Intermittent fasting (IF) is currently one of the world’s most popular health and fitness trends, which basically involves alternating cycles of fasting & eating.
Intermittent fasting is one of the world’s most powerful tools to lose weight. Many are using it as a method for losing weight, improve their health and simplify their healthy lifestyle. Studies show that it can have powerful effects on your body and brain, and may even help you live longer. This kind of fasting reduces overall food intake while boosting metabolism. This article is a beginner’s guide to intermittent fasting.
An eating pattern wherein you cycle between periods of eating and fasting is known as intermittent fasting . It does not suggest any dietary charts and specific food to consume, rather suggests a time interval to eat or fasting methods to achieve weight loss and a healthier lifestyle.
The different types of intermittent fasting are explained further in this article, which involves splitting either your day or week into eating and fasting periods. What we don’t realise is that, we already “fast” while we are asleep. Intermittent fasting involves extending that fast for a little longer.
The most popular method of intermittent fasting is known as the 16/8 method. This can be done by skipping breakfast and eating your first meal at noon and your last meal at 8 pm. This allows you to restrict yourself to an 8-hour eating window and a 16-hour fasting period.
Despite what you may feel initially, intermittent fasting is actually fairly easy to do. Although it can be a problem in the beginning, while your body is getting used to not eating for extended periods of time, many people report feeling better and having more energy during a fast. No food is allowed during the fasting period, but you can drink tea, coffee, water and other non-caloric beverages. Taking supplements is generally allowed while fasting, as long as there are no calories in them. Some forms of intermittent fasting allow small amounts of low-calorie foods during the fasting period.
In short: Intermittent fasting (IF) is the trending health and fitness method, with research to back it up. It is an eating pattern. where you cycle between periods of eating and fasting.
Why should we fast?
Until a few centuries back, fasting was done out of necessity, when there simply wasn’t any food available. In fact humans and other animals have all fasted instinctively, when they fall ill. It has also been a part of major religions, including Hinduism, Islam, Christianity and Buddhism.
Evidently, there is nothing “unnatural” about fasting, and our bodies are very well equipped to handle extended periods of not eating.Various processes in the body change when we don’t eat for a while, in order to allow our bodies to thrive during a period of famine, as in hormones, genes and other important cellular repair processes
Intermittent fasting is done in order to lose weight, as it is a fairly simple and effective way to restrict calories and burn fat. It is also done for the metabolic health benefits, as it can improve various risk factors and health markers. There is also some proof to show that intermittent fasting helps you live a healthier and a longer life. Some studies done on rodents show that it can extend lifespan as effectively as calorie restriction. Other researches have concluded that it can help protect against diseases, including heart disease, Alzheimer’s disease, type 2 diabetes, cancer and others.
The fewer meals you need to plan for, the simpler your life will be. This makes people simply like the convenience of intermittent fasting. And to top it all not having to eat 3-4+ times per day (with the preparation and cleaning involved) also saves a lot of your time! Intermittent fasting improves your health while easing your life at the same time and is actually very well-liked among the “life hacking” crowd.
In short: Humans are well adapted to fasting in various situations. Apart from helping you live longer, modern researches have shown that Intermittent fasting has benefits for metabolic health, weight loss and disease prevention.
Keep in mind that the research is still in its early stages. Many of the studies were small & short in duration or conducted on animals. Many questions have yet to be answered in higher quality human studies. More evidence-based details here: 7 Reasons to Jumpstart Your Intermittent Fasting Plans
Over the years several different types/methods of intermittent fasting have emerged. Here are some of the most popular ones:
- Eat-Stop-Eat: This is a 24-hour fast which can be done once or twice a week, for example, not eat anything from dinner one day, until dinner the next day. This can also be done from lunch to lunch or breakfast to breakfast. Though this method was popularised by fitness expert Brad Pilon a couple of years ago, it continues to be the “go to diet plan” even today. During the fast, no solid food is allowed, coffee, water and other non-caloric beverages can be consumed during the fast. Many people find this method difficult to do as it involves a full 24-hour fast. It is important to remember to eat the same amount of food you normally do, as if you hadn’t been fasting at all, as in, eat normally during the eating periods. For beginners, you can start with a 14-16 hours fast and then gradually increase to a 24-hour fast.
