Anyone who has tried a weight-loss diet is likely aware of their drawbacks. Some low-calorie diets can make us exhausted, hungry, and irritable. Others are not sustainable in the long run as well as predisposing to deficiencies in essential nutrients. Furthermore, these diets are difficult to follow and can result in rebound weight gain once the diet has stopped.
Intermittent fasting, however, is an option that can help one achieve their desired weight in a sustainable manner.
What You Need to Know About Intermittent Fasting
Fasting has been practiced by humans for thousands of years for various reasons. Intermittent fasting is growing in popularity due to the research showing significant benefits. Let’s take a look at what those benefits are:
What Is Intermittent Fasting?
Intermittent fasting (IF) also known as Time Restricted Feeding (TRF) refers to a pattern of eating that switches between intentional fasting and non-fasting over a specified time period. Intermittent fasting does not emphasize what foods to consume but when to consume food between the fasting periods.
The Variables of Intermittent Fasting
When planning your intermittent fasting, there are two variables to consider:
Restricting Hours of the Day: The first way is by extending the time the body burns stored fat after it burns off all the calories from the last meal. In other words, it involves eating only during limited hours of the day and skipping meals the rest of the time.
Restricting Days of the Week: The second way is by consuming extremely few calories on specified days and eating normally on other days.
The Benefits of Intermittent Fasting
Intermittent fasting provides a variety of health benefits. In addition to helping with weight loss by burning stored fat, this fasting practice benefits other factors such as heart health, diabetes, blood pressure, and management of oxidative stress levels.
Assist Fat Loss
Some people exploring intermittent fasting aim to lose weight. Generally, periods of fasting result in a total decrease in caloric intake. In this state, the body is forced to rely on fat stores for fuel, catalyzing fat burning and leading to fat loss.
A review comparing intermittent fasting and daily calorie restriction showed similar amounts of weight loss and fat loss (16%) after 12 weeks. The researchers concluded that intermittent fasting is as effective as daily calorie restriction in terms of decreasing body weight and fat mass. Intermittent fasting also causes less muscle loss as compared to caloric restriction.
Improve Cardiometabolic Health
Cardiometabolic health refers to various health conditions, including insulin resistance, metabolic syndromes, prediabetes, and even more severe conditions like cardiovascular disease and type 2 diabetes.
According to preliminary findings, intermittent fasting appears to have the potential for reducing type 2 diabetes risk in overweight and obese individuals. However, further study is required before researchers can draw solid conclusions.
According to a 5-week trial involving eight overweight men with prediabetes, intermittent fasting with a 6-hour feeding period improved insulin levels, insulin sensitivity, β cell responsiveness, blood pressure, and oxidative stress levels. However, those results didn’t show any occurrence of weight loss.
Intermittent Fasting Methods
There are three main methods for intermittent fasting. These methods are characterized by the schedule on which foods are consumed during the day or for a longer period.
This method emphasizes eating just for several hours each day and creating a consistent daily pattern of timed eating, with no regard to calorie counting other than common sense. This method allows food intake to match the natural circadian rhythms and nutrient metabolism.
Some variations of the time-restricted feeding method include the 16:8 diet (16 hours of fasting followed by 8 hours of non-fasting) and the 20:4 diet (20 hours of fasting followed by 4 hours of non-fasting). These variations narrow the time frame even further.
Surprisingly, many people follow this method by simply not eating anything after dinner and skipping breakfast. For example, suppose you have your last meal at 7 pm the night before and don’t eat anything until 11 am the next day. In that case, you’re technically fasting in a time-restricted method for 16 hours.
This method involves rotating between a 24-hour fasting day, during which the person consumes less than 25% of their daily calorie requirements, and a 24-hour non-fasting period. In other words, you fast every other day. Because there are more days of fasting per week, this is the strictest form of intermittent fasting.
Periodic Fasting or Whole-day Fasting
This method involves fasting for more than 24 hours in a row, ranging from the 5:2 diet, which involves five non-fasting days and two fasting days each week, to the more extreme variation, which involves multiple days of fasting
A full 24-hour fast may be challenging for many people and should be done after consulting your doctor. But you don’t have to jump straight into this method from the beginning. Start with 12 or 14 hours of fasting per day.
To do intermittent fasting in this method, you usually eat every day of the week except for Mondays and Thursdays or Tuesdays and Fridays. Of course, you can choose any two days for fasting as you like. However, it would be best to split the fasting days evenly throughout the week so as not to feel exhausted by fasting two days in a row.
Intermittent Fasting Safety
It’s worth noting that although intermittent fasting is a generally safe dietary strategy, not everyone should consider this fasting practice.
Some people, including pregnant women, should postpone cutting down on their calorie intake during pregnancy. This fasting practice links to an increased risk of gestational diabetes and labor induction. In addition, underweight individuals who have a history of eating problems should contact a doctor before implementing a fasting plan.
For otherwise healthy people, however, intermittent fasting can be safe and effective. Just follow a nutritionally balanced plan given by a certified healthcare practitioner.
If you have questions about intermittent fasting or any health problems discussed here, connect with us and learn more.
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