Over the years, people have discovered new and easier ways to lose weight and stay fit. Dieting, staying active in the gym, drinking more water, and doing yoga are all safe, yet effective ways to keep off the pounds. Intermittent fasting has also become a popular method of weight loss. It is fast becoming one of the world’s most popular health and fitness trends. According to various studies, intermittent fasting can help with weight loss, improve metabolic health, and protect against disease.
WHAT IS INTERMITTENT FASTING?
Intermittent fasting involves alternating cycles of eating and fasting. You can drink water, coffee, tea, or other non-caloric beverages. With intermittent fasting, you aren’t restricted to what foods you can eat, rather you’re restricted to when you can eat them. Therefore, intermittent fasting is not a diet. It’s a timed approach to eating. Perhaps this is what makes intermittent fasting such a popular weight loss method. People can choose to eat whatever foods they want and still get the benefit of losing weight at the same time. It’s not that simple, though.
People who take on this weight loss method eat during a short window of time every day or alternate between days of eating and not eating. For example, you may choose to eat from 12:00 pm to 5:00 pm. Or you may decide to eat on Mondays, Wednesdays, Fridays, and Sundays but not eat on Tuesdays and Saturdays. The great thing about intermittent fasting is that it offers flexibility and you can plan it around your schedule.
Intermittent fasting may not be for everyone. It is generally safe for healthy, well-nourished people, but it may not be appropriate for those with health conditions and taking medications that require food intake. However, fasting is not as difficult as it may seem. In fact, we “fast” every day when we’re sleeping. With intermittent fasting, you’re just extending that fast a little longer.
Through evolution – ancient hunter-gatherers didn’t have full access to supermarkets, refrigerators, or food year-round – humans can go extended periods of time without food. Some people even say that they felt better or had more energy during a fast.
HOW IT WORKS
People can benefit from intermittent fasting in a variety of ways. They include:
- Losing weight
- Increasing muscle mass and decreasing body fat
- Lowering blood pressure and cholesterol levels
- Protecting against diseases, including heart disease, type 2 diabetes, cancer, Alzheimer’s disease, etc.
- Promoting a longer, more simplified life
- Saving time and money
- Improve overall health and well-being
- Minimizing the effects of aging
So how does intermittent fasting produce these benefits? When you fast, a number of things happen in your body. For example, the hormone levels in your body adjust in order to access stored body fat. When you’re not in the fed state – we’ll get to that in a moment – your body will begin feeding off that stored fat. Below are some other things that happen in your body while you’re fasting:
- Growth hormone levels increase. This helps the body lose fat and gain muscle.
- Insulin levels drop dramatically. Makes stored body fat more accessible.
- Your cells repair themselves. In a process called autophagy, the body repairs and renews its cells. This can prevent diseases such as cancer, neurodegeneration, cardiomyopathy, diabetes, liver disease, autoimmune diseases, and infections.
- Genes begin to change. Also, help protect against disease.
To get an even better understanding of how intermittent fasting produces health benefits, you should be familiar with how the body behaves when in the fed state. This process begins when you eat and digest food. It can last between 3 and 5 hours as your body digests and absorbs food. In this state, your insulin levels are higher, which makes it more difficult for your body to burn fat.
After the fed state, your body enters the post-absorptive state, which means that your body isn’t processing a meal. This typically lasts 8 to 12 hours after your last meal. After 12 hours, your body then enters the fasted state. During a normal eating schedule where you’re eating breakfast, lunch, dinner, and snacks in between, your body rarely ever makes it to the fasted state. This is what makes losing weight more difficult.
Intermittent fasting offers a lot of flexibility when trying to lose weight. Here are the different methods of intermittent fasting:
- Daily (16/8 Method): Involves fasting for 16 hours a day, and following an 8-hour eating period. This helps with weight loss because it typically involves skipping a meal or two, which cuts down on calories.
- Weekly: Involves fasting one or more times per week. While you won’t see big changes with weight loss, this is a great way to get started and get your body accustomed to going longer periods of time without food.
- Alternate Day: Involves a 24-hour fasting cycle, where you only eat every other day. This allows you to go on longer fasting periods, which gives you a longer time in the fasted state – increasing your chances of losing weight.
- 5:2 Method: Eat 500 to 600 calories on two non-consecutive days every week. This method is similar to alternate-day intermittent fasting, except with a caloric restriction.
- Meal Skipping: This method allows you to be more in tune with your body by encouraging you to eat only when hungry, not on a schedule. It’s also great for beginners.
COMBINING INTERMITTENT FASTING WITH VARIOUS DIETS
You can combine intermittent fasting with a restricted diet to maximize weight loss benefits. The keto diet has been gaining lots of ground amongst health enthusiasts. Pairing intermittent fasting with a keto lifestyle – which involves a high-fat, low-carb diet – can help with losing fat. Eating high-fat low-carb foods helps the body enter a metabolic process known as ketosis, which helps your body break down fats. Because intermittent fasting helps boost metabolism, it can help your body reach ketosis quicker than the keto diet alone.
A plant-based diet can also go well with intermittent fasting because it involves eating healthier foods, which helps with weight loss due to low-calorie and low-carb foods. A plant-based diet also helps increase energy levels and provides a great source of essential nutrients to the body. This is important when fasting because the body needs continuous nourishment.