What is Intermittent Fasting?Intermittent fasting involves restricting the hours you eat to specific windows of time. It doesn't tell you what to eat, rather when to eat. You cycle through periods of eating and fasting. Generally, during your eating window, you can eat whatever you like. So, it's more simple to tweak and fit in around your schedule. Fasting is by no means a new concept. For centuries, our hunter-gatherer ancestors fasted regularly. Without the convenience of a refrigerator or supermarkets, humans have evolved to function without food for extended periods. Fasting is often done for religious or spiritual reasons, as well. The word fasting can sound extreme. But, considering we sleep for about nine hours of the day, we already naturally fast. With intermittent fasting, this window is just longer. During your fasting period, the idea is to refrain from consuming any food or beverages with calories. But, there are certain drinks that you can have while fasting, such as:
- Black coffee
- Vegetable or bone broth
- Tea: green, Oolong, black and herbal
- Apple cider vinegar
5 Health Benefits of Intermittent Fasting Backed by Science:While the research is still relatively limited, there have been some promising early results:
1. Support Weight Loss
Weight loss is one of the top reasons people start intermittent fasting. Generally, when you eat fewer meals, you're taking in fewer calories and losing weight. One study found that short-term fasting increases your metabolic rate, which helps you to burn even more calories.
A review of 13 studies found that any version of intermittent fasting is beneficial for weight loss. On average, weight loss ranged from 1.3% to 8%. The people in the study also lost 4-7% of fat around the waist. There is an association between harmful fat around the belly and a higher risk for heart disease.
2. Good for the Brain
Intermittent fasting is good for the body and the brain. Studies in rats have found that it may increase the growth of new nerve cells, benefitting brain function. Intermittent fasting helps to boost brain health by reducing oxidative stress, inflammation and blood sugar levels.
Oxidative stress refers to an imbalance of free radicals throughout the body. When it comes to the brain, the effects of oxidative stress may lead to neurodegenerative conditions like Alzheimer's disease and Parkinson's disease.
3. Reduce Oxidative Stress and Inflammation
Oxidative stress can damage cells, proteins, and DNA contributing to the ageing process. Both inflammation and oxidative stress are key drivers for many common diseases. Intermittent fasting may increase the body's resistance to oxidative stress and help fight inflammation.
4. Benefit Heart Health
Heart disease is the world's biggest killer. Intermittent fasting has been found to improve several markers of heart disease like blood pressure, total cholesterol, blood sugar levels, and inflammation. Healthy blood pressure levels are essential for a happy heart.
5. Reduce Insulin Resistance
Insulin resistance means that your body can't respond to insulin properly. Over time, this results in high blood sugar levels, setting you up for type 2 diabetes and heart disease.
Intermittent fasting may help to reduce insulin resistance and stabilize blood sugar levels. The idea is that by restricting calories through fasting, it encourages sugar insulin levels to fall. Anything that can help to reduce insulin resistance should lower blood sugar levels. This helps to protect against type 2 diabetes in the future.
3 Intermittent Fasting Schedules ExplainedThere are a ton of different intermittent fasting schedules you can follow. So, you can experiment with what works for you. Intermittent fasting isn't a miracle solution to perfect health and weight loss. But, what it can do is form a part of a healthy lifestyle with regular exercise and a well-balanced diet.
1. The 16/8 Method
The 16/8 method of intermittent fasting involves fasting for 16 hours and restricting your eating window to eight hours. You might eat between midday and 8 PM. You would skip breakfast and stop eating after dinner.
One study found that people who only ate during a six-hour eating window felt less hungry. In comparison to a normal eating schedule, the fasting group experienced a decrease in appetite.
2. The 5/2 Diet
With the 5/2 method, you would typically eat for five days of the week then fast for two. During the fasting days, you cut your calorie intake down to 20%. For women, that's about 500 calories and for men, 600.
3. Alternate-Day Fasting
As the name suggests, you alternate fasting days. So, you fast every other day. There are different versions of this type of intermittent fasting. Some versions allow 500 calories on the fasting days.