Intermittent fasting is a time-based and scheduled approach to eating. A typical dietary plan restricts where calories come from. Intermittent fasting does not specify which food you should eat or avoid – it just defines a specific time period when you eat. Intermittent fasting helps with weight loss, but it also has many other health benefits.
Intermittent fasting involves cycling between periods of fasting and eating. Initially, you may find it difficult to eat during a short window of time. It is best to start with a normal eating schedule and gradually increase the fasting time so that all of your food intake happens within a certain period during the day. You fast for the rest of the time.
Intermittent fasting has long-term benefits. People often follow this program to:
- Simplify their lives
- Improve their overall health
- Lose weight with no side effects
Here are some tips for people looking to give intermittent fasting a try:
1. Identify personal goals
It is a good idea to identify your goals before you experiment with intermittent fasting. Your goal may be to lose weight, improve metabolic health, or improve overall health. Your goal will help you determine the most suitable fasting method and determine the required calories. I know some people who use intermittent fasting to simplify their lives! Identifying personal goals will help you pick the approach that works for you.
2. Pick one of these methods
Here are four possible methods that you can try when fasting:
- Eat Stop Eat
- Warrior Diet
- Lean Gains
- Alternate Day Fasting
We’ll do a deeper dive into these methods below. Typically, a person should stick to one of the fasting methods for a month to see if it works before trying a different approach.
Eat Stop Eat
Created by Brad Pilon, the “Eat Stop Eat” is a fasting method that involves eating absolutely nothing for 24 hours for twice a week. A person can choose any day of the week, but the only restriction is that fasting should last for 24 hours on non-consecutive days. It might not be the right method for beginners.
The Warrior Diet was created by Ori Hofmekler. It encourages eating tiny portions within a 4-hour period each day, leaving 20 hours to fast. This method isn’t for everyone. Some people fasting this way tend to stuff themselves too much within this 4-hour period and then end up feeling uncomfortable.
Martin Berkhan created the Lean Gains method for weightlifters, but it has gained popularity among many other people as well. Lean Gains involves fasting for 16 hour periods (during which a person can only drink water) and doing all of the day’s eating within an 8 hour period.
Alternate Day Fasting (5:2 Method)
Some people prefer to fast on alternate days to improve cholesterol, blood sugar, and weight loss. An individual who is on the 5:2 method eats around 600 calories on two non-consecutive days each week, and eats normally for the other five days. Over time the calorie deficit created on the two 600 calorie days helps the person to lose weight.
3. Figure out caloric requirements
A person does not have any dietary restrictions when fasting, but the calories do count. People who are aiming to lose weight need to create a calorie deficit – meaning they need to consume less energy than they burn. There are several tools like Calorie Calculator available today that can help you work out your caloric needs for the day!
4. Figure out a meal plan
If you’re interested in losing weight you may find it helps to plan what you’ll eat during the day or week. Meal planning does not need to be restrictive. It should define the calorie intake and incorporate proper nutrients into the diet. Meal planning helps you stick to your calorie count.
5. Make the calorie count
All these fasting methods do not set restrictions on how many calories you should intake when fasting. It is important to consider the nutritional value of the food. In general, you should aim to consume nutrient-dense foods. The focus should be on healthier options to gain the maximum benefits.
How effective is intermittent fasting?
Fasting has several effects on the body. These effects include:
- Reducing levels of insulin, thus making it easier for the body to use stored fat.
- Lowering of blood sugars, blood pressure, and inflammation levels.
- Changing gene expressions, protecting the body from disease as well as increasing longevity.
- Dramatically increasing the human growth hormone, or HGH, a hormone which helps our bodies utilize body fat and grow muscle.
- The body activates a healing process which doctors call autophagy, meaning the body eats up the damaged cells in the body.
According to a popular study from the University of Aberdeen Rowett Institute of Nutrition and Health, most people try intermittent fasting primarily to help lose weight. A review of other studies shows that many people who fast see a higher loss of visceral body fat (fat that surrounds the organs) as compared to people who follow more traditional calorie reduction diets. Research indicates that fasting is equally beneficial for the management of metabolic syndrome and diabetes, keeping neurons healthy, and also shows promise for those with digestive diseases.
What are the side effects of intermittent fasting?
If you eat well and are a healthy person in general, then intermittent fasting may have very few side effects, if any at all. Initially, you may feel slightly physically and mentally sluggish as your body adjusts but later on you’ll go back to functioning normally.
People particularly at risk from fasting include:
- women who are breastfeeding
- pregnant women
- women who are trying to conceive
- diabetic people
- individuals who have difficulty regulating sugar
- people having low blood pressure
- people on medications
Does intermittent fasting have effects on exercise?
For healthy individuals, intermittent fasting should not affect their ability to exercise. You shouldn’t experience any negative effects from fasting on your exercise routine – if you do then try and tweak your eating and exercising regimen a few times until you find the perfect fit.
Even though it has several benefits it might not be suitable for everyone. People who have preexisting medical conditions should consult their healthcare provider before beginning intermittent fasting.
Fasting is considered to be a natural part of the human life cycle. Most people fast unknowingly throughout their lifetimes, many do so for religious reasons. The best way to begin fasting includes identification of personal goals, planning meals, and organizing your caloric needs. When done correctly, intermittent fasting can be a smart approach for healthy living!