:8 IF schedule during the week. 

IF Strategies to Avoid 

If you look around on the internet, people will swear by these IF styles that they follow, which are not really intermittent fasting. 

Spontaneous Meal Skipping

The method does not follow a strict schedule, you just follow it whenever you feel like it. Obviously, this is a bad approach as consistency is extremely important to take advantage of the benefits of IF. Just try to avoid doing this one as you will most likely not see good results.

Alternate Day Method

With this strategy, you each normal on one day, then restrict your diet to about 500 calories the next. Some people on the internet believe that restricting your caloric intake allows for you get some benefits of fasting, but this is not the case unless the calories you are eliminating are carbohydrates. If that is the case, doing a ketogenic diet on some days could be beneficial to help with reducing inflammation and improving insulin sensitivity. 


Similar to the alternate day method, a common trend is the “5:2” diet, where you only consume about 500 calories on 2 days of the week, while you eat normally the other 5. I personally do not think this is a good diet choice as a restricted diet for 2 days will not lead to much weight loss and has the potential of overconsumption on the other 5 days. 1 pound of fat is 3500 calories. If you operate under the assumption that your base metabolic rate is 2000 calories, you would be losing roughly a pound a week following this restricted diet method, assuming you eat at your BMR the other 5 days. This diet has the potential of working, if you combine it with a 16:8 IF during the 5 days and an OMD IF for the two, 500 calorie days. 

Ultimately, it is up to you to experiment and find a dietary change that you can be consistent with.   

Is IF for Me?

Who Benefits the Most From IF 

One group that would receive extreme benefits from IF are those with type 2 diabetes. Type 2 diabetes is caused by insulin resistence. As discussed previously, IF helps reverse the effects of insulin resistence and will help those with type 2 diabetes. Other groups that can benefit are those who are overweight. If any of the benefits discussed above speak to you, whether it be for brain health or reducing inflammation, then IF can also benefit you. 

Who Should Avoid IF

Although IF has a significant amount of benefits, some people should stay away. Pregnant women should stick away from IF as they need to eat to help provide their baby with nutrients. Those who are underweight or have eating disorders should also stay away from IF as they do not want to lose any more weight. 

Tips to Stay on the IF Grind

If you are interested in starting to IF, there are a few additional tips that I have found. 

IF Phone Apps

There are phone applications where you can set the time you started fasted and your desired fasting length, and it will provide you a timer until you can eat to achieve your IF goal. Some notable apps are Zero, Fastic, and Simple. Look through the app store and find one that speaks to you.


As mentioned previously, electrolytes are a big help in keeping your body running well while fasted. You can add salt to water to get some benefits, but I have found that the LMNT has a great zero calorie electrolyte option that you can consume while fasted.   

My Recommended IF Schedule 

To someone who has not tried IF before, this might seem intimidating. I assure you it is within your abilities to get in the habit of IF. If you can eliminate snacking in the evening after dinner and delay your first meal of the day until lunch time, it is quite easy to hit the 16:8 schedule. If you have a job that requires high physical exertion in the day, you may want to eat earlier so perhaps you can shift the eating window to end earlier in the day so you can still get your 16 hour goal. Go ahead and give it a try. There is no right way of doing it, the goal is just to extend your fast to get more health benefits without it negitively effecting your life quality. Good luck with your IF journey, hopefully you will see as many benefits as I have! 

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