Healthy Habits: What Is Intermittent Fasting and How Does It Work?

Intermittent fasting: It sounds like a scary term, doesn’t it? Well, would you believe me if I told you that it’s actually one of the biggest buzz phrases in the health and nutrition world right now? But before diving in, first things first…

What is intermittent fasting?

Nutritionists and health experts define intermittent fasting as a cycle of fasting (not eating) and non-fasting (eating) periods that allow your body to remove toxins, waste, damaged cells, and fat cells. There are several different ways to do it—you can fast for as short as a 6-hour window in the middle of the day, or go as long as 24 hours without food (although, we wouldn’t recommend the latter). The intermittent portion of this cycle means it is an eat-stop-eat plan that lets your body go into a fasting, fat-burning mode.

What are the benefits?

Now that I’ve gotten that behind us, let’s talk benefits (and some science, too). Health experts explains that intermittent fasting (or IMF) has been around for centuries, but has become very popular because there is a lot of great research coming out on fasted workouts and the benefits of fasting. Pioneers like Brad Pilon and Dr. Valter Longo of USC are paving the way with this research that shows how, not only can you break down fat cells for weight loss while fasting, but you can also break down unwanted immune cells for rejuvenation.

By fasting, you can experience apoptosis of immune cells, autophagy of neurons and a reduction in liver size (which is extra great for those ladies who get in the habit of a glass of wine to unwind after work), and the removal of damaged cells, toxins, and waste.

IMF is an approachable way to achieve these cleansing benefits and there are multiple methods to do so. In fact, animal studies** show that fasting is life-extending and promotes beneficial changes in genes related to longevity. Studies have shown that IMF can promote over a 300% increase in growth hormone and a significant drop in insulin levels, both of which facilitate fat burning and lean muscle gains.

How does it work?

The best way to begin an intermittent fasting phase is when you’ve already been eating clean and healthy—meaning no ice cream binges beforehand! It is much easier to enter a fast when you have balanced blood sugar or are currently in a fat adaptive or ketogenic state (a state where your body is burning heathy fat, proteins and vegetables for fuel, not sugars and carbs), she says. This can help prevent the fasting flu symptoms, like headache or nausea, you might experience from fasted cleansing. From there, the cycle involved doing a 6-hour, eat-stop-eat routine that is easier on both your appetite and your mind than an extreme 24-hour or longer fast. Here’s what that looks like:

Note: I am not recommending or condoning this cycle for everyone, but simply explaining what a day of intermittent fasting looks like based on research.

Eat: Wait to have breakfast until later in the morning, around 11:30am. This will keep the body in the fasting mode it was in during the time it were asleep. Kelly recommends smoothie with a healthy fat like almond butter or coconut oil, or a carb-free, protein and fat-rich dish like scrambled eggs with spinach and avocado.

Stop: Now it’s ideal to try not to snack or have any drinks besides tea or water between the late breakfast and early dinner. This is the 6-hour fasting phase and it’s crucial to avoid snacking in order to reap the metabolic and cleaning benefits.

Eat: Six hours later, so around 5:30pm, have a clean dinner that combines all of four ingredients (protein, greens, healthy fat, and fiber). This can be include grilled chicken and steamed broccoli, baked salmon with roasted asparagus, or a veggie-packed salad with chicken and a light salad dressing like this one.

Stop: Then, it’s time to stop again. This is the longest fasting phase during the 24-hour period, but it’s also the easiest since the body is sleeping for the majority of it. Sip on herbal tea or bubbly water during the evening when tempted to open the fridge and snack. The great part is that during a fasting phase, the body will need more rest since it’s cleansing.

What would someone expect?

During intermittent fasting, one will feel mental clarity, lose fat around their midsection and have an increase in metabolism. Basically, this process will allow the body to surge with human growth hormone and testosterone, which will help decrease insulin sensitivity. This is good for the metabolism, and good for brain fat—it hits body and mind all at once.

But before you get started…

One important note from Kelly is to take this in moderation. While IMF can be very beneficial when done correctly, it is not for everybody and you don’t want it to get out of hand. Extreme IMF dieting does have the propensity to create eating disorders, food anxiety and binge eating when it is taken too far. This is why Kelly does not recommend fasting for 12 to 24 hours, but instead tells clients to use the eat-stop-eat method. “If my clients are interested in IMF, says Kelly, “another practice I recommend is getting up and having a Fab Four Smoothie, enjoying a nice lunch and then skipping dinner instead.” It’s important to remember that IMF is used as a one-day reset when you feel your body needs to cleanse—not a lifestyle—and it is not for everybody.

