To achieve the ideal weight, most people focus on eating less calories than what their bodies burn. However, many still find it difficult to shed off the unwanted pounds despite cutting down on certain foods. Would it be more effective to focus on an eating schedule rather than on a meal plan? Intermittent fasting is one of the preferred diets of many people these days that helps with weight loss and prevents chronic diseases linked to excessive weight gain. Find out what it is, what its health benefits are and if it's safe for you.
What is Intermittent Fasting?
Intermittent fasting involves time-restricted feeding, which means you set specific hours for eating and specific hours for fasting. Unlike other diet programs, it does not restrict food intake so you are free to eat whatever you want during your eating window. Studies show fasting for a number of hours can help burn body fat faster.
Fasting is not something the human body has to adjust to. In fact, historical records show that before farming became a thing, early humans were hunters by nature, surviving several days or weeks with no food. Before the advent of televisions, computers and other technological products, several studies have shown that people were more healthy as they engaged in physical work and played more than they ate. And because they had to retire early at night to be able to get up before sunrise, they ate very little before going to bed and managed to maintain the ideal body weight.
What Are the Benefits of Intermittent Fasting?
Observing fasting periods has a lot of beneficial effects on the body. For one, it can help improve insulin sensitivity in people with type 1 diabetes by decreasing blood glucose levels that can lead to insulin resistance. It can also decrease inflammatory markers and cancer cells. Clinical trials for alternate-day fasting, which is one of the popular types of intermittent fasting regimens, revealed that it reduces the risk for heart disease or other types of cardiovascular disease as it decreases heart rate and blood pressure. Moreover, intermittent fasting increases longevity as it prevents a wide range of age-related diseases and chronic conditions, including:
- Alzheimer's disease
- Kidney disease
- Parkinson's disease
- Fatty liver disease
- Huntington's disease
How Does Intermittent Fasting Work?
There are several ways to reap the benefits of fasting, but all intermittent fasting methods are based on setting periods of time on a given day or week for eating and fasting. You can fast for two consecutive days a week and enjoy larger meals for the remaining five days, follow an 8-hour window or eat one meal per day.
See to it that you follow the intermittent fasting protocol of the specific method that you choose to allow your body ample time to perform a metabolic switch. According to neuroscientist Mark Mattson, who has studied intermittent fasting for more than two decades, long periods of fasting allow the body to perform a switch from glucose metabolism to fat burning.
Once broken down, the stored fats are released into the bloodstream as fatty acids. These acids create ketones, a chemical compound that increases the body's energy levels. Using ketones as a source of energy can lead to significant weight loss and slow down the body's ageing process. Here below are three of the most common intermittent fasting methods which have been proven effective in reducing body weight.
This type of restrictive eating involves 24 hours of fasting and can be done once or twice a week. Most people who follow this protocol have lunch as their last meal. They skip dinner and don't eat anything in between until dinner the following day. When you're fasting, drinking water is totally okay but not beverages that are packed with calories as your goal is to reduce your daily calorie intake.
The 5:2 Method
For two days in a week, you should restrict your caloric intake to 500-600, but you can eat larger meals on the five other days. For example, from Tuesdays to Thursdays you eat normal meals per day. On Friday, you observe the 5:2 method. You go back to eating normally on Saturdays and Sundays and then cut back again on Monday.
The 16/8 Fasting
This short-term fasting is the most popular method so far because of its positive effects on the mind, body and emotions. Plus, it's less likely to lead to starvation mode. Most people like the fact that they can look forward to a normal meal per day and obtain their essential energy intake, as opposed to counting the hours until their next meal. This daily calorie restriction diet limits eating to an 8-hour period each day. The remaining 16 hours are spent on fasting. Your meal frequency depends on the period of time that you choose to fast. For instance, you may opt to skip breakfast and eat normally from 12 a.m. to 8 p.m. That, or you can work out a breakfast-lunch diet plan which you can implement from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m.
What Can You Eat During Intermittent Fasting?
Intermittent fasting does not involve any dietary restriction. This basically means you can eat anything that you want. However, eating anything doesn't mean you should compromise your blood sugar levels, heart health, circulatory system, metabolic rate and waist circumference. Remember that you chose this diet program because you want to lose weight, reduce the risk of obesity and improve your health outcomes.
Maintaining a balanced diet while intermittent fasting will help you achieve a healthy weight in the shortest time possible. Caloric restriction during fasting does not equate to caloric deficit. Don't shy away from healthy food that will provide your body with the energy it needs to function.
Is Intermittent Fasting Good for Everyone?
Intermittent fasting is an effective weight loss option for healthy individuals. However, pregnant women, overweight adults with medical conditions or people taking medications for regulating their levels of insulin need medical supervision to avoid potential adverse effects.
Although it's definitely better than a crash diet, which can lead to a disordered eating pattern, intermittent fasting may not be suitable for people who require higher caloric needs. Obese individuals can benefit massively from this type of diet, but if they have been diagnosed with a chronic condition, they must consult their primary care provider first before starting on an intermittent fasting program.
Want to learn more about intermittent fasting and how to get started? You may get in touch with a licensed dietitian in your area through the Natural Therapy Pages.