What Is Intermittent Fasting?
What Is Intermittent Fasting?
Intermittent fasting is a pattern of eating that consists of periods of fasting (not eating) and eating.
Fasting has been happening throughout evolution. Back in the day, hunters and gatherers went through prolonged periods of time when they were unable to find/hunt anything to eat. This forced our bodies to evolve so we would be able to function without food for extended periods of time.
In modern times, people generally do intermittent fasting for one of two reasons, as a weight-loss tool or for gut health. The majority of people trying to lose weight choose to do intermittent fasting as it restricts when you should eat, as opposed to what you should eat. This works well for those who find it hard to stick to a specific meal plan.
There are many different versions of fasting. Let’s look at the main ones.
The 16/8 method
The 16/8 method involves fasting every day for about 16 hours and restricting your daily eating window to approximately 8 hours.
The 5:2 diet
The 5:2 diet involves eating what you typically eat 5 days of the week and restricting your calorie intake to 500–600 for 2 days of the week.
24 hour fast
The 24-hour fast involves a full-day fast once or twice per week. It doesn’t matter if it is from midnight to midnight or from lunch-time to the following days lunch, it just needs to be a complete 24 hours.
In alternate-day fasting, you fast every other day (one day on, one day off).
Many studies have been done on intermittent fasting. These studies have been conclusive in proving that intermittent fasting has some great benefits, including;
Can help you lose weight and belly fat, without having to consciously restrict calories.
Can reduce insulin resistance, lowering blood sugar by 3–6% and fasting insulin levels by 20–31%.
May reduce ‘bad’ LDL cholesterol, blood triglycerides, inflammatory markers, blood sugar, and insulin resistance.
Increases the brain hormone BDNF and may aid the growth of new nerve cells.
Breaking it down, fasting works for weight loss as it is a tool to restrict your daily/weekly calories. We all know people who have trialled intermittent fasting and potentially lost a lot of weight. While they lost weight during the fasting period, it boils down to the fact that they were simply eating less. The first rule of fat loss is that if we burn more calories than we consume, this puts us in a calorie deficit and causes a reduction in body fat.
Intermittent fasting is certainly not for everyone and is especially not recommended if you;
- Are a diabetic
- Have problems with blood sugar regulation
- Have low blood pressure
- Are underweight
- Have a history of eating disorders
- Are a woman who is trying to conceive
- Are pregnant or breastfeeding
All that being said, intermittent fasting is much safer and more efficient than other popular diets/plans such as the ketogenic diet, and similar diets that restrict you from eating a balanced diet. There is nothing dangerous about not eating for a while if you’re healthy and well-nourished overall.
Intermittent fasting is not something that everyone needs to do. It’s simply one of many lifestyle strategies that can improve your health. Eating real food, exercising, and making sure you get enough sleep are still the most important factors to focus on.