- The 16/8 Method: Popularised by fitness expert Martin Berkhan, this method involves you to fast for 16 hours each day, for example by only eating between noon and 8pm. This can easily be done by not eating after dinner, and skipping breakfast the next day. At first, this can be hard to get used to for those who get hungry in the mornings and like to eat breakfast. Nevertheless, many breakfast skippers eat this way instinctively. To help reduce hunger levels, you can drink coffee, water and other non-caloric beverages. Do remember, during your eating window, if you eat lots of junk food or excessive amounts of calories, this won’t work. You must eat mostly healthy foods. Also, since women seem to do better with slightly shorter fasts, it is suggested that women only fast for 14-15 hours. For a basic and general description of the protocol, depending on goals, gender, age, body fat and activity levels, three meals are usually eaten. Depending on the day, the composition of those meals varies; on workout days, carbs are prioritized before fat, while on rest days fat intake is higher & Protein remains fairly high on all days.
- The 5:2 Diet : Popularised by British doctor & journalist Michael Mosley, this diet stipulates calorie restriction for two non-consecutive days a week and unconstrained eating the other five days. In this diet you eat only about 500-600 calories, during 2 days of the week. It is suggested that women eat 500 calories and men eat 600 calories, during the fasting days. For example, on the fasting days, you can eat 2 small meals (300 calories per meal for men and 250 calories per meal for women).
- The Warrior Diet: Popularised by fitness expert Ori Hofmekle, this diet allows you food choices that are quite similar to a paleo diet and follows – Fast during the day & eat a huge meal at night regime. You eat one huge meal at night and have small amounts of vegetables and fruits in the day. It is basically feasting at night within a 4-hours window and fasting all day.
- Spontaneous Meal Skipping: Skip meals when convenient: This involves you to skip meals at your convenience, say, when you are too busy to cook or when you do not feel hungry.
To reap some of the benefits of intermittent fasting, you do not need to have a structured plan. Our human body is well designed to sustain during famine, hence is a myth when people say that you have to eat every few hours or else we will lose muscle or you will hit starvation mode.
It is simply a spontaneous intermittent fast that we do when we skip one or two meals. So there is really no harm in skipping dinner and having a healthy meal for breakfast and lunch.
In short: There are many different methods of intermittent fasting. You can choose one that suits you the most.
Some changes that occur in your body while doing intermittent fasting –
There are a lot of changes that occur in your body on a molecular and cellular basis, when you fast. For example, to make stored fat more available, your body changes hormone levels. The expression of genes is also changed when your cells initiate important repair processes.
Some are listed below:
- Cellular repair: Your cells initiate cellular repair processes, when fasted. This includes a process where cells digest and remove dysfunctional and old proteins that build up inside cells known as autophagy.
- Human Growth Hormone (HGH): The levels of growth hormone shoot up, raising it to as much as 5-fold. To name a few, this has benefits for muscle gain and fat loss
- Gene expression: Related to protection against disease and longevity, there are changes in the function of genes.
- Insulin: Insulin level drop noticeably as the insulin sensitivity improves. Stored body fat is more accessible with lower levels of insulin.
Intermittent fasting has many health benefits
Intermittent fasting studies have been done on both, humans and animals. The studies conducted have shown that it can help you live longer along with powerful health benefits for your body, mind and for weight control.
Some more benifits are listed below
- Cancer: Studies conducted on animals show that intermittent fasting may avert cancer.
- Insulin resistance: Intermittent fasting should protect against type 2 diabetes. It can lower blood sugar by 3-6%, fasting insulin levels by 20-31% and reduce insulin resistance.
- Weight Loss: Without having to consciously restrict calories, intermittent fasting can help you lose belly fat and weight. It causes loss in weight by changing both sides of the calorie equation. You are basically consuming fewer calories by eating less and also burn more calories. Studies also showed that, people reduced 4-7% of their waist circumference & also lost considerable amounts of harmful belly fat that causes diseases as it builds up around organs of our body. Another study conducted showed that intermittent fasting causes less muscle loss compared to other diets.
- Heart Health:Intermittent fasting may reduce LDL cholesterol, blood triglycerides, inflammatory markers, blood sugar and insulin resistance. These are all risk factors for heart disease
- Brain Health: Intermittent fasting may protect against Alzheimer’s disease. It also may aid the growth of new nerve cells due to increase in a brain hormone called BDNF.
- Anti-aging: Intermittent fasting research have shown that fasted rats live as much as 36-83% longer and can extend lifespan in rats.
- Inflammation: A few intermittent fasting studies show reductions in markers of inflammation, a key driver of many chronic diseases…
In short: Intermittent fasting may help you live longer & is a very powerful weight loss tool. Most importantly, you must keep in mind that, the main reason intermittent fasting shows results is because there is lesser intake of calories. This will not work if you eat massive amounts and binge during the eating periods.
