By: Alethia Pantazis, MD, board-certified Ophthalmologist who specializes in anti-aging, regenerative medicine, neuro-ophthalmology, oculoplastic, hormone optimization, and sexual wellness.

Take more supplements, eat more healthy food, get more exercise, sleep more. Not every aspect of wellness requires more. In fact, one of the most powerful tools to maintain or regain health involves simply going without calories intermittently. Even better, it’s often free, saves time, and boost energy and focus. Not surprisingly, many who chose to fast do so on their busiest day or days of the week. 

Whether we’re lean or obese, damage accumulates in our cells as we age. These damage accumulations result in heart and vascular disease, cancers, autoimmune diseases, arthritis, obesity, hormone disruption, physical aging, and dementia. We all agree eating is pleasurable and healthy eating prevents many diseases. Unfortunately, the phenomenally important process of repairing our cells, or autophagy (aw-TAH-fagee), only occurs in the true fasted state. No supplement or exercise regimen can recreate the unique benefits of fasting.

So what does intermittent fasting involve? In simple terms, fasting is going at the very least 12 hours without calories. Certainly, water and potentially black coffee and unsweetened teas may be consumed during the fasting window. Even small to medium amounts of pure fats/oils won’t “interrupt” the fast. What kills the fast are proteins and/or carbohydrates/sugars. 

While the 16:8 method (16 hours fasting, 8 hours calories in) is popular and effective for weight loss, the real longevity/disease prevention benefits seem to come from 20+ hour fasts. Legitimate options include the daily 20:4 method (20 hours fasting, 4 hours calories in), one meal a day (OMAD), 24-hour fasts once to twice weekly, or 36-hour fasts once to twice weekly. Even more potentially profound benefits may come from the well-researched 5-day fasting mimicking diet done every few months.

Fortunately, muscle mass and strength are preserved with intermittent fasting as compared to what occurs after prolonged periods of true starvation or anorexia. In fact, fasting results in increased growth hormone levels and better body composition.

While I’m not diabetic, I used to be predisposed to hypoglycemia. Within a few fasts, those sensations vanished and now I can easily go 24 hours without calories. Even diabetics on insulin can carefully incorporate fasting, however, anyone with an underlying medical condition should consult with a medical provider well versed in this subject before proceeding. Please be aware that intermittent fasting is not anorexia and does not result in people appearing emaciated – instead, they appear leaner and stronger. 

Food rarely tastes as good as it does when a fast is broken. Additionally, our relationship with food improves with fasting and we become more conscious about what goes in our mouths. I find myself not mindlessly snacking as much, even on days I’m not fasting. It’s no wonder cultures have been performing this practice for millennia. 

Vitality Medicine is located at 3220 SW 31st Rd, Suite 301, Ocala, inside Hunt Cataract Specialist, and at 11938 CR101, Suite 130, The Villages inside Hunt Cataract Specialist. For more information, call 352-804-2397 or visit