Been hearing IF as a buzzword at the gym and wondering what is intermittent fasting? Intermittent fasting (IF) is a type of diet that involves periods of eating and fasting. Intermittent fasting defines when you can eat but not what you can eat. If you are aiming for quick weight loss, during the eating periods, choose diet-friendly foods and don’t go overboard with calories. The good news is that intermittent fasting is easy to do, a great way to introduce healthier habits into your lifestyle, and an opportunity to give the body a bit of a mini detox and reboot. In the beginning, you may feel hungry, but as you get used to the IF pattern, you will experience a general feeling of wellness and a reduction in hunger. On an IF plan, you are not allowed to eat any foods during the fasting periods, but you can consume low-calorie drinks such as water, coffee, or tea, which makes fasting much more friendly. Different forms of intermittent fasting may have slightly different rules, but in general, supplements are allowed as long as they do not contain calories.
A Few Fasting Thoughts
Did you know that humans have been fasting for thousands of years? In ancient times, people sometimes fasted because there wasn’t much food available, and our bodies evolved to be able to handle periods of food scarcity. Other times, fasting was practiced for religious reasons. And then there are the health benefits of fasting: when we fast the body can focus on a variety of tasks that are often neglected because the body is too busy breaking down food and delivering nutrients where they are needed. In other words, fasting gives the body a break.Many people use fasting for weight loss because it is an effective way to reduce calorie intake and burn fat. There is also evidence that intermittent fasting can lower the risk of developing chronic health conditions. A review of human and animal trials suggests that alternate-day fasting may have a positive impact on several factors that can cause chronic diseases. Other people may use intermittent fasting as a way to detoxify the body. Whatever the reason, it is undeniable that an IF diet can help you improve your health and experience long-term wellness.
Each method has different schedules, but they all offer excellent benefits.
This method involves fasting 16 hours a day and reducing the eating window to 8 hours. During the eating periods, you can eat a couple of healthy meals (but no processed foods please!). An easy way to conduct a 16/8 fast is to have dinner around 7 pm, skip breakfast the day after, and have lunch around 11 am. For people that usually chow down on a big breakfast, this method can feel challenging in the beginning. Remember, during fasting periods you are allowed to drink water, coffee, or tea.
The numbers five and two mean that you can follow your regular eating habits for five days, and then reduce calorie intake for two days. You can choose whichever two days of the week you want, but make sure you keep one non-fasting day in between them. During fasting days, you can eat around 600 calories, which you can split into 300 calories for two meals.
This method involves a 24-hour fasting once or twice a week. For example, you can have lunch at 12 pm and fast until lunch at the same time the day after. You can also choose a breakfast-to-breakfast or dinner-to-dinner fast. Low-calorie drinks are allowed during fasting periods. The 24-hour fast can be challenging, so consider starting with the 16/8 method and extend to 24 hours gradually.
As the name suggests, alternate-day fasting requires that you fast every other day. Some versions of this method allow you to consume around 600 calories during fasting days. As we mentioned, fasting for 24 hours is not easy. If you are new to fasting, start with the 16/8 diet.
This method involves eating small portions of fruits and vegetables during the day and then eating a full dinner. Remember to avoid processed foods and refined carbohydrates and opt for protein and vegetables instead.
This diet does not have specific rules—you can skip meals whenever you’d like. When you are not hungry or you are too tired to cook, then fast! This method is considered spontaneous intermittent fasting. As will the other types of intermittent fasting, nurture your body with healthy foods, mostly protein, vegetables, and fruits when you aren’t fasting.
Intermittent fasting can offer excellent health benefits, from weight loss to disease prevention.
Aids Weight Loss
One of the main reasons why people intermittent fast is to lose weight. But what happens in the body during fasting to spur weight loss? The body uses glucose as its main source of energy. It stores some of the glucose as glycogen in the muscles and liver. When glucose and glycogen are not available anymore, the body turns to fat cells as sources of energy. This process results in weight loss. Several studies have concluded that alternate-day fasting trials of 3 to 12 weeks reduced body weight, body fat, and total cholesterol. Whole-day fasting trials lasting 12 to 24 weeks demonstrated similar results. Additional research showed that intermittent fasting can reduce hunger. Levels of leptin, the satiety hormone, also drop when you are hungry. People who suffer from obesity have higher levels of leptin, and this excessive amount can make it more difficult to control hunger. A study on Ramadan fasting found that leptin levels were lower at night, during the fasting period. Low leptin levels result in less hunger and more weight loss.
Lowers Blood Sugar Levels
Insulin transports glucose into the cells where it is used as energy. Insulin cannot work properly in diabetics. Intermittent fasting may help reduce symptoms of diabetes by regulating blood sugar levels. A pilot study conducted in Canada suggested that intermittent fasting may have a positive impact on type 2 diabetes. Another team of researchers found that Ramadan fasting lowered blood sugar by 12%.
Improves Heart Health
Intermittent fasting promotes heart health in different ways. As we have seen before, the IF diet can reduce blood sugar levels. Additionally, studies reveal that it may have beneficial effects on several factors that lead to heart disease. One study conducted in the United Arab Emirates found that Ramadan fasting reduced bad cholesterol. An animal study showed that intermittent fasting increased the production of adiponectin, a protein that helps to prevent heart disease.
Chronic inflammation may cause a variety of diseases, including diabetes and cancer. A team of researchers in Saudi Arabia studied the effects of Ramadan fasting on inflammation. Results showed that fasting reduced levels of pro-inflammatory cells. Another study concluded that fasting for longer nightly periods may lower inflammation levels. In addition, a team of researchers discovered that alternate-day fasting may help reduce oxidative stress.
Promotes Brain Health
Intermittent fasting can keep your brain healthy. One study conducted on mice showed that this type of fasting may enhance cognitive function and improve memory. Another animal study concluded that intermittent fasting may have a neuroprotective role and slow down the aging process. Additional research found that intermittent fasting may reduce chronic inflammation and slow down the progression of Alzheimer’s disease.
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