Diets and fads often go hand in hand. It's simple to get sucked into the paleo, keto, atkins, vegan, or Mediterranean diets, though that doesn't necessarily mean they don't work. At this point, what food should you really be consuming?
Intermittent fasting is a different diet that has grown to be very well-liked in recent years. However, the question becomes when you should or shouldn't be eating rather than what you should or shouldn't be eating.
With this novel approach to dieting, you have a lot of freedom in terms of what you can eat. Additionally, even though the goal of intermittent fasting is to limit your eating time, you have a lot of flexibility over when you eat. This diet is well-liked for a reason, and many people who follow it report success. This eating plan might be ideal for you if you want to reduce your weight and gain some additional advantages.
INTERMITTENT FASTING: WHAT IS IT?
Whether you are aware of it or not, everyone engages in intermittent fasting. The most frequent time period is between going to sleep and getting ready for breakfast. Additionally, the likelihood is that your fast will last even longer if you have blood work done that morning. That is, until you can "break the fast" with breakfast, you guessed it.
The idea behind intermittent fasting is to plan the entire process rather than letting it happen accidentally. However, a lot of the work is already done for you in a sense because everyone already fasts while they sleep. This diet plan enables eating windows and fasting windows that naturally limit caloric intake while assisting people in maximizing this natural cycle.
And what results from limiting how much we eat? Loss of weight.
INTERMITTENT FASTING'S LONG HISTORY
Fasting was a part of human culture for thousands of years before intermittent fasting became the diet it is today.
This is partially due to the fact that before agriculture, food was a much scarcer resource. Because there was no food farming or storage, our ancestors probably had to go long stretches without eating. Although there is less need for this kind of fasting in many parts of the world, it has persisted in different cultural forms.
For instance, Christians observe Ash Wednesday and Good Friday with fasting and moderation, while Muslims abstain from eating during the month of Ramadan from sunrise to sunset. Fasting helps some Buddhists to focus their minds by incorporating it into their daily routines and practices.
Fasting has undoubtedly been a part of our culture and social structure for a very long time, and many people have spoken highly of its advantages over time. But in the present day, is there any truth to these assertions?
Let's look more closely.
WEIGHT LOSS AND INTERMITTENT FASTING
Similar to many other diets, intermittent fasting is all about losing weight.
And it makes a lot of sense—if you restrict the amount of time, you have each day to eat, you'll probably eat less and eat fewer calories as a result. Almost all diets rely on the principle of "calories in-calories out," which states that you must be consuming fewer calories than you are burning in order to lose weight. The keto diet is the most obvious exception to this rule.
Given that a pound of body fat contains approximately 3500 calories, it is simpler to picture a progressive weight loss regimen. For instance, one intermittent fasting plan calls for two weekly days of fasting. Although challenging, it automatically reduces one's weekly calorie intake by about 30%.
Additionally, some evidence points to the possibility that hormone levels that promote greater weight loss may change as a result of intermittent fasting. Norepinephrine, a hormone that burns fat, is enhanced by a decrease in insulin and an increase in growth hormone, both of which are beneficial for weight loss and general health.
In fact, the majority of studies on intermittent fasting have demonstrated that the practice can help with fat loss to some extent. These losses, which typically range from 2.5% to 9.9%, are most likely caused by the diet's inherent calorie restriction as well as its hormonal effects.
OTHER HEALTH BENEFITS OF INTERMITTENT FASTING
Intermittent fasting has a wide range of additional advantages besides helping people lose weight. Keep in mind, though, that not all of these are unequivocally established.
An increase in insulin sensitivity is one benefit. According to one study, intermittent fasting can reduce fasting insulin levels by 20% to 31% while also lowering blood sugar levels by 3% to 6%. According to other studies, switching to an intermittent fasting schedule for diabetics had a significant positive impact on body fat, blood glucose levels, and the variability of those levels after meals.
