Fasting, and especially intermittent fasting is a term that has become synonymous with weight loss and improved health. But, how could avoiding food be good for health, considering that food is necessary for growth and maintenance of good health?
In this article, we’ll talk about intermittent fasting and all that you need to know about it. But first, let’s find out what the term intermittent fasting means.
What Is Intermittent Fasting?
Intermittent fasting is defined as “an eating cycle that involves long fasting hours”. It is different from dieting because you are not told what to eat or what not to eat. Instead, intermittent fasting tells you when to eat and when to fast.
Note: Non-caloric beverages such as tea, coffee, and water are fine. But stay away from sugar, milk and cream.
How to Start Intermittent Fasting?
Intermittent fasting, sometimes abbreviated as IF, can be quite challenging at first because it typically involves fasting for about 16 hours per day. In some variants of this type of fasting, you can go without food for 24 hours.
Technically speaking, fasting is not a new concept. Humans have been fasting for years. In fact, some religions also preach fasting for a variety of reasons, especially spiritual wellness. Still, some people find it difficult to start and stick to intermittent fasting.
To help you get started, here are some intermittent fasting methods:
- The 16/8 Method: Also known as the Leangains Protocol, this method involves fasting for 16 hours and eating within the remaining 8 hours of the day. Moreover, you also have to skip your breakfast in this method.
- The 5:2 Method: This method involves keeping an eye on your calorie consumption. You can eat as normal for five days of the week but consume no more than 600 calories on any two non-consecutive days.
- Eat-Stop-Eat: This method involves not eating for 24 hours. It is one of the toughest techniques but it is said to be the most beneficial as well. The method involves abstaining from eating anything for the entire day, once or twice a week.
All these techniques have their own benefits. It’s up to you to choose one that suits you the best.
Can Intermittent Fasting Help Lose Weight?
Yes, it does help with weight loss and for obvious reasons. You lose weight when you burn more calories than you consume. Intermittent fasting means that you achieve reduced calorie intake. As a result, your body is forced to get the energy it requires by breaking down stored energy sources, starting with glycogen and ultimately burning body fat.
It is no wonder that weight loss is the most important reason why people try intermittent fasting.1)
How Intermittent Fasting Works in Weight Loss
Intermittent fasting works in two ways. First, it reduces your calorie intake. Second, it brings hormonal changes that help you lose weight in a quick manner.
As stated above, reducing calorie intake means that practically all the calories consumed are broken down. But because these calories are not adequate for the body’s energy requirements, energy stores are broken down to meet the shortfall.
Glycogen is the more readily available energy stored in the body. But the body only stores a limited amount of glycogen which runs out soon.
Hormonal Changes That Help in Weight Loss
Intermittent fasting lowers insulin levels in blood. At the same time, it increases growth hormone levels. Moreover, it leads to increased release of norepinephrine, a fat burning hormone.
This means that your body gets improved capacity to break down fat to produce energy. This raises your metabolic rate, which improves the weight loss process.2) In fact, according to some studies, it can help you to lose up to 8 percent of your weight in just 24 weeks.3) This is great news, especially considering some of the weight lost comes from the otherwise stubborn belly fat.
Another benefit of intermittent fasting is that it does not result in muscle loss, which is problem in many weight loss methods. IF only causes fat loss while helping you to retain your muscle mass.4)
What Other Benefits Does Intermittent Fasting Offer?
In addition to weight loss, intermittent fasting offers other benefits as well. These include:
- Improved Insulin Sensitivity: According to different reports, intermittent fasting can be effective in lowering blood sugar by up to 6 percent. Hence, it may be effective in shielding against type II diabetes.
- Improved Cardiac Health: Our heart health depends largely on the food that we consume. Intermittent fasting can strengthen the heart by reducing bad cholesterol. This results in a lower risk of cardiac diseases.5)
- Cancer: Intermittent fasting is believed to be effective in preventing different types of cancers.6)
- Brain Health: Scientists believe that intermittent fasting can fight against brain diseases such as Alzheimer’s disease. It works by increasing brain hormones and improving growth of new brain cells.7)
- Anti-aging and Longer Lifespan: Intermittent fasting helps in weight loss. The reduction in weight means that the body frame is less stressed which can lead to a youthful feeling and appearance. Other than this, it may also help increase life span, according to a test conducted on rats.8)
How Long Will It Take to See Results?
Results vary and largely depend on your overall fitness level. However, most people will begin to notice a change within 2 weeks. In addition to this, it may be a good idea to work out while you fast because this may improve results.
Can Intermittent Fasting Be Risky?
There are no major risks associated with intermittent fasting. However, weak individuals and pregnant women should avoid it. Besides this, some experts also believe that intermittent fasting may not be very beneficial for women.9)
Also, it is common to feel a bit weak and have other symptoms such as laziness and headaches especially in the initial stages. If the symptoms persist, it is best to avoid intermittent fasting. You should also consult a healthcare provider for tests.
You should also consult your doctor before engaging in intermittent fasting if you have any of the following medical conditions:
- Low blood pressure
- Eating disorders
We hope this handy guide helps you to decide if intermittent fasting is worth a try or not.