The Benefits of Intermittent Fasting for Nurses

From childhood, it’s been drummed in all our brains that breakfast is the most important meal. If you skip it, you’re just hurting yourself! But now a new eating trend picking up some steam in the health/nutrition world is saying just the opposite: Go ahead, skip breakfast. It’s actually better for you. 

Can this possibly be true? Let’s examine the benefits of intermittent fasting for a travel nurse. 

First, what exactly is intermittent fasting? The name sounds complicated, but it’s really not. It’s all about adjusting the cycle between fasting and eating. We already have a cycle in place even if it’s not something we actively think about. The time between when you eat dinner and when you eat breakfast is technically a pretty significant fast (usually between 10-12 hours if you forgo a midnight snack). But in an intermittent fast, this gap widens a little bit. While it varies, this type of fasting usually requires that you avoid any form of calorie intake for about 16 hours. Or put a different way, you are only consuming food ideally from 6-8 hours each day. For energy purposes you want this period to extend some time in the middle of the day. Let’s say you don’t eat until noon and stop eating around 6 or 7 p.m..  So yeah, basically you skip breakfast. 

For practical reasons alone, this is a routine that fits pretty well with the work hours of a day nurse. If you’re expected to go in early, 7 a.m. or earlier, it can seem like a hassle to get breakfast ready at the crack of dawn. It’s also not useful. If you eat breakfast at 5 a.m., you are bound to be hungry two hours later, right when your work starts to pick up. So much for that breakfast energy! Mornings are usually busy and hectic in a hospital or clinic. There’s not much of a window to take a breakfast break. So delaying your eating until lunch makes sense. It also makes sense to try and get your dinner over with before your shift actually ends. Getting off at 7, driving home, and having to prepare dinner leaves you eating at 8:30 or 9 o’clock at night, which is bad for your sleep and digestive cycles. Might as well take a quick break and come home fed, ready to watch Netflix and go to sleep. 

But are there health and energy benefits? Why yes there are! The first one I mentioned above, it’s much better for your sleep cycle if you’re not eating right before bed, because you sleep better if your body isn’t digesting.

Speaking of digesting, sometimes it’s our instinct to snack regularly throughout the day to curb any feelings of hunger. But intermittent fasting is centered on the idea that your body actually needs a lot of time in between eating, and if you give it that time, you’ll start to curb those feelings of hunger and also reap several other benefits. A lot happens in your body when you take a break from eating. It undergoes cellular repair processes, growth hormones form that help you burn fat and your insulin levels drop (which might not be great if you have type 1 diabetes). Ultimately, you’re giving your body the time it needs to go through all these good processes with the energy you’ve already given it. Imagine your body is like an assembly line. You drop in one item and it has to undergo all of this work before you drop in another, and if you drop in another item too soon, the assembly line clogs up. 

So what are some of the results you can see from intermittent fasting?  It’s proven to help some in losing weight. There’s one obvious reason this could be true: if you’re only eating 6 hours of the day, you’re probably just eating less than you normally would. And it is proven that when you reduce your calorie intake, your body will start using your stored fat for energy. It’s also just more attainable than dieting. Limiting how much you eat day by day is a lot easier for some than restricting what you can eat. But those bodily processes that happen while fasting, mentioned above, also can play a factor in weight loss. Lower insulin levels and higher growth hormone levels, which both develop when you fast for extended periods of time, facilitate in increasing the body’s metabolism, and thus burning fat more quickly. 

There are other benefits, like lowering your risk of Type 2 diabetes and increasing your liver function. On a day to day level, while you might struggle maintaining energy while adjusting to this new eating schedule, most people who intermittently fast report having more energy throughout the day and being able to focus better. 

Some studies even say intermittent fasting increases your lifespan. So what are you waiting for? Skip breakfast! 

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