Intermittent fasting has been shown to help people with prediabetes as well. These changes specifically affected blood pressure levels. However, there is also evidence to support the notion that fasting may have anti-inflammatory effects, lower blood sugar levels, reduce insulin resistance, and reduce blood triglycerides in addition to other health benefits. Since each of these symptoms is a sign of heart disease, intermittent fasting may also be beneficial for the heart.
Intermittent fasting may also be advantageous to your digestive system. While the evidence for this is flimsier, some studies have suggested that fasting may be able to alter the gut's microbiota in ways that reduce the risk of obesity and cause the white adipose tissue to turn brown.
Due to the close relationship between intermittent fasting and the circadian rhythm, which regulates sleep and wake cycles, intermittent fasting may also improve sleep habits. Your body goes through various mechanisms of repair during these fasting periods, which may even imply links to a longer lifespan.
Although this final assertion is probably the least well-known, it is still important to note. Numerous biomarkers of lifespan have been found in animal subjects that have been put on intermittent fasting schedules, even though studies have focused primarily on animals in this case.
These biomarkers include a rise in the metabolic rate at rest, a fall in insulin levels, and a drop in core body temperature. Furthermore, by acting as a form of anti-inflammatory when we fast, our bodies may become more resilient to oxidative stress. These elements have all been connected to stronger immune systems and longer lifespans.
Additionally, some people claim to feel more mentally clear, and their concentration and energy levels have improved. However, there isn't any conclusive proof of these aspects yet.
IMPLICATIONS OF INTERMITTENT FASTING
Even though fasting has probably existed since the beginning of time, there are still some disadvantages to this eating pattern.
Intermittent fasting can have some negative side effects, including extreme hunger, stress, tensions, confusion, anger, mood swings, low energy levels, and overeating during the feeding windows, though the majority of healthy individuals will be fine.
These are more likely to be reported in the first few weeks of fasting and by people with lower body weights. It might take some time to get used to fasting because, like with most things, your body can adjust to a wide range of more extreme schedules.
It’s best to seek medical advice or to avoid fasting altogether if these feelings persist or if you experience unfavorable side effects for an extended period of time.
If they’re healthy, most people should be alright. Some individuals may want to completely avoid fasting, or at the very least, be more aware of the dangers.
WHO MAY BE AT RISK WITH INTERMITTENT FASTING
There have been accounts of women who started practicing intermittent fasting, and whose periods stopped. Due to this, women may benefit from exercising more caution when fasting intermittently, or at the very least, refrain from doing the more extreme forms of it.
Those who have eating disorders or are recovering from eating disorders should also refrain from intermittent fasting.
This diet places a strong emphasis on longer caloric fasts, so it can be simple to overeat during the eating window. It might be preferable to concentrate on eating nutrient-rich and whole foods instead of this activity since it is linked to eating disorders.
Also, avoid intermittent fasting if you're healing from an injury or under a lot of stress. If you fall into this category, it's more crucial to nourish your body and concentrate on getting enough protein and whole foods than it is to restrict your diet in this way.
Almost all groups with additional energy requirements are covered by this. This also applies to women who are nursing or pregnant because they need enough calories to maintain healthy bodily functions. The following groups should refrain from intermittent fasting:
- Overweight individuals
- Anyone with a history of having low blood pressure
- Anyone who struggles to control their blood sugar
- Anyone taking medications that must be consumed with food
- Anyone on type 2 diabetes medicine
- Anyone who use blood thinners
- Anyone who are trying to get pregnant
- Anyone who suffers from specific mental health conditions
Due to the complexity and individuality of our bodies, intermittent fasting will have a slightly different impact on each person. Even if you don't fit into one of the aforementioned categories, it may be a good idea to reconsider fasting if you experience long-lasting side effects because it's one of those things that may not be for everyone.
DIFFERENT INTERMITTENT FASTING VARIATIONS
The variety of techniques available for intermittent fasting is one of its advantages. They range from relatively mild cadences that require you to fast for more than a day to relatively extreme cadences that you may already be practicing without realizing it. You can choose your own fasting times and days of the week.
