Intermittent fasting is an eating pattern where you move between periods of fasting and eating. It does not tell you what to eat, rather when to eat. In this article we take an in-depth look at this fitness fad, how to do it and what are benefits one can attain by doing it.
What is intermittent fasting?
Intermittent fasting is cycling between periods of fasting and eating. If done right, it can help you a lot in losing weight and staying healthy. Intermittent fasting has become quite popular in recent years. In 2019 it was one of the most searched weight loss terms. In some countries it was the most searched term as well. It has become a trend and everyone is willing to try it.
Intermittent is nothing new. Many cultures have been practicing it for centuries. They have been doing it for spiritual, cultural or health reasons. We are unknowingly doing it as well. Take the term ‘breakfast’, it is essentially breaking a fast in the morning after a gap of 10 hours or so. If you do not eat anything between breakfast and dinner then that is also intermittent fasting. Its rediscovery as a way to improve your health and lose weight has taken place only recently and that is how it has become popular.
Intermittent fasting vs Starvation:
Intermittent fasting is not starvation. Starvation occurs when you involuntarily do not take food or water for some time. In the case of intermittent fasting you abstain from food voluntarily.
Starvation often ends in death or illness. But it is definitely not the case in intermittent fasting.
There is usually absence of food in starvation but not in the case of intermittent fasting.
Lastly, you begin and end your intermittent fasting after your own sweet will. This is not the case in starvation.
How to do intermittent fasting?
There are many ways to do intermittent fasting. Some of the popular methods are;
12 hours fast:
This is good for beginners where to choose not to eat for 12 hours after your last meal. Usually people take dinner as their last meal and then do not eat for the next 12 hours. This type of fasting aids in weight loss,
16 hours fast:
This is also known as 16:8 method where you eat for 8 hours and fast for 16 hours. This is the next stage of 12 hours fast. Experiments conducted on mice for this fast found that they showed resistance against obesity, liver disease and inflammation.
2 days fast:
It is also referred to as 5:2 fast. Here people fast for 2 days a week and eat normal food for 5 days. They do not stop eating altogether for those 2 days. They just decrease the intake of calories and take drinks and juices. Usually it is not carried out continuously.
Alternate days fasting:
This involves fasting every other day. It has many variations. On fasting day people tend to avoid solid food and rely on juices. On non-fasting days they eat healthy food. This is very helpful in weight loss.
A weekly fast:
Fasting once a week is also another form of intermittent fasting. People have just water, juice and other light drinks when fasting.
This is a flexible type of intermittent fasting where you skip a meal according to your convenience. Many people find this to be the easiest form of intermittent fasting.
20 hours fast:
This is probably the toughest type of intermittent fasting where you eat for only 4 hours in a day. During the eating time people eat healthy food to take care of their nutritional needs.
Benefits of intermittent fasting:
Some of the benefits associated with intermittent fasting are;
Weight and fat loss:
The main reason people resort to intermittent fasting is they want to reduce their weight and intermittent fasting helps them do just that. You eat less number meals so your calorie intake lowers, your metabolic rate also increases and you burn more calories. You eat less calories and burn more. If you are mindful of what you eat during the eating phase then this is an effective technique to lose weight.
Intermittent fasting has shown incredible results in both insulin resistance and reducing blood sugar levels. It also protects those people who are at a high risk of becoming a diabetes patient.
Beneficial for heart:
Intermittent fasting has been shown to improve various ailments that lead to heart disease. These include blood pressure, cholesterol control, inflammation and blood sugar levels.
Good for brain:
What is good for your heart and body should be good for your brain too. Studies conducted on rats show production of new nerve cells on mice put on intermittent fasting. It also increases levels of brain hormones like brain-derived neurotrophic factor.
May increase your lifespan:
Given the known benefits for metabolism and all sorts of health markers, it makes sense that intermittent fasting helps you live longer and healthier. Studies done on mice show those put on intermittent fasting lived 83% longer than other mice. It is yet to be proven for humans but the anti-ageing squad already swear by it.
Side effects of intermittent fasting:
With so many benefits there are some risks and side effects associated with it as well. We list down some of them for you;
Hunger: It is the most common side effect. You may be able to curb it if you are already on a specialized diet like keto.
Constipation: It makes sense. You eat less so you excrete less. It is not really an issue as it is a natural response of our body for less eating.
Headaches: Longer bouts of hunger may give you headaches. Other side effects could be dizziness, heartburn and muscle cramps.
Intermittent fasting carries many health benefits. It should be exercised with caution and restraint. If done properly it can bring you many benefits related to weight loss and healthy living.