Intermittent fasting is a phenomenon worldwide, and it has become one of the trends in health and fitness. This eating plan is a regular schedule that you can follow to implement your diet and manage your weight.
With the promise of astonishing results on your health as you change the time you eat, CEOs and celebrities champion intermittent fasting for its health and weight loss benefits. Some studies demonstrate how this plan helps in repairing the body. But, how effective is it, and how do you do intermittent fasting, right?
In this blog, Cognitive Health and Wellness Institute discusses the different facets of intermittent fasting and how it could help you live a quality life.
What is intermittent fasting?
A diet approach that has formed a significant number of followers, intermittent fasting, or IF focuses on the time you eat rather than what food you eat.
IF is when you don’t eat for a period every day or week. The schedule depends upon the approach that you can commit to observing regularly. There are several ways to do it suitable to your preference and lifestyle.
Mark Mattson, PhD, a neuroscientist at John Hopkins, studies intermittent fasting and believes that the body has evolved in its ability to go for several hours or even longer in a day without food. Before they learned how to farm in prehistoric times, humans were natural hunters who could last long without eating. They had no choice at that time. They had to exert energy and time to look for food; otherwise, they’d have to wait.
How does intermittent fasting work for the body? When you don’t eat for several hours a day, your body drains sugar stores that prompts you to burn sugar. Mattson calls this process metabolic switching. This phenomenon happens when fasting signals your system to change its energy source from glucose in the liver to ketones from fat cells.
How to do intermittent fasting
Fasting has been a thing even in the past, without us knowing. Up to this day, it is an integral part of many religious practices, cultures, and traditions worldwide.
You can do intermittent fasting in different ways. The method varies based on the fast days and the calorie allowance you need for your body. The idea is to abstain from eating for a set number of hours and only eat on your allotted window.
Some studies claim that intermittent fasting may help in fat loss, better health, and longer life. Its proponents believe that this approach is more attainable than the traditional, calorie-deficit diets that are difficult to sustain in the long run.
Intermittent fasting schedule and method
These are the different ways to do intermittent fasting:
The 16/8 method is when you fast for 16 hours and only eat in the 8 hours window, called 16:8, or the Leangain diet.
This method may work for individuals who have begun with the 12-hour eating window but did not see any results. Females usually do the 14 hours, and men the 18. People in this fast typically begin their window at noon and end at 8 p.m. Of course, this isn’t the only way to do this. You can adjust it on your schedule.
A study reveals how mice with a feeding window of 8 hours prevented inflammation, diabetes, liver disease, and obesity. They even ate on a calorie surplus and did not have a problem.
The Eat-Stop-Eat diet is when you fast for one or two days a week, which means no food for 24 hours. While on this method, you can still drink tea, water or other calorie-free drinks that won’t break your fast.
When you are not fasting, you can eat on a usual time pattern. The Eat-Stop-Eat IF only reduces your caloric intake, but it won’t limit you from eating any types of foods or even take into account your macros.
Fasting for 24-hours may be challenging and extreme, especially for beginners. There are instances when you might experience irritability, headaches, or fatigue. When your body has adjusted, the side effects may eventually lessen.
If you wish to transition to this eating pattern, you should’ve at least started with the 12 or 16-hour method so that you can adapt to fasting for an extended period already.
The 5:2 pattern refers to the days when you eat and don’t.
This type of intermittent fasting is when you eat five days a week without thinking of your calorie intake and fast for two days by going on a deficit of a quarter of your requirement. It is 500 calories less for women, while 600 for men.
If you’re having a hard time tightly committing to an eating pattern, you should consider the 5:2 approach as it is less extreme and will allow your body to cope with the schedule. Studies suggest that people are more likely to stick with this routine than stricter diets.
The 12:12 method is when you restrict yourself from eating for 12 hours. This is known as the easiest approach for the fasting stage is short compared to the other IF methods. You’re also sleeping eight hours a day so you’ll only have to wait for four hours for your first meal if you choose this kind of schedule.
The idea is to stop yourself from eating just whenever you want and have a regular meal schedule that you’ll religiously observe. For example, if you had your last meal at 8 p.m, your breakfast the next day should be at 8 a.m. This is the simplest kind of IF, and it’s friendly for beginners who are just diving into fasting.
Ori Hofmekler, a health and fitness author, developed the Warrior Diet. This eating pattern extends the fasting, leading to a shorter feasting time.