As with trying any new diet or health plan, you should consult your doctor before trying intermittent fasting, especially if you have a history of hypoglycemia.

And there you have it! I know, that was a whole lot of information and a lot of science to absorb. If you have any questions, be sure to leave them in the comments below.

What other trending health topics would you like to see me cover next?


Sipping Pretty: Infused Water Recipes

Aside from coming across as beautiful, drinkable works of art, infused waters have a subtly sweet taste and a cleansing effect on your body that is equal parts refreshing and healthy. From time to time, I find myself making a large pitcher of lemon cucumber mint water and drinking it for a week. And after embarking on a recent “pinge” on Pinterest, I discovered a few other infused water recipes that I was eager to try. I gave them a go and were pleased to find that they tasted as lovely as they looked. Here are the four infused water recipes I created (and couldn’t get enough of)…

  • orange + lemon + lime
  • lemon + raspberry + mint
  • lemon + cucumber + mint
  • blackberry + cherry + lime

To make any of these recipes, all you have to do is slice the fruit you want to use and drop them into your water. You can start drinking it right away, but you might not notice the flavors until it infuses for a few hours (four hours achieves the most potent flavor). I like to let my waters sit overnight in the fridge, and if I’m using a recipe that calls for lemon I will squeeze half a lemon straight into the water for a little detox boost. As long as you keep your water refrigerated, the fruit should stay fresh. If you are filling your pitcher with water throughout the week, keep in mind that it will dilute the flavor each time you refill. I would recommend drinking your water within 3-5 days and making a new batch once you notice that fruit has started to soften or turn your water cloudy. Which infused water recipe will you try first? Leave your questions and comments below! And if you liked this post, be sure to take a peek at my detox diary for all the details about my first juice cleanse. xx

Tone It Up: How Much Water Should I Drink?

Hey everyone, today I have a little challenge for you. I want you to try to drink half your body weight in ounces of water (at least) throughout the day for the next 8 weeks! Here’s why this is so important…

Water increases your metabolism.

Your body is made up almost entirely of water. It’s hard to believe, but everything in your body is floating in a water-based suspension. Also, many of our bodily functions require water in some part of their equation to function properly. In this case, we are going to talk about the liver…

Water cleans out your system.

The liver is an amazing organ. Of its many functions, one is to take released body fat and break it down for use as energy (a process called lipolysis). However, when hydration levels get as low as 80 percent, the liver and kidneys have a difficult time functioning and filtering all that thickened blood. Since kidney function trumps liver function on the task-list of sustaining life, the amazing liver does what it can to take over for the kidneys. Wow, we are sure glad that is the case, otherwise we would all be in some serious trouble! If the liver isn’t able to do its job, our bodies cannot break down fat and use it for energy at the rate in which we need it to. Let’s just say that is not good for your body fat percentage.

In order for proper diet and exercise to be truly effective, you’ll need to maintain a proper hydration level so that the body fat released into the bloodstream can be broken up into proteins. You want these fat cells to be broken up into proteins because those are the building blocks of muscle! It’s a simple equation…more water equals less fat and more muscle.

How much water is enough?

Water increases your metabolism so much that if you’re chronically dehydrated, it can mean up to an 8-pound weight gain or more per year. No wonder weight creeps on! Your challenge is to drink at least half your body weight in ounces of water per day. For example, someone who weights 150 pounds should be drinking 75 ounces of water a day. This doesn’t mean all at once, it means throughout the whole day.

We can all mistake thirst for hunger too, which leads to eating more unnecessary calories, so it’s important to always have water handy. Get that calendar out and mark it down to remind yourself!

Can you do the water challenge?

Let me know if you have any tricks for staying hydrated in the comments below!


Slim Suggestion: H2 Ohhh

We all know that we’re supposed to drink lots of water everyday. Drinking 8-12 glasses of agua daily has countless health benefits. Also, your appearance benefits from drinking enough water each day. Water hydrates your skin making you look younger and it assists in weight loss. So why don’t we drink more? Because next to delicious lattes and flavored fizzy drinks water falls flat. It’s, dare we say, a little boring. So here are a few ways to jazz up your H2O…

  • Fruit – Slice it up and toss it in. Try different fruits or even different combinations of fruit. Some popular ones are cucumbers, lemons, limes, oranges, strawberries, raspberries… and the list goes on.
  • Mint – Try adding a few mint leaves to your water. It will give it a refreshing twist.
  • Ice – Fill an ice tray with your favorite all natural fruit juice and put it in the freezer. When the cubes have frozen try adding a couple to your water for a hint of flavor.