Health Trend Requires You Watch the Clock Instead of Calories

ALTOONA, Iowa –Fasting is an ancient practice, but now people aren't just doing it for religious or cultural reasons.

Intermittent fasting started gaining popularity six years ago in England. Now, people in the United States are trying the practice in hopes of becoming healthier.

Travis Northway has always focused on fitness. "Health is my passion. Being healthy. I love everything about it," he said.

As a personal trainer at the Altoona Campus, he stays on top of the latest health trends, including intermittent fasting. "I just wanted to try it and see what this was about, see if it really was what it was hyped up to be."

Eight months ago, he started the way of eating that has you keeping an eye on the clock, instead of the calories. "What I do is called the 16/8 method. I'll fast, or I won't eat, for about 16 hours straight. And then, I'll start eating around 12 p.m."

A few variations of intermittent fasting exist, which cycles periods of eating with not eating. People still drink water, coffee, and tea in the morning. "I still eat the same foods, healthy, whole foods. I might eat less, just because I'm eating a shorter period of time," said Northway.

The thought is you eat fewer calories while making it easier to burn stored fat.

Registered Dietitian Brian Smith with UnityPoint Health Des Moines said, "You're trying to trick your body's metabolism into, ok well, there's not that much fuel in my body, in my stomach right now. So, I'll just use what I have on me, residing in my fat stores."

Smith said fasting can be done by anyone who is healthy, but pregnant women, people with diabetes, and those with an eating disorder should avoid it. He said you should talk to your healthcare provider or registered dietitian to make sure you are healthy enough to try it.

Smith said intermittent fasting is not a "magic bullet" for weight loss and more research needs to be done. "At this we're looking at, it is being done, people do it, but is it really beneficial in the long run for everyone, or for only certain groups of people, or for only certain conditions perhaps."

Northway is glad he tried it. He said he's lost one to two percent of his body fat and gained other benefits. "I feel healthier. I feel like my energy levels are higher. Mentally I'm always focused. I don't have brain fog or anything like that,” he said.

Northway said the eight-hour eating window isn’t a free for all. He fills up on nutritious food and only eats when he's hungry and stops when he's full. He said anyone interested should do their research and talk to their healthcare provider.