To see if something will work for you, it's always best to start out modestly. You can gradually increase your dosage until you reach a comfortable level if you are reaping the benefits and not experiencing any negative effects.
This is a time-restricted eating strategy and also the most subdued one.
If you don't typically eat after midnight, you might already be on the verge of completing a 12/12 fast. Your feeding window and fasting window are both 12 hours long, as the name implies. Therefore, breakfast should be at 7 am if your last meal was at 7 pm.
It is simple to recall and incorporate into a regular sleeping schedule. Since late-night snacking is where most people fail when trying to lose weight, this pattern is excellent at preventing it. Limiting your last meal to an earlier time can have a domino effect on your health because eating closer to bedtime can also disrupt your sleep schedule.
The 14/10 fast is a more challenging variation that typically requires you to delay breakfast by a few hours while either keeping or moving up the time of your last meal.
The 16/8 Quick
The most common type of intermittent fasting is this one. Although it is much more extreme than the relatively moderate 12/12 method, if done correctly, it will also have greater benefits. The "Leangains protocol" is another name for this.
Although it may seem challenging to go the entire day without eating, it's important to remember that about 8 of those hours will be spent sleeping. The concept of 16/8 becomes much more manageable if you think about eating breakfast at 8 am, lunch at noon, and dinner at 4 pm.
You're also welcome to do this by having a substantial breakfast and a substantial dinner.
The 24-hour fast
The full day fast is, as you might have guessed, when you go without food for a full day.
You can perform these as often as you like, up to twice per week. As long as it fits with your lifestyle and objectives, you are also welcome to do it only once a month. Even though one-day fasts are uncommon, the greatest switch from using glucose to fat as your main energy source occurs after 18 hours. Additionally, some research indicates that on occasion fasting for a full day may also benefit cardiovascular health.
The 5:2 fast, which involves going without food for two days each week, is one of the cadences that can be used with the full day fast. The other 5 days are acceptable with any kind of eating schedule, and these days are not intended to be consecutive. More people have flexibility because they can choose any two days of the week to observe their two fasting days.
It's crucial to keep in mind that during the days of fasting, you do not completely abstain from eating. Instead, limit yourself to 20% of your intake, or about 500 calories for women and 600 calories for men, per day.
The alternate-day fasting strategy is another well-liked full-day fast. Every day of eating is followed by a day of fasting. The fasting days also restrict food intake to 20% to 25% of daily energy requirements, similar to the 5:2 diet. This is a useful technique for accelerating weight loss and adding consistency to your routine. It's considerably more difficult than some of the other fasts we've looked at, though.
HOW-TOS FOR GETTING THE MOST OUT OF FASTING
Even though delaying meals to lose more weight seems like an easy formula to follow, there are a few things to keep in mind. The first thing to consider is what you can actually eat while fasting.
The obvious response is "nothing," but you can also consume calorie-free beverages like water, tea, and coffee. Coffee and tea can help you stay fuller longer, and some teas are particularly helpful for weight loss. But it goes without saying that you should not use sugar, milk, or cream.
What happens if you are in the feeding window?
Although there are no specific foods or diets that are emphasized during intermittent fasting, this does not mean that you should (or can) indulge in any and all foods. Intermittent fasting won't be immensely helpful for your objectives if you’re eating window contains a lot of processed and unhealthy foods, especially if your goal is weight loss. Less calories are the name of the game, but the kind of calories you consume also matters.
You should therefore stick to wholesome, nutritious foods because they are not only healthier for you but also help you feel fuller for longer. This refers to lean protein, healthy carbohydrates, and healthy fats.
Prior to starting an intermittent fast, confirm that you have access to wholesome foods. After that, plan the fasting period based on how much sleep you get each night. Starting with a 12/12 fast is the simplest because it essentially just eliminates evening and late-night snacking. You can then further restrict you’re eating schedule from there.
Remember that it will take some time for your body to get used to the restrictions and the new eating schedule. But don't give up; if you keep your sights fixed on the prize, your objectives will soon be within reach.