Health

What Skipping Meals Really Does to Your Body

When Hugh Jackman revealed to Men's Health in November 2016 that he fasts for 16 hours a day in order to look like his character for the action film "Wolverine," people had questions.

People began to wonder if this dieting technique was intermittent fasting, if it was healthy and could this sort of habit render similar results to Jackman.

ATTN: spoke with nutritionist Amelia Kauffman, of Selkskin Nutritional Support in Boulder, Colorado, to get the basics of intermittent fasting, what happens to your body when you do it, and if it can be a healthy option — a debate that rages in the fitness community.

 

"I want to preface that what most people forget is, if you're really talking about health, it's always going to be bio-individual," Kauffman told ATTN:. "It will always be different for every person." This interview has been edited and condensed for clarity.

ATTN:: What do you think of how fasting has become a trend? There are even apps for it. Would you recommend fasting?

Amelia Kauffman: We [nutritionists] recommend eating every four to six hours. Not just because we think that's a good idea, but because your blood sugar crashes [if you don't].

Every time you skip a meal think, "I could be contributing to diabetes." Don't take that lightly! Because when your blood sugar crashes, you're developing low glycemic index, which means low blood sugar, or high blood sugar. Usually, it starts with low blood sugar and people don't realize that that's contributing to later in their life to the high blood sugar.

This is an American norm. It's to starve ourselves, to binge eat, emotionally eat, all these insane extremes.

Get all those basic needs in place: hydrate, exercise, eat regular meals, and then when you are in a functional blood sugar place, a functional digestive place, where you can properly eliminate and detox toxins — then a fast could be helpful, then a detox could be helpful.

But [trying] all of this trendy stuff before you even know where you're at can be very detrimental. Because you skip that meal thinking "oh, I'm detoxing!" But your body is going into a blood sugar regulation insane moment, you feel crazy-manic, then you feel super fatigued and depressed, and that's because you weren't ready.

ATTN:: So when someone like Hugh Jackman says he fasted for "Wolverine," that's different in that he's monitored by doctors who have tested him and know what they're doing, right?

Kauffman: I'm saying if you take the time and you're going to be really thorough about it, great, do a detox. Do a fast. With the guidance of a health care practitioner you trust. I just don't like it when people do this on their own, on a whim, because I think they don't realize they're going to really mess with their blood sugar regulation. In general, skipping meals is not what I recommend. I do not think that's optimal.

I'm not saying I don't want us to fast. I'm just saying, think, and make a plan.

ATTN:: What do you think about fasting from sundown to sunrise? Like with the zero intermittent fasting app.

Kauffman: What I recommend — and this is hard even for me — but try to eat dinner four hours before you're going to go bed. Especially, if you're going to eat meat. Meat can actually take up to four hours depending on the person to really move through the person's system. What's great about that is your body has had enough time to digest and now it has the energy and the space for the metabolic processes.

Sleep and relaxation are two very different things. Sleep is a very intense process for the body. A lot of metabolic processes are happening, such as cleansing the liver, moving things though the digestive track, the gallbladder, the adrenal glands — there's all sorts of stuff happening. Allow that natural fasting time to happen.

If you'd like to try intermittent fasting, keep Kauffman's advice in mind and seek guidance from a professional first. You probably won't wind up looking like Hugh Jackman, but as Kauffman suggests, what matters most is how you feel.