Intermittent fasting is a fantastic way to reduce your overall calorie intake and increase the quality of your calories.
It's also an excellent way to help your body reset and become more responsive to insulin, leading to better blood sugar control and a reduced risk of developing type 2 diabetes or other insulin resistance-related diseases.
Intermittent fasting is essentially alternate periods of eating and not eating—fasting for short bursts of time throughout the day.
Whether you follow a ketogenic diet, fast for religious reasons, or do it simply for its many benefits, this guide will walk you through everything you need to know about intermittent fasting.
What is Intermittent Fasting?
Intermittent fasting is a pattern of eating that cycles between periods of fasting and non-fasting days. Fasting means that you don't consume any food (and maybe also no drink) during the fasting period, whereas on the non-fasting days, you can eat as you like.
Intermittent fasting is not a diet but a dietary pattern, which means that it's a general recommendation that you can tailor to your individual needs and goals. You can choose the intermittent fasting schedule that works best for you and fits into your daily routine.
How Does Intermittent Fasting Work?
Intermittent fasting (IF) or calorie restriction can change the way your cells process energy. During fasting, there is an increase in stress hormones such as cortisol, which can increase lipolysis, and the breakdown of fat.
At the same time, there is a decrease in insulin, which may lead to an increase in metabolism. When you eat again, there is an increase in insulin secretion, which results in the movement of nutrients into cells, particularly glucose, into the cells of the muscles and fat into fat cells.
However, cells have a limited capacity to process energy, which can result in energy that cannot be processed being excreted in the urine.
There are many different types of intermittent fasting, but they generally involve periods of not eating followed by periods of eating.
During fasting, individuals will eat zero calories or very low-calorie meals. While not eating, they consume water, coffee, tea, or black tea without adding any milk or sugar.
Why Does Intermittent Fasting Work?
Intermittent fasting can help you lose weight by causing you to burn more calories than you consume, which will lead to weight loss. This happens in two ways.
First, by eating only very low calories for a few days, you're likely to drop water weight as your body gives up excess water.
Second, IF will likely lead to increased levels of norepinephrine, which is a hormone that makes your body run more efficiently and burn more calories.
Intermittent fasting can also help you increase insulin sensitivity, which will lower your risk of developing type 2 diabetes.
It can also improve your cholesterol levels, decrease your blood pressure, reduce your risk of heart attack, and protect against neurodegenerative diseases such as Alzheimer's and Parkinson's.
Intermittent Fasting Schedules
There are many different intermittent fasting schedules that you can try. The one you choose will depend on your goals and personal preferences.
Here are some examples of intermittent fasting schedules that you could try:
The 16/8 Fasting Plan
The 16/8 fasting plan is one of the most popular ways to practice intermittent fasting. It involves eating your normal amount of calories for 16 hours and then fasting for the other eight hours.
For example, if you eat your last meal at 10 a.m. on Monday, you wouldn't eat again until Monday evening at 6 p.m. You'd eat again at 10 a.m. Tuesday morning and then eat at 6 p.m. Tuesday evening.
This 16/8 plan is one of the easiest ways to practice intermittent fasting.
You can also use the 16/8 plan with a low-calorie diet. For example, if you eat 1,600 calories per day, you'd eat from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. for 16 hours and then not eat for the other eight hours.
Once your 16 hours of eating are over, you'd break your fast with a low-calorie meal, such as a bowl of vegetable soup or an apple with peanut butter.
The 5:2 Diet
The 5:2 diet is another popular intermittent fasting plan that involves eating a very low-calorie diet for two days a week and a normal amount of calories for the other five days.
For example, you might eat only 500 calories on Mondays and Thursdays and eat 2,000 calories on other days of the week.
You can use the recommended daily calorie intake to determine how many calories to eat on non-fasting days.
This diet involves eating small meals throughout the day instead of three large meals. It also involves eating low-fat and high-fiber foods to help you feel full and avoid overeating on the days when you're allowed to eat normally.
The 5:2 diet is a good diet to try if you feel overwhelmed by the idea of fasting for 16 hours every day.
The Warrior Diet
The Warrior Diet is another type of intermittent fasting. It involves eating only one meal a day and an occasional snack.
This diet is slightly more restrictive than other types of fasting and may be more challenging for some people.
On this diet, you would eat one large meal and then not eat again until the next day. Some people also follow this diet with a “cheat day” on weekends, where they can eat as much as they want.
There's no specific formula for this diet, and it's up to you to determine how many calories you should eat based on your individual needs.
Alternate Day Fasting
Alternate day fasting is an intermittent fasting plan where you fast every other day. For example, you might eat your last meal on Monday and then not eat until Tuesday evening. You would then eat again on Wednesday.
