Last Updated on March 21, 2021
You may be familiar with Intermittent Fasting (IF), which has, as its proponents claim, numerous health benefits. This includes longevity, improved cognitive functions, regulating your metabolism, increased energy levels, and anti-aging properties. Chances are, you’ve tried IF at some point or you may even know someone who’s practicing IF.
So, what is it, really? And what happens when you fast? What potential benefits can you stand to gain with IF, and how do these benefits work?
Facts About Intermittent Fasting
Have you always wanted to lose weight? Or are you simply looking to improve your overall health?
Intermittent Fasting may be able to help you with that. IF refers to the eating pattern that has intermittent cycles of fasting and eating, hence the name.
IF isn’t a diet. It’s more of an eating pattern undertaken for many reasons such as health and fitness and religious or spiritual reasons.
Different IF Methods
There’s no one right way to do intermittent fasting. Sources vary when it comes to determining how many types of IF methods are in existence. Some would claim there are four; others say there are seven. So we’ll stay somewhere in the middle and give you six pretty straightforward ways that you could choose from. While all of these methods may benefit you, ultimately, it’s up to you to choose which ones work for you and your lifestyle best.
1. The 16/8 Method
Within 8 hours, you should ideally eat all of your daily calories. For the remaining 16 hours, you fast. One variation of this time-restricted eating method is the 14/10 method where you can only eat between 10 hours and fast for the remaining 14 hours. Another variation is the 20/4, where you only have a four-hour eating window.
2. The 5:2 “Diet”
For five days a week, you eat normally. It’s up to you to choose which days. For the other two days, you fast. During these two days, you can only consume 500 to 600 calories.
3. The ESE or Eat-Stop-Eat
Another popular IF method is ESE where you fast completely for 24 hours. This should only be done once or twice a week as its side effects may be a tad too extreme for some. You might experience irritability, headaches, and bouts of low energy. As such, you need to observe your regular diet during your non-fasting days.
4. The ADF or Alternate-Day Fasting
As its name suggests, you’re going to be fasting every other day. So, for example, on Monday (non-fasting day), you’ll be on your regular diet. On Tuesday (fasting day) you fast by limiting your calorie intake to 500. Wednesday will be another non-fasting day, and so on.
5. The Warrior Diet
You fast in the morning by eating a small number of raw fruits and vegetables. In the evening, you feast—well, for four hours at most.
6. SMS or Spontaneous Meal Skipping
We’ve all done this before—skipping meals when we don’t feel hungry or if we don’t feel like eating. That’s SMS for you: skipping meals when it’s convenient for you. If you’re thinking of going into IF, this method may be a good introduction.
You may find that the 16/8 method works for you, or you may find it easier to stick with ADF. The bottom line is, there will be a bit of trial and error to see which method works best for you.
How IF Works
According to an article published in The Economic Times, during the fasting period, our cells undergo mild stress. These cells respond to this change by working on their ability to cope with the onset of stress and perhaps even resist disease.
Consider this: when you exercise, your muscles and cardiovascular system experience stress. The more time you give your body to recover, the stronger it becomes. Your cells respond the same way they do to exercise-induced stress when you’re undergoing intermittent fasting.
1. IF May Protect Your Neurons
According to an article, fasting may protect your neurons. During fasting, your body will turn to its fat reserves for energy. This releases ketones into your bloodstream. This, in effect, protects your memory and other cognitive functions. It may even slow down the progress of diseases in the brain.
2. IF May Aid in Weight Loss
While it doesn’t burn fat per se, intermittent fasting may contribute to weight loss by lowering your insulin levels. It plays a crucial role in how carbohydrates and lipids are metabolized by the body.
When you’re not eating, your insulin levels decrease. This causes your cells to release their stored glucose so that the body will have energy. This process, when repeated, may aid in weight loss. A review correlates this claim, with findings that suggest IF’s efficacy to promote weight loss.
Additionally, when you fast, you eat fewer calories. This may also be a factor for weight loss.
3. IF May Lower the Risk of Diabetes
According to the Cooper Institute, over 70% of adults in the U.S. are either overweight or obese. Prediabetes and type 2 diabetes rates are higher than ever before.
IF may help with diabetes prevention. This is due to its potential weight loss properties—with obesity being one of the main risk factors for type 2 diabetes—and its effect on factors linked with type 2 diabetes.
A review shows that IF and ADF may be welcome alternatives to calorie restriction approaches. IF can help lower blood glucose and insulin levels of individuals who are at risk of diabetes.
4. IF May Help Improve Cardiovascular Health
In a laboratory test, IF was found to have beneficial effects in rats and mice. The results suggest that IF may counteract certain cardiovascular diseases as well as the disease processes themselves. IF could also contribute to a reduction in blood pressure, insulin resistance, cholesterol levels, and triglycerides, a type of fat found in the blood. Having high triglyceride levels may put you at risk of heart disease.
Incorporating IF into Your Daily Life
Keen on making intermittent fasting a regular part of your life? Here are some things that will help you ease into the transition:
- Find out how you’re going to work IF into your current lifestyle. Consider your daily activities. What about social events? Travels?
- Do your fair share of research. Look up fasting methods that have been shown to be safe in clinical trials. Additionally, use websites such as Google Scholar or the National Center for Biotechnology Information’s PubMed to get reliable, peer-reviewed sources. Cross-check your research with your trusted healthcare provider.
- If you’re pregnant, malnourished, or diagnosed with type 1 diabetes, IF may hold some safety concerns for you.
- Talk to your healthcare provider first if you’re thinking of incorporating intermittent fasting into your daily life.
Intermittent fasting, along with other health and wellness practices, may sound like the answer to all of our weight and health problems. However, it’s not a cure-all, despite its long list of potential health benefits. At the end of the day, you still need to be mindful of your caloric intake and the kind of food you’re consuming.