An in-depth analysis of both patterns of fasting
Regular intermittent fasting (IF) is a pattern of fasting that refers to various meal timing schedules that cycle between voluntary fasting and non-fasting over a given period. IF has become a popular method of fasting due to the benefits it yields, ranging from weight loss to reduced insulin levels. As opposed to this regular pattern of fasting, a less common, but more beneficial method of fasting, is circadian fasting, which involves syncing meal times to your body’s ‘internal clock’. Let’s understand what intermittent fasting and circadian fasting mean on a more in-depth level.
What is intermittent fasting?
Intermittent fasting is when you sustain from eating food for 12-16 hours, ideally 16 hours. Intermittent fasting doesn’t have any rules on when you should fast and eat. You can stop eating at 10:00 P.M., and then break your fast at 2:00 P.M. the next day. The focus is less on what you eat and more about not eating during this window of time.
What is circadian fasting?
Circadian fasting is when our ‘circadian rhythm’, or natural body clock, is synchronized with our external environment through certain cues such as sunlight and our eating schedules. Circadian rhythm is a 24-hour internal clock that regulates how awake and/or how tired we feel during the course of a day. Our circadian rhythm is controlled by an area in our brain called the hypothalamus, which is super sensitive to light. When our hypothalamus is exposed to light, it sends out signals to the rest of our body telling it that it's time to wake up. On the other hand, when it gets dark, our hypothalamus signals to our body that it's time to wind down. All of this is regulated by two hormones—cortisol and melatonin. Cortisol rises in the morning, peaks again in the afternoon right before lunchtime and then drops at night. Melatonin does the opposite. It is lowest in the morning and then gradually increases as the day goes on. That means, in theory, we wake up in the morning feeling energized and ready to go, then at night we start to feel sleepy and head off to bed.
The circadian rhythm diet, also called the ‘sun cycle diet’, encourages timing our meals with the rise and fall of the sun, and the corresponding surges and dips in cortisol. That's because cortisol has a significant effect on our thyroid hormones, which affect the metabolism of the food we eat. When cortisol rises in the earlier hours, our metabolism is also up and running and we effectively transform the food we eat into energy. When cortisol dips later in the day, our metabolism simultaneously slows down, which makes it more likely that our body will store the food we eat as fat. Circadian fasting also focuses on the importance of eating a well-balanced diet, full of vegetables during your window period.
Learn eight hacks to make your circadian fast easier here.
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