Known as one of the most popular fitness and health trends, Intermittent Fasting (also known as IF) is being practiced by millions of people around the world.
Intermittent fasting is not only used to shed extra unwanted weight but it’s also something that can improve your health and help you to make healthier lifestyle choices.
Many studies have shown the wide variety of benefits that intermittent fasting has to offer for the mind, the body and how it can improve your overall quality of life.
What is Intermittent Fasting?
Intermittent Fasting is essentially creating a schedule for your eating habits.
IF is not guided by food restrictions or by a specific diet, but instead is a guide to eating and fasting within a certain window of time.
The most common method of intermittent fasting involves a 16 hour window where fasting is required along with an 8 hour window where you can eat your meals as usual.
Of course those who are accustomed to fasting sometimes try intermittent fasting for an even longer period of time such as 20 hours or 23 hours per day.
As a matter of fact, studies have proven that fasting is even a more natural way of eating rather than eating 3-5 times a day.
Society has been increasing their consumption habits, and now with the possibility of every meal being delivered to your doorstep, people eat more and worry less about their health.
When eating healthy is a struggle, intermittent fasting could potentially be one of the simplest ways to improve your overall health.
Intermittent Fasting Methods
Intermittent fasting offers people a lot of flexibility due to the fact that you can create your own eating and fasting schedule.
Each method of fasting depends on the type of person as some methods are more recommended than others — but all are incredibly effective.
- 16:8 – The 16/8 method involves consuming food and drink during an 8 hour window and fasting for the remaining 16 hours of the day. This method has proven itself to be the most popular one and also the easiest one to follow. This method is not only effective but it’s also the most popular intermittent fasting method out there. 16/8 offers more flexibility than the others methods listed below and it’s a great place to start if you’re new to intermittent fasting.
- 20:4 – The warrior diet is even more extreme than the 16/8. This fasting method only allows for a 4 hour window for consumption. The remaining 20 hours of the day are dedicated to fasting without any food or drink besides water. 20/4 is more strict and for this reason it is more effective, because of its less amount of calories consumed during the 4 hour period.
- 23:1 (OMAD) – Another great intermittent fasting method and similar to the 20/4 method is the OMAD, or also known as “One Meal A Day”. The 23/1 method involves only eating for one hour of your day and fasting for the remaining 23 hours. In other words, you can only have one meal during the day, regardless of the time you want to have it at. Sound crazy? Don’t worry. This will be one hell of a meal.
- Eat-Stop-Eat – This method is a little more drastic, but it involves not eating for an entire day (24 hours). Some people practice this technique once or twice per week. By reducing the calorie intake, this method is a great one for weight loss.
- 36 Hour Fast – This is exactly like it sounds, it involves not eating for a 36 hour period. Although this sounds incredibly tricky, the way that people do it is by day one, they finish up their last meal with dinner, on the second day there are no foods to be consumed until breakfast on the third day. As this fasting method is a bit more strict, it’s said that the benefits are amplified.
- 5:2 – This method is about consuming 500-600 calories two days per week (not one after another), and eating regularly the remaining 5 days of the week. The reason why this fast is called 5/2 is because you eat regularly 5 days of the week and on the other 2 days, you are supposed to fast or eat slim to no calories (500-600 for the entire day).
The baseline is that by reducing the calorie consumption you can lose weight and start processing food in a better way.
Why Should You Do it?
As mentioned previously, there are many benefits to intermittent fasting such as the following:
Looking to lose weight? If so, this is one of the main reasons why people attempt intermittent fasting. By eating fewer meals you immediately reduce your calorie intake. In the same way, intermittent fasting changes hormone levels which only facilitates weight loss. Aside from lowering insulin and elevating hormone levels, it also increases the release of the fat burning hormone known as norepinephrine.
But mainly, intermittent fasting is great for weight loss given that it allows the body to use the stored energy by burning the excess body fat in the time that we are not eating.
Another fasting benefit is that intermittent fasting can lower blood sugar from 3-6%, therefore it can reduce insulin resistance.
Swelling and Inflammation
It is very common that certain types of foods can make you swell up and this might be the reason why you constantly feel bloated and can’t seem to get rid of the inflammation. By eating less food during the day you allow your body to process food in a correct manner, allowing you to reduce the inflammation in the hours that you are not eating.
These intermittent fasting benefits are simply endless. When it comes to diseases, fasting is one great way to start looking out for your health. Fasting can prevent type 2 diabetes, numerous heart conditions and neurodegenerative diseases.
