From fitness enthusiasts to celebrities, everyone is preaching intermittent fasting. It’s not like dieticians have fallen short of diet plans, but this one apparently seems to work for many types of people. So, intermittent fasting has gained global popularity for being a top trend. Apart from being a weight loss diet, people have been entrusting the trend to improve general health and lifestyle. Studies regarding intermittent fasting diet plans reveal that it may help people to age like a fine wine. Meaning, it may positively impact the body and the brain, enabling people to live longer. And yes, you could be the one benefiting from the healthy trend. So, it’s time to pay heed to your curiosity building and know all about intermittent fasting!
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What Is Intermittent Fasting?
When you create a diet plan that cycles your periods of fasting and eating, it is nothing but intermittent fasting. Intermittent fasting for weight loss does not undertake to tell you what to eat but is all about when to eat. So, conventionally, it cannot be called fasting as it’s more like an organized eating pattern. The most viral intermittent fasting methods are fasting for 16 hours daily or straight 24 hours twice a week.
As we know, fasting is not a new concept to lose weight and cleanse the body. So, unlike the many myths about dieting, weight loss through dieting is not really untrue. The early men did not know how to store food and stayed hungry for days. This is how the human body evolved to stay hungry for longer hours. As a fun fact, fasting frequently is actually more natural than eating 3-4 meals every day. That is why fasting is a way of reflecting spirituality in many religions like Islam, Hinduism, Christianity, Jainism, and Buddhism.
Types of Intermittent Fasting
One of the major reasons behind the popularity of intermittent fasting is that, unlike the other effective dieting plans, for instance, the 7 day GM diet plan, it is really simple. It won’t make you calculate tons of calories and also offers flexibility. So, there are various ways of following intermittent fasting that include fasting in patterns. The intermittent fasting diet plan basically splits the days or weeks to set the fasting periods. During the fasting phase, you either eat very little or nothing at all. With this principle intact, these are the following types of intermittent fasting-
1. The 16/8 Fasting Rule
This one is also known as the Leangains protocol and involves skipping breakfast. One has to restrict their eating period for the day to eight hours and fast for the remaining 16 hours. For example, eating from 12-8 and then refraining from eating for the rest of the day.
2. The 5:2 Diet Approach
Another intermittent fasting diet plan known as the 5:2 approach involves regularly eating for five days a week. For the remaining two days of the week, limit your diet to one 500–600 calorie meal. For example, eating as you usually do every day of the week except on Sundays and Thursdays, making them your one-meal days.
3. Long Fasting
This involves fasting for longer periods without, such as 24 hours or 72 hours. For example, eating dinner one day and then eating exactly at the same time the consecutive day. It may be effective but can also prove to be dangerous for some people. Your body may function in a reverse mechanism of storing fats as a response to starvation. Therefore, you have to analyze your body’s needs first and be mindful of any wrong type of intermittent fasting before diving straight into it.
Though intermittent fasting methods are simple and effective for weight loss, it does not mean your calorie intake becomes entirely trivial during it. If you do not compensate for your fasting hours by not overeating in your eating hours, your weight loss may get far from you. To rely on the most straightforward intermittent fasting, most people follow the 16/8 intermittent fasting rule.
Working Mechanism of Intermittent Fasting
Talking about the science behind intermittent fasting involves the cellular and molecular activity of the body. Our body adjusts and coordinates hormone levels to allow the stored body fat to be more accessible. Cells also communicate and work to change genes’ expression or pave the way for the repair process. These changes created through intermittent fasting are mainly responsible for its benefits. Thus, during intermittent fasting, these are the changes that a body goes through-
- Cell Repair- During intermittent fasting, your cells start to communicate and begin the repair process. As a result, they remove the old and decayed protein build-up out from the cells.
- Insulin- Intermittent fasting may make up for a decent diet for diabetes. It may encourage insulin sensitivity that improves the insulin levels maintenance and even reduces them. The drop in insulin levels makes the stored body fat much more accessible.
- Human Growth Hormones (HGH)- To name a few significant benefits of intermittent fasting for growth, we can say that it rapidly boosts growth, roughly by a whopping 5 times! This way, it benefits muscle growth as well as stimulates weight loss.
- Genetic Changes- Intermittent fasting disrupts the gene expression for longevity and to safeguard against diseases.
Is Intermittent Fasting A Boon For Weight Loss?