The number of calories you would need to eat on non-fasting days would depend on your level of activity and your body composition.
Some people find it easier to follow an alternate-day fasting diet than a daily fasting diet. However, it's more challenging to maintain consistency and follow this type of intermittent fasting.
Eat-stop-eat is another type of intermittent fasting that involves fasting for 24 hours once per week.
You can use these 24 hours as an opportunity to rest and do things in your free time, like reading, meditating, or spending time with friends and family.
For example, you might not eat again until Tuesday at 6 p.m. This is a simple way to practice intermittent fasting and may be easier to follow than daily fasting diets.
You may also find that you're less likely to overeat on your eating days after fasting for a full day as your appetite will likely be smaller.
The Benefits of Intermittent Fasting
The science behind intermittent fasting is still being investigated, but we know that fasting can have several positive effects on your body.
Fasting has been shown to increase the production of growth hormones (which helps your body to repair itself and encourages fat loss).
It has also been shown to help to reset your insulin sensitivity, reduce oxidative stress, and improve your blood sugar control.
Many people believe intermittent fasting is primarily a tool for weight loss, but the health benefits go far beyond that.
Intermittent fasting has been shown to reduce the risk of many diseases such as type 2 diabetes, heart disease, and certain types of cancer. It also increases brain function, reduces stress, and improves overall mood.
It's not a myth that intermittent fasting can help you lose fat and improve your overall health. There are many other proven benefits of intermittent fasting, including:
- Increased growth hormone production and fat burning: Fasting increases growth hormone production and encourages fat burning.
- Improved insulin sensitivity: Intermittent fasting can help to improve insulin sensitivity and blood sugar control.
- Improved mood and reduced stress: Research has shown that intermittent fasting can reduce cortisol levels (the stress hormone) and improve overall mood.
- Greater brain function: Intermittent fasting can increase brain function, improve cognitive performance, and protect against Alzheimer's disease.
How to Start Fasting
Now that you know what intermittent fasting is and its benefits, it's time to learn how to fast. While it might seem like a daunting task, it's actually really easy if you have the right mindset.
Here are a few tips to make your first fast a success: –
First, ensure that you're in good health
You don't want to start fasting if you have any health conditions or have recently been sick. If you have any doubts about your health, talk to your doctor before starting a fast.
Try something easier first
If this is your first time fasting, it is recommended that you start with a 12-hour fast. This means you don't eat anything during the day but can eat dinner that evening.
Make sure to drink plenty of water
Staying hydrated is important when fasting. This helps to ease hunger pangs and avoid headaches and constipation.
Stay busy, and don't think too much about the hunger pains
If you're new to fasting, it's normal to feel hungry and sometimes even anxious about not eating. It's important to stay busy and distract yourself with other things so you don't start obsessing over food.
And if you feel hungry? Don't stress about it. Hunger is a normal part of fasting and will go away soon enough.
Who Should Not Fast?
There are certain groups of people who should not fast. If you're unsure whether intermittent fasting is a good idea for you, talk to your doctor.
1. Those who are underweight
If you don't eat enough calories, your body could start eating away at your own muscle tissue to get the nutrients that it needs.
This can be a serious problem if you're very thin already, as it can cause you to become dangerously thin.
2. Pregnant women
If you're pregnant, your baby is also fasting.
However, fasting while pregnant is not recommended since your body needs even more nutrients than usual during this time. –
3. Breastfeeding women
You also need more nutrients if you're breastfeeding.
You might even need to eat more than you did when you were pregnant.
4. People with diabetes
If you have diabetes, you should consult your doctor before starting an intermittent fasting routine.
Some types of diabetes are easier to manage than others, but intermittent fasting could make things more difficult.
Who Should Fast?
If you're in good health and you don't have any of the conditions mentioned above, intermittent fasting is generally safe and beneficial for most people.
That being said, it's always a good idea to talk to your doctor or a nutritionist if you're unsure whether fasting is right for you.
If you're currently on a very strict diet and eating less than 1500 calories per day, it could be dangerous to start intermittent fasting.
You need to make sure that you're getting enough calories to support your daily activities and maintain your current weight.
If you try to start fasting before you've hit your minimum daily calorie intake, you could end up doing more harm than good.
The Bottom Line
Intermittent fasting is a great way to lose weight, improve your health, and increase longevity. There's no need to feel intimidated by this once-mysterious health trend—you can do it too!
It's best to follow one of the more popular intermittent fasting plans, such as the 16/8 or 5:2 diet, so that you know exactly what you're doing and how many calories you're consuming.
And now that you know all the different types of intermittent fasting, you can pick whichever is best for you and your lifestyle.