It is definitely not for everyone. Without consulting with a health professional first, do not do intermittent fasting, especially if you have eating disorders or are underweight.
You must consult a doctor if you:
- Are underweight.
- Are on medication.
- Have diabetes.
- Have a problem with blood sugar regulation.
- Have a history of eating disorders.
- Have low blood pressure.
- Are pregnant or breastfeeding.
- Are a female who is trying to conceive.
- Are a female with a history of amenorrhea (an abnormal absence of menstruation)
Also, is intermittent Fasting suited more for men or women? It should come as no surprise that there are obvious gender differences in how the human body works.
From the way they look, to their own unique metabolisms men and women do have very different physiologies. In short, aside from the differences in muscle mass and body fat levels, men and women also differ due to women having their own set of unique metabolic and physiologic needs that relate to their child-bearing physiology, and this fact simply can not be ignored when discussing diet and weight loss.
In general, when comparing men and women, women tend to burn more fat on a day to day basis and also have very different hormonal profiles. There are the obvious differences in sex-hormones like Testosterone and Estrogen which affect not only the ability to burn fat and build muscle, but also influence where the body fat is stored.
There are also large differences in some of the more important fat loss hormones. Men tend to have less circulating Growth Hormone then women, and women tend to have 2 to 3 times more Leptin then men. A man’s hormone levels also tend to be more stable than a woman’s since many hormones tend to fluctuate within a women’s menstrual cycle
Men and women are both able to increase the amount of fat released from their body fat stores and up regulate fat burning during a fast, however a women’s increased ability to release body fat to be used as a fuel, increased levels of growth hormone and a decreased susceptibility to metabolic disturbances seems to make them particularly well suited to using short-periods of fasting as a way to help them lose body fat.
Women lose fat, and the bad visceral fat, when they undertake various forms of intermittent fasting. They also see improvements in many markers of health, including cholesterol levels, triglyceride levels, and insulin sensitivity.
So while there are definite recognisable differences in how men and women respond to dieting and fasting there seems to be no evidence to suggest that either men or women should not fast.
This is not to say that either sex can haphazardly use as much fasting as often as they like in an attempt to lose weight. In fact, quite the opposite. If fasting is to be used on a regular basis as a method of weight control then it must be done with some common sense. A maximum of 24 hours of fasting is enough to see impressive weight loss in both men and women, and while the temptation is there to simply continue fasting for longer periods of time, this may be accompanied by unwanted affects.
When it comes to adding fasting to a diet and exercise program remember that fasting is meant as a replacement for traditional dieting and excessive exercise for the purpose of weight loss. It was NOT meant to be an addition to it.
For the vast majority of men and women, fasting once or twice a week, combined with an exercise program and sensible eating is enough to cause significant weight loss, and maintenance of that weight loss. Adding in longer fasts, fasting more often, or excessively dieting on the days you are not fasting may not necessarily bring the results you think, or hope it will.
Just like exercise, or dieting, fasting can be overdone. For both men and women.
Do remember to consult a doctor if you have a medical condition.
Some side effects of intermittent fasting
The main side effect of intermittent fasting is hunger. You may feel like your brain isn’t functioning as properly as it used to and also a little weak. This will be temporary, until your body can adapt to your diet. However, there is nothing dangerous about intermittent fasting, if you are overall well nourished and healthy. It is said to have a commendable safety profile, if done in the correct way.
You can have some very impressive health benefits if you stick to healthy foods and fast from time to time. Intermittent fasting is an effective weight loss method which improves metabolic health, while simplifying your life at the same time.
“Instead of being hungry ALL THE TIME — like when you’re on a diet — do you want to limit your hunger to only once or twice a week?…” ……..AND at the same time, you won’t be any more or less hungry than on a diet, but you’ll be FREE from hunger most days of the week to eat whatever you want.
Do you find your present diet, too restrictive, too intrusive on your lives, and far too limiting and ultimately too complicated to work long term?
Do you want to know, which is the single best way to eat and live that will help you lose weight and keep it off, without any of the complex, rules, and equations that is typical of most diets?
Then Take Action & click on the link below to find out how you can avoid long restrictive diets for weight loss. Find out the way to eat and live that can give you amazing health benefits, help you lose weight, and follow a diet which does not involve any prolonged periods of food restrictions, eating schedules, supplements, or meal plans. This plan is actually more then a diet. It’s a way of eating that restricts calories, & can also ultimately grow into a way of life for you 🙂