Mostly, everyone who is practicing intermittent fasting is aiming to lose weight. Obviously, eating fewer meals will make you consume lesser calories. But, an intermittent fasting diet plan also disrupts the hormone levels to stimulate weight loss. In addition, it also enables the body to increase the release of the fat-burning hormone known as norepinephrine or noradrenaline.
So, as intermittent fasting facilitates growth and fat-burning hormones and regulates insulin activity, it certainly gets a good hold on metabolic activity as well. So, a short-term intermittent fasting method may improve your metabolic rate by 4%-14%. In addition, it burns calories fast and makes you eat less; thus, it balances the calorie equation from both sides.
All the facts aside, the proven claim that intermittent fasting for weight loss is effective lies in the related studies. A 2014 study reveals that the intermittent fasting eating pattern can induce up to 3%- 8% of weight loss in just 3-24 weeks. So, compared to any other lean diet plan, intermittent fasting can significantly make you lose weight. The same study also stated that the participants also noticed that intermittent fasting helped them reduce belly fat by 4%-7%, which is also the fat surrounding organs and causing diseases. However, a study also showed that intermittent fasting might not be as effective as the usual calorie restriction. So, you have to ensure you keep a healthy track of your calorie count during your eating periods of intermittent fasting. Binge eating and consuming large amounts of calories can yield no result from intermittent fasting.
Health Benefits of Intermittent Fasting
Several studies have been conducted on intermittent fasting. Most of them indicate the brilliant benefits of intermittent fasting for the body and the brain. It is even associated with longevity of age. To be particular, these are the most practical health benefits of intermittent fasting-
- May Combat Inflammation– Some studies show that intermittent fasting can reduce inflammation markers, which is one of the main reasons behind many chronic ailments.
- May Improve Heart Health– Intermittent fasting has proved to improve heart rates and blood pressure. It reduces LDL or the “bad” cholesterol, inflammation markers, and triglycerides.
- Insulin Resistance– Intermittent fasting can lower the blood sugar level by 3%-6%. Therefore, it may be effective in protecting against type 2 diabetes.
- May Enhance Cognitive Functions– Intermittent fasting stimulates brain growth and can induce the production of new nerve cells. As a result, it may also leave a positive impact on Alzheimer’s disease.
- Improves Athletic Performance– Young athletes who followed the 16/8 method of intermittent fasting observed fat loss, muscle mass maintenance, and better athletic performance.
Precautions For Intermittent Fasting
As trendy and simple as intermittent fasting may look, it is certainly not for everyone. If you have experienced malnutrition or any sort of eating disorder, consult your healthcare professional before choosing intermittent fasting for weight loss. Therefore, before relying on intermittent fasting for weight loss and fitness, measure and analyze all the potential roadblocks for your health.
Though it is safe for most people, some evidence indicates that intermittent fasting may not be as beneficial for women as it is for men. For instance, a study revealed that intermittent fasting worked great for insulin sensitivity among men but worsened sugar spikes for women. In addition, some inconclusive studies also indicate that intermittent fasting may have altered the menstrual cycle among women. So, doing proper research and taking precautions before starting intermittent fasting is vital for women. Especially women who have fertility issues or are pregnant or breastfeeding must abstain from intermittent fasting.
Apart from the issues of fasting for women, some general concerns regarding hunger are also common. Intermittent fasting is an eating pattern that involves extended periods of fasting and starvation. As a result, it may make you feel weak and not so much in high spirits as you usually do. These side effects of intermittent fasting may be temporary, and your body may gradually adapt to the eating pattern. However, if any side effect gets prolonged, then stop immediately. Also, if you are someone with a specific medical condition such as diabetes, low blood pressure, malnutrition, etc., in that case, it gets particularly crucial for you to consult a healthcare professional before starting on with intermittent fasting.
Despite all the above-given information, intermittent fasting still enjoys an outstanding safety profile. Furthermore, there is no harm in not eating for a few hours if you’re healthy and well-nourished. So, if you can stick to a healthy and balanced diet, intermittent fasting might actually benefit you in several ways. Therefore, apart from a few preventive measures to keep in mind, you do not have to consider anything else before starting intermittent fasting. So, it’s time for you to throw yourself for a tremendous change! If you have already given any type of intermittent fasting a try, share your experience with us in the comment section below!