Do you know anyone who follows intermittent fasting?
It turns out intermittent fasting is nothing new.
You may have the impression that intermittent fasting came on the scene about 5 years ago.
However, Ayurveda has been promoting intermittent fasting for thousands of years, with a few key aspects the modern application tends to miss.
Intermittent fasting as a modern trend promotes eating during a limited number of hours of the day, so that you increase the number of hours you are ‘fasting’. For example, if you normally eat breakfast at 7 in the morning, and have your last meal finished by 9 at night, that’s 10 hours between when you finish eating for the day, and when you eat your first meal the next day. But if you restrict your eating hours so you’re only eating between 12 noon and 8 at night, that becomes 16 hours overnight. And indeed, that is often cited as the ideal in the modern trend.
The idea behind the modern trend is to reduce the number of hours you’re busy eating and increase the number of hours your body is fasting overnight.
There’s a few key oversights with the modern trend, so I’d like to share with you what’s important not to miss from the Ayurvedic perspective.
At its essence, Ayurveda already has built in intermittent fasting – you could almost say it invented it.
Let’s look closely at some of the core principles that match up between Ayurveda food advice and modern intermittent fasting. I’ll highlight a couple of things for you to check that you’re not overlooking.
Wait for your hunger before eating the next meal
Ayurveda clearly states that every healthy individual (with absence of diabetic condition, for example) should eat two handfuls (anguli) of food at meal time, then wait until true hunger returns before eating the next meal. This is the core concept of Ayurvedic fasting between meals. Don’t be tempted to ignore this simple rule just because you narrow the hours during which you’re eating.
So in Ayurveda, while more intense fasting may be appropriate during panchakarma (the intense detox treatment protocols), NORMAL, EVERYDAY FASTING in between meals is encouraged.
Let your digestive organs mono-task
That takes the form of not eating in between meals, and not eating when you’re not hungry. By doing this you allow the full digestive cycle to complete before taking in more food, and this gives the digestive organs the best chance for rest in between, so they can funciton optimally. This is because you’re requiring the digestive organs to be active only at the time when they need to be active, and they actually have time to rest and perform other vital activities in between. Keep in mind many of the same organs of digestion are also responsible to break down and process other things besides food – waste in the body, olde cells, and excess hormones for example.
Without waiting until you’re hungry – and correcting your Agni when it creates too much hunger or too little hunger- you’ll miss a key aspect to healthy eating.
What should be the biggest meal?
Ayurveda also recommends to shift your main meal at lunchtime, when your digestive capacity is the strongest. What that often requires is swapping your dinner with lunch, so that lunch becomes your largest meal at mid-day, and your evening meal becomes relatively smaller. The purpose of the eating dinner is just to carry you until bedtime, because your body is about to completely downshift in metabolism when you go to sleep anyway. So light nourishment is enough in the evening time.
Now the other thing that I teach that is that dinners should not just be light, but also early. Early to me means that you’re finished eating around six, at the latest. (This is not unlike the traditional Dutch dinnertime where I live).
Naturally, when you eat early, you have more hours that you fasting overnight between dinner and breakfast. So that lines up neatly with modern intermittent fasting. If you’re finishing dinner around six, and breakfast at seven, your only eating for 11 hours during the day, and that means you’re fasting for 13 hours overnight.
Eat at least a light breakfast
When they start trying intermittent fasting, it can be tempting to skip breakfast to reduce your eating hours. Many people will skip breakfast but eat a late dinner to achieve this, and that’s not a great way to go about it. They start with a midmorning meal or lunch. Ultimately this slows down metabolism. We should eat something, even if it’s just a little bit on the front end of our waking hours, because the body naturally needs to have “awake metabolism” during the day.
Don’t eat late at night
The other thing that I see clients deal with intermittent fasting to achieve more fasting hours is to continue to eat late at night. They might start at 11 in the morning or 12, but they will finish eating at nine or 10 at night.
If you’re suppressing your metabolism in the morning, and demanding digestion late at night, it may train your body to store excess.
The glaring problem is if you are only eating during eight hours of the day and fasting for 16, to line up with modern intermittent fasting guidelines, it’s very important which of those hours you choose.
Remember from understanding how to sync your digestion up with the Doshic clock, that the digestive organs can handle your largest meal best at lunchtime, and struggle with heavy food at night.
So for the metabolism, doshas and organs, it makes a HUGE difference if you are intermittent fasting from 7 in the morning to 4 in the afternoon, versus from 12 noon to 8 at night.
Both may mean only 8 hours of eating time, and 16 hours of fasting time, but the first lines up with the doshic clock and the latter, goes against those natural rhythms and doesn’t make a lot of sense healthwise for your organs.
When you have an early, light dinner, by the time you go to sleep you have had about three or four hours of digestion completed. So you’re pretty much done with digestion before you go to bed. Only the absorption phases will remain.
In this case, your digestive organs can turn their efforts to the other things that they have to be digesting at those nighttime hours- they have a lot to do.
It’s easy to underestimate just how much your digestive organs are involved with other physiological functions besides breaking down the food and making it accessible to energy.
Your liver takes on an especially diverse role. It manufactures lymph (think: immunity), filters the blood, breaks down red blood cells and rebuilds new ones, filters excess wastes, and contributes to reducing excess levels of hormones.
But when you eat as late as eight or nine at night, the liver once again has to be digesting food until late. That means the liver is going to be busy with digestion instead effectively performing these other important tasks.
We know from the Doshic Clock that these other important tasks that are more related to resting and cleansing happen between about 10 at night and two in the morning with the liver organ. So this is a precious time that should be protected, so we should avoid eating late and having food in the stomach already during that 10 PM time.
(Meanwhile, when we eat late, it’s easy to form ama, because much of that food will be sitting in the digestion organs for much longer, because the metabolism is going to slow down at night.)
So if you choose to start intermittent fasting, make sure you’re taking into account the Doshic Clock, make sure you’re doing it according to the Ayurveda rules, and it will enhance your healthy efforts and you won’t go down the wrong path. Watch out that you’re working harder to bring your evening meal time as early as possible even 5 o’clock, rather than just cutting off breakfast. And your metabolism will thank you later.
If you’re feeling like you need a system reboot, and extra guidances to proper Ayurvedic intermittent fasting, that’s exactly what I teach. Reach out anytime to discover what’s possible.
We start with the Doshic Clock straightaway in the Vitality Recharge, and that’s why members see such incredible breakthroughs in their health conditions in a few short months.