[FAQ] Frequently Asked Questions
1. How can I get started with Intermittent Fasting?
If you are a beginner to intermittent fasting and only starting to understand more about it, the best thing you can do is start with the easiest fasting method which is known as the 16/8 method.
This method has the longest window of time to eat and for this reason is why most people get started with this one.
When you are well informed and ready to get started all you need to do is keep track of the hours that you spend eating and the ones that you keep fasting.
You could keep notes on your phone, track your time in a journal or simply download an intermittent fasting app to help track your progress.
2. Is Intermittent Fasting Safe?
Intermittent Fasting is a great way to keep yourself accountable when it comes to your health and your eating habits.
IF can help improve your health in numerous ways and it is definitely a safe method to “diet”. Unlike other diets, this method doesn’t restrict you to any sorts of foods, instead it tells you periods of time where you can eat and others where you shouldn’t.
Lots of beginners believe that the long periods of time spent fasting means that they are going to starve themselves but this is definitely not the case.
Starving is the absence of food and suffering from hunger and it deprives individuals of major nutrients, which can cause nutritional deficiencies, eating disorders or even death.
Fasting shouldn’t be compared to starving yourself, it is simply a controlled way to eat the right things at the right times.
3. What Can I Drink While Intermittent Fasting?
You are allowed to drink water, black coffee and tea. Remember, no milk, sugar or cream.
4. What Types of People Should Avoid Intermittent Fasting?
Intermittent Fasting is a tool to improve health and well-being but there are times where fasting isn’t necessary or might not improve your health.
This is in regard to children, pregnant women, or women who are currently nursing.
On another note, people who are currently ill, diabetic, and those who suffer from heart disease or high blood pressure are not recommended to fast unless approved by a doctor and a nutritionist.
If you are someone who suffers from an eating disorder such as anorexia or bulimia, intermittent fasting not recommended.
5. Can I Exercise While Fasting?
Absolutely and it’s actually recommended that you do so.
Feel free to continue all of your regular activities and exercise regimens while fasting.
Please note that your body will need to get used to receiving less calories and less meals at first. You might feel a little tired and have low energy, but this is part of the process and it will take your body a couple of days to get used to your new routine. Soon enough you will be able to enjoy an energetic workout.
6. What are the side effects of intermittent fasting?
As with everything there are side effects of intermittent fasting and they usually consist of the following:
- Hunger – This is the most common side effect when starting out. If you have already carried out any sort of diet you might already know what this means and therefore it won’t be too tough of a task for you. At first, you will experience hunger and this is because we are used to having numerous meals and snacks throughout the day. While your body gets used to the new routine, you might find yourself hungry from time to time.
- Headaches – Often the low sugar intake that goes on through the fasting period leads people to experience headaches, but just like the hunger side effect, this also goes away once your body gets used to your new eating habits.
- Constipation – As your body ingests less food, there are less things going out of your body. Usually in the periods of time where there is no food intake, we might experience constipation because of the “lack” of food we are ingesting, however your body also gets used to this new routine.
7. What Types of Things Can I Do to Avoid Breaking My Fast?
The period of time during fasting might be stressful for some people depending on your lifestyle and your eating habits.
Below, you’ll find a few tips and tricks as well as some reminders of things you can do to curb your appetite and stay on track with your fasting goals.
- Drink water – Want to know the best way to avoid letting your perceived hunger trick you into breaking your fast? Drink water. Lots of it. It’s recommended to drink 1 liter of water as soon as you wake up in the morning. Bonus: Add a squeeze of lemon. This will not break your fast but it will improve your digestion and give you a much needed boost of vitamin C.
- Distract yourself – The worst part about fasting is when you’re bored and you have nothing to do except to think about your next meal. Keep yourself busy with work, hobbies and other projects in order to avoid thinking about food all day.
- Drink coffee, tea or sparkling water – These drinks will also help with the cravings during your fasting periods. If you need to drink anything else other than water then give one of these drinks a shot.
- Meditate – Have you given meditation a shot? If not, you can start with these early morning meditation techniques or with this list of free meditation apps.
- Give it 30 days – After you reach 30 days with intermittent fasting, do yourself a favor and evaluate your results. Are you feeling stronger? Healthier? More clear headed? Take a day to write down how you’re feeling and if you think you’re ready to move forward, go ahead and get started with your second month of intermittent fasting.
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