Hofmekler created the Warrior Diet in 2001 after observing his colleagues at the Israeli Special Forces. Afterwards, he explained how we could improve how we feel, eat, and perform when reducing our food intake and tapping our survival instincts.
Anyone who follows this diet would undereat for 20 hours and feast on whatever they want at night. He encourages eating healthy, organic and unprocessed food, though. The author also devised the plan based on his own experience and not strictly on science.
When you are in a meal skip plan, you don’t have to stick to an IF pattern like the time you have to eat. As the name implies, you simply skip meals when you are not hungry.
Spontaneous meal skipping may vary from person to person. Some people quickly hit starvation mode every few hours, while few can handle themselves without eating for an extended period. You should know your body well and what it can manage.
With meal skip, the idea is simple. Only eat when you’re hungry, and skip breakfast, lunch, or dinner when you are not starving. It’s listening to your cues and differentiating the line between hunger and craving. This method is appropriate for people who are busy cooking their food.
Is intermittent fasting for weight loss?
Research shows that calorie restriction, which happens in intermittent fasting, can increase lifespan. Moreover, it improves the human body’s tolerance to many metabolic stresses. Hence, intermittent fasting aids in enhancing your immune response and changes in your metabolism.
With all this said, the physiological effects are often seen in people who do intermittent fasting, typically losing between 7-11 pounds after close to 3 months. There are other studies, however, that indicates there is no direct correlation between weight loss and intermittent fasting. For example, some individuals suffering from obesity don’t find intermittent fasting effective compared to other diet approaches.
The critical thing about intermittent fasting is when you eat. Weight loss happens when you restrict yourself from meals for a certain period. During this strict time window, your calorie intake naturally decreases, contributing to weight loss.
Additionally, when you restrict eating only during this window, your insulin level drops. This hormone, insulin, is responsible for managing blood sugar in your body. When your insulin level drops, your body burns fat more, which aids in weight loss.
There are many factors to consider here. Health risk factors may come about when you deprive yourself of particular food at specific amounts of time, for instance. Worse, unhealthy habits may arise, such as overeating when you are in your time window to eat.
Does intermittent fasting work?
A study in the United Kingdom reveals that eating plans such as IF is effective in losing weight, compared to the complicated diets that most people try yet fail.
The focus of IF is changing your body composition with weight and fat loss.
When you restrict your eating time, you limit your caloric intake, which causes you to lose weight. IF also increases norepinephrine levels to boost your metabolism. Doing so will pump up your body to burn more calories throughout the day.
It is typical to see people losing their fat and lean mass in the middle of a weight-loss journey, including their muscles. However, some studies reveal that you are most likely to lose only one to two pounds of lean mass in IF. There are even times when you won’t at all.
Research suggests how IF is in preserving lean body mass compared to other diets that have nothing to do with fasting. Thus, if you are lifting weights to build muscles, you shouldn’t worry because IF won’t be counterproductive to your exercise.
How safe is intermittent fasting?
The science behind IF is still new. A ton of research is conducted to back up its claims, including its health benefits, dangers, and long-term effects on the body.
This eating plan is safe for the right people. Health professionals note that IF is not dangerous; however, it isn’t for everyone. It isn’t for anybody pregnant or breastfeeding, under 18, or with certain health conditions like diabetes. Experts don’t recommend it for individuals who have suffered from eating disorders, as fasting may harm their situation.
Ask your doctor
Like any dietary plan, before getting into it, make sure you check with your doctor first. As mentioned above, fasting intermittently can significantly reduce insulin resistance and lower blood pressure. If you have other health risks, this isn’t something you should immediately jump into, especially without medical advice.
Is intermittent fasting for you?
Intermittent fasting is good for your gut because you’re helping your gastrointestinal tract repair itself during the fasting period. When this happens, your body uses your stored fat as fuel. Hence, you’re burning fat rather than just storing it in your body cells, which is good for metabolism.
IF is good for you if you combine it with regular exercise, and you don’t overeat during your time window. Also, it would help if you had a good variety of foods to enjoy a healthy, balanced diet all the time. If you have a weight goal, you should plan how many calories you need to cut down each day.
However, it really shouldn’t be about counting calories. When you’re eating more fruits and vegetables, for example, you’re naturally getting lower calories. If you have diabetes, on the other hand, it might not be a good idea to fast unless you have the green light and supervision from your doctor.