Intermittent fasting is currently in vogue. The practice suggests limiting your eating to specific time periods within a given day or week. It involves alternating periods of extreme calorie reduction with intervals of normal eating. The theory is that this type of fasting will help decrease your appetite by slowing down the body’s metabolism.
The concept of skipping meals or limiting how much you eat can be a challenge. However, placing your body into an active state for brief periods can boost your metabolism, kickstart weight loss, and result in different intermittent fast benefits like improving energy and mood and enhance cognition.
Exactly how the diet works is a hot debate among researchers, says James Mitchell, Ph.D., associate professor at Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health, whose research focuses on dietary restriction. Many people believe that both the potential metabolic benefits and weight loss are just a result of calorie restriction (eating less overall), while others believe that going long periods of time without eating plays a role.
Here are some interesting facts about intermittent fasting which you should know before implementing it for yourself:
The three most popular types of intermittent fasting are 16:8, 5:2, and alternate-day fasting
In 16:8 intermittent fasting (also referred to as Leangains), involves eating only during an 8-hour window and fasting for the remaining 16-hours daily. You can decide on what your eating and fasting hours will be. Intermittent fasting supports weight loss and improves brain function, blood sugar and longevity. Try eating a healthy diet during your eating period and drink calorie-free beverages or unsweetened coffee and teas. This type of fasting restricts mealtimes, as time-restricted fasting is thought to result in better health and weight loss.
5:2 intermittent fasting is also known as ‘The Fast Diet’ and is currently very popular. It involves regular eating on 5 days, reducing calorie intake to 500-600 calories and severely restricting calories for two non-consecutive days per week. The simplicity of the diet and the fact that you can eat everything for five days a week are the keys to its popularity.
The 5:2 fasting and similar intermittent-fasting diets are easier to follow compared to traditional calorie restriction methods. Headlines promoting the 5:2 fasting diet claim that calorie restriction may be linked to a reduced risk of heart disease, improving cholesterol levels, and improved brain function.
Alternate day fasting (ADF), a form of intermittent fasting, involves fasting one day, eating the next day. Some people do full water fasts, while others choose to eat around 500-600 calories on fasting days. Alternate day fasting is a very advanced form of intermittent fasting and requires a consultation with your doctor before trying it.
Intermittent fasting may help with weight management but isn’t a guarantee
According to a 2014 study, intermittent fasting helps with weight management. In this study, intermittent fasting was found to reduce body weight by 4-8% over 3 to 24 weeks. The main reason that intermittent fasting works effectively for weight loss is that it helps you eat fewer calories. Intermittent fasting helps to reduce waist circumference, indicating that they lost belly fat. Having lots of fat in the abdominal area is linked to health problems like heart disease and type 2 diabetes. Although calorie counting is not required when doing fasting, weight loss still occurs as there is an overall reduction in calorie consumption. The main goal of intermittent fasting is to develop a healthy eating pattern that is sustainable and can support weight loss over time. These results do show that intermittent fasting can be a useful weight loss aid.
Intermittent fasting benefits for hormones and metabolism are promising, but inconclusive
Dr. Mitchell says that one agreed benefit is that occasional fasting can improve insulin sensitivity—which is key to diabetes prevention, metabolic health, and weight management.
Likewise, a 2015 literature review found that intermittent fasting had little published data that effectively links this eating style to better health outcomes in terms of diabetes, heart health, cancer, or other chronic diseases.
Intermittent fasting might be ok for some, but not for everybody
Intermittent fasting has spurned a wellness revolution in terms of how we eat. But is it a healthy choice for everyone? In the last few years, there has been much discussion in the wellness industry around intermittent fasting. While intermittent fasting may work for you, it is not a good fit for everybody. It needs to be a part of a decent routine which involves paying attention to nutritional specifics. You have to be prepared in advance in order to implement it.
If you are new to exercise and diet, intermittent fasting might look like a magical tool for weight loss. But you have to be a lot smarter to address any nutritional deficiencies before you start experimenting with fasts.
Start small and keep it simple
It may not be feasible for many to restrict food entirely for set periods in order to achieve better health. So, it is best to find ways to make eating nutritious food work for you in the context of your day-to-day life. If you are considering intermittent fasting, it may make sense to start small and keeping it as simple as possible. In the end, you may find intermittent fasting to be a useful tool to lose weight and reduce calories.