Intermittent fasting (IF) is a pattern of eating that is being touted as an effective weight loss plan. IF is currently one of the most popular health and fitness trends across the globe. Besides losing weight, several people have begun to incorporate this eating pattern into their diets to improve their quality of living. This article will look at the basics of intermittent fasting and some of the most popular ways to do it.
What is intermittent fasting?
- Intermittent fasting is scheduling the diet to get the maximum nutrition out of them. This typically means that we have to change the time when we have our meals rather than changing what we eat.
- This simple enough strategy often includes around 12 to 36 hours of fasting.
- The most notable effect is that it helps to get lean and lower body fat without cutting back on calories. In fact, many people consume the same amount of calories that they with at the beginning of the IF.
- The most significant appeal of this eating pattern is the need for very little behavioral change compared to other weight loss methods. 1
How does it work?
During digestion and absorption of food, the body exists in the fed state. Our body enters this state as soon as we start eating and maintains it for about 3 to 5 hours following the meal.
- The insulin levels are high in this state, so the body cannot burn fat.
- After this period, the body enters the post-absorptive state, which usually lasts for about 8 to 12 hours after a meal.
- Following this state, the body enters into the fasted state, which starts burning the body fats that were inaccessible in the fasted state.
- In short, the body initiates the process of breaking down the fat only after 12 hours of the last meal, which forms the basis of IF.
- This diet pattern prolongs the periods when the calories are consumed. The body fat burns and subsequently aids in losing fat without changing the person’s lifestyle. 2
Intermittent Fasting Benefits
Intermittent Fasting for weight loss
- Common intermittent fasts include fasting for 16 hours a day or 24 hours twice a week. This lowers the number of meals consumed by the person, reducing the calorie intake.
- It also causes hormonal changes that are beneficial for increasing weight loss. As stated above, intermittent fasting improves insulin sensitivity and drops insulin levels drastically.
- Studies have also found that intermittent fasting increases human growth hormone levels by about 5 times.
- Such changes in hormonal levels are associated with increased weight loss by intermittent fasting.
Lower insulin resistance –
- This diet pattern has proven effective in reducing insulin resistance, lowering blood sugar, and fasting insulin levels.
- These changes increase the sensitivity to insulin and offer protection against type 2 diabetes.
May reduce the risk of cancer :
- Analyzing the results of several studies has led to the conclusion that fasting could possibly lower the risk of cancer and heart disease.
- A study comprising 10 cancer patients showed that the side effects of chemotherapy diminished significantly when the patients fasted before treatment.
- Another study has also revealed that fasting for alternate days before treatment improves the cure rates and reduces mortality.
- Thus, the health benefit is not yet adequately established. Further studies are needed to establish the relationship between intermittent fasting and cancer.
Extends lifespan :
- Preclinical studies have suggested that intermittent fasting may help to increase lifespan.
- The exact mechanism by which intermittent fasting increases the life span is still unclear. Owing to this, the long–term safety of this pattern is yet to be confirmed.
- The effects of intermittent fasting on longevity are unknown, as human studies in this area are limited.
Intermittent fasting schedule: Popular types
16/8 method :
- In this method, the daily eating window is restricted to just 8 hours, while fasting lasts for 16 hours.
- This fasting method can be adopted quickly by not eating anything after dinner and skipping breakfast the next day.
- People following this method often take the meal at 8 p.m and then fast until noon the following afternoon.
- However, this method is not suitable for people who find it difficult to skip breakfast.
- Water, coffee, and other zero-calorie beverages can be consumed during the fasting window to control the hunger pangs.
5:2 diet or Fast diet
- In this method, the person eats for five days of the week and then restricts his calorie intake to 500 to 600 for the re-aiming two days of the week.
- During the 2 days of fasting, women are advised to eat 2 small meals of 250 calories each while men are advised to eat 2 small meals of 300 calories each.
Eat Stop Eat
- Fasting for 24 hours once or twice a week is called Eat Stop Eat. It involves fasting from dinner of one day to the next day dinner, amounting to a full 24 – hour fast.
- During the eating window, it is essential to eat the same amount of food that was consumed when there was no fasting.
- However, the downside of this method is that it is pretty challenging to stay hungry for about 24 hours.
Alternate day fasting
- In this method, total fasting is carried out every other day. Due to this, it is not recommended for beginners.
- One version of this fasting allows the person to consume about 500 calories on the fasting days.
Who should avoid intermittent fasting?
- The following people are generally not recommended intermittent fasting –
- Underweight individuals and
- People with a history of eating disorders.
Side effects of Intermittent fasting
- The significant side effect of intermittent fasting is hunger. Some people can also feel weak when starting intermittent fasting for the first time.
- Besides this, there are no significant side effects associated with intermittent fasting.
- Moreover, the above-mentioned side effects are often temporary and get better as soon as the body adapts to this diet pattern.
Is it safe for all?
- Intermittent fasting is generally not recommended to people who :
- Have high diabetes
- Have problems with blood sugar regulation
- Are underweight
- Have a history of eating disorders
- Pregnant women
- Breastfeeding mothers
- Women who have a history of amenorrhea.
Intermittent fasting is one of the many lifestyle strategies one can adopt to lead a healthier life. While this weight loss tool is beneficial in some people, it may not always be the case for all. The diet consumed in the eating window is crucial, and it is often advised to eat a healthy diet. However, it is always recommended to consult with a healthcare professional before adopting intermittent fasting. At the end of the day, the perks of this diet pattern though attractive, are reaped only after sticking to them for long. Thus, always follow a diet pattern which you believe you can stick to in the long run.
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