Intermittent fasting is presently one of the most prevalent health and fitness practices on the planet. It entails fasting and eating patterns in alternation. Many studies have shown that this method can help you lose weight, enhance your metabolic health, protect you from diseases, and possibly even help you live longer. This article discusses what intermittent fasting is and why you may want to try it.
What is intermittent fasting?
Intermittent fasting is a type of eating habit that involves alternate periods of eating and fasting. It does not define which foods should be eaten, but when they should be eaten.
There are a variety of intermittent fasting techniques available. These techniques divide the day or week into eating and fasting periods. Most individuals are already 'fasting’ while sleeping. Extending this fast can be an easy way to exercise intermittent fasting.
During an IF, most people report feeling healthier and having more energy. Hunger is typically not a concern, though it can be in the beginning as your body adjusts to not eating for long periods of time.
During the fasting time, no food is permitted, although water, black coffee, black tea, and other non-caloric beverages are permitted. While fasting, certain types of IF permit small intakes of low-calorie foods. Taking supplements during IF is usually allowed as long as they don’t contain any calories.
Types of intermittent fasting
In recent years, intermittent fasting has grown quite popular, and various distinct types of fasting have evolved. Below is the list of the most prominent IF types:
- The 16/8 Method: This type entails fasting for 16 hours a day, such as only eating between noon and 8 pm. The 16/8 method is a popular type of time-restricted intermittent fasting method.
- Eat-Stop-Eat: Here you eat nothing from supper one day to dinner the next day, once or twice a week (a 24-hour fast).
- The 5:2 Diet: This type entails eating only 500–600 calories on any two days of the week.
- Alternate Day Fasting: As the name suggests, the purpose of alternate-day fasting is to fast every alternate day.
- The Warrior Diet: It is a high-intensity, low-carb plan. The Warrior Diet was one of the first popular diets to integrate intermittent fasting as a component. It entails eating tiny portions of raw fruits and vegetables throughout the day and having one huge meal at night.
How does intermittent fasting work?
Intermittent fasting can be done in a variety of ways, but they all revolve around choosing regular eating and fasting times. After several hours without eating, the body's sugar stores are depleted, and it begins to burn fat. This is known as ‘metabolic switching.’ Intermittent fasting is in contrast to the typical eating habits of most people who eat continuously throughout the day.
If someone eats three meals a day plus snacks and does not exercise, they are consuming calories rather than burning fat stores every time they eat. Intermittent fasting works by extending the duration between when your body burns and uses up the calories from your last meal and starts consuming fats already present in your body.
Health benefits of intermittent fasting
Intermittent fasting does more than just burn fat, according to research. Modifications in this metabolic switch directly affect your body and brain. A longer life, a leaner body, and a sharper mind are among some of the advantages of intermittent fasting.
During intermittent fasting, many things happen that can protect organs from chronic diseases, including type 2 diabetes, heart disease, age-related neurological disorders, even inflammatory bowel disease, and many malignancies.
Here are some of the major benefits of intermittent fasting that have been unearthed so far:
- Improved brain functions: Intermittent fasting improves working memory in animals and verbal memory in adults, according to research.
- Improved heart health: Fasting for a short period of time improved blood pressure, resting heart rate, and other heart-related parameters.
- Better muscle use: Fasting for 16 hours resulted in fat loss while retaining muscle mass in young males.
- Curbs obesity and diabetes: Intermittent fasting has been shown to prevent obesity in humans. Obese adults lost weight by fasting intermittently for 2 consecutive months.
- Stronger cells and tissues: Intermittent fasting minimizes tissue damage during surgery and improves outcomes.
How to Get Started with Intermittent Fasting?
IF can be challenging, especially at first. While attempting to manage your new eating pattern, you may suffer from exhaustion, impatience, and stress besides the telltale grumbling of your stomach.
Here are some suggestions to make your life more manageable during an IF:
- Begin with a shortened schedule: Start with a realistic plan and gradually increase the intensity and length. There's no need to jump right in. Develop your tolerance for eating in a smaller time window each day, then complete the entire plan when you are ready.
- Keep yourself hydrated: During your fasting phase, remain hydrated with non-caloric drinks. Water, herbal teas, and calorie-free flavoured drinks are the best examples of this.
- Eat slowly and frequently during the meal session: In order to get your calories in, eat every 3 hours within the 8-hour span. It's essential for you to get your required daily calorie intake so that you never run out of energy during your IF tenure.
- Make a list of healthy, nutritious meals to prepare ahead of time: While it may tempt you to indulge in your favourite snacks and comfort foods once your fasting period is over, strive to maintain a balanced diet rich in proteins, fruits, and vegetables.
- Make your meals ahead of time: Set aside time on the weekend or a few nights a week to prepare some meals in advance if your schedule is too hectic. This will save you time and help you maintain a healthy diet.
- To your evening meal, add 2 to 3 tablespoons of healthy fat: To keep blood sugar levels stable overnight, include healthy fats like olive oil, coconut butter, or avocado in the last meal of the day.
Precautionary measures for intermittent fasting
Most people resort to intermittent fasting for losing weight, while others opt for it to treat chronic ailments such as irritable bowel syndrome, high blood pressure, high cholesterol, and arthritis, among others. But, it is critical to note that intermittent fasting isn’t the right choice for everyone.
Before attempting intermittent fasting, it is best to consult with your primary care physician. People who should avoid experimenting with intermittent fasting are:
- Minors below the age of 18 years.
- Pregnant or breastfeeding women.
- People suffering from diabetes or other blood sugar-related health problems.
- Individuals who have suffered from an eating disorder in the past.
Individuals who don’t fall into any of these groups and have safely undertaken intermittent fasting can continue with the method for an infinite duration. It might be a lifestyle shift with advantages.
Here, it’s important to note that the results of intermittent fasting vary from one individual to another. Intermittent fasting can be accomplished in several ways, and no single strategy will suit everyone. Individuals will achieve the best outcomes if they try out many styles to see which one best suits their lifestyle and preferences.
For the best results, it's pivotal to consume a healthy and balanced diet on non-fasting days. A person might seek professional assistance if necessary to customize an intermittent fasting diet and prevent any adverse effects of IF.