According to Wikipedia, intermittent fasting also known as intermittent energy restriction, is an umbrella term for various meal timing schedules that cycle between voluntary fasting and non-fasting over a given period. This has become extremely popular in recent years with studies proving its benefits.
When we don’t eat anything for a period of time, the body changes and adapts in order to make the stored energy (fats) more accessible. This also helps optimize hormones through changes in metabolism directly related to weight loss; in fact, intermittent fasting has proved more useful than regular calorie restriction. How you may ask. Through three:
- Reduced insulin which boosts fat burn
- An increase in human growth hormone which supports fat loss
- Break down of body fat by Norepinephrine (noradrenaline) into fatty acid that can be fuel for more energy.
Moreover, it helps reduce the risk of certain diseases like type 2 diabetes, heart diseases, and neurodegenerative diseases. The main reason why it contributes to weight loss is the lower calorie intake while fasting. Apart from weight loss, intermittent fasting can assist metabolic health and reduce the risk of chronic illnesses. The habit of intermittent fasting also encourages control over food and a simple lifestyle.
There are a few methods that intermittent fasting can be done:
1. The 16:8 Method
This involves fasting 14-16 hours a day and consuming your calorie requirements for the rest of the 8 hours. This is also called the 16:8 diet or the 16:8 plan and has been recommended by fitness experts. A 14-15 hour fasting period is advised for women since they do better with shorter fasts. The 8 hours ‘eating period’ should be a boost of nutritional food.
It would be difficult to continue this practice with boosts of consistent high-calorie or junk food. Liquids like water, cinnamon herbal tea, coffee and other no caloric drinks can ideally be consumed throughout the day to reduce appetite and keep hydrated. It is easiest to make the fasting window include the time of night sleep. This type of fasting helps to preserve memory and learning.
2. Eat-Stop-Eat; a 24-Hour Fast Once or Twice Weekly
This is also another popular method that involves fasting from one meal to the same meal, the next day. Again, the liquid is permitted and rather encouraged for hydration. Going right into this type may prove extremely difficult for some so take it in stages starting from the 16:8 method and then advancing to the 24-hour plan.
This method is sometimes merged with a ketogenic diet which is a low-carb diet plan which restricts carbohydrates to just 50g a day. Healthy fats and proteins will take the place of the carbs you avoid. This method boosts the burning of stored fat.
3. The 5:2 Diet; Fasting for Two Days of the Week
This diet involves eating normally for 5 days of the week and restricting your diet on the remaining 2 days to just 500 calories for women and 600 calories for men which constitutes two small meals. There is only a little evidence that this plan works and no long-term evidence yet.
A Step Further
Autophagy (or autophagocytosis) is the natural, regulated mechanism of the cell that removes unnecessary or dysfunctional components (Wikipedia, 2020). This is to use them for energy; a process that is important and critical to remove viruses, bacteria and to get rid of damaged structures when the body starts to breakdown its own contents of proteins and damaged cell bits. This process keeps the cells healthy and takes place during hunger and starvation.
This is the reason why fasting is encouraged for health and longevity. Fasting, like exercise, can trigger autophagy. But the autophagy-triggering fasting is a step ahead; an extreme kind enough to bring about this internal process. Though sometimes performed for the sake of weight loss, autophagy fasting is mostly for disease-prevention. If you want more information, then either click here or here.
This method, especially the first two, if done right, significantly help shed excess weight.
- Make sure the eating window sees a variety of healthy, whole and single ingredient food from nuts, whole grains, fruits, vegetables, lean proteins, and healthy fats.
- Reduce your exposure to food during fasting and drink plenty of water to help you through.
- Try to keep your consumption in the eating window ‘normal’, not to make up for the period you were fasting and didn’t consume anything.
- Consistency and patience, like for any weight loss plan, are key.
It is important to be mindful that despite its proven benefits, intermittent fasting is not everyone’s cup of tea. Despite it being very beneficial for some, it can prove weakening and tiresome to some others. Intermittent fasting is not suitable for those with a history of eating disorders, anxiety or depression. It is also not suitable for pregnant and breastfeeding women.
Though this method of weight loss contributes to diabetes prevention, it may not be the best plan for those with the condition already. Thus, it is best for those with underlying health conditions to consult a doctor or dietician before attempting to fast or alter their eating habits in any way.