What is “intermittent fasting” and how does it work?

Intermittent fasting is a diet that alternates between fasting and eating regularly. According to research, intermittent fasting can help you control your weight and possibly prevent or reverse some diseases. But how do you go about it? Is it also secure?

What exactly is intermittent fasting?

Many diets concentrate on what to eat, but intermittent fasting focuses on when to eat.

You only eat at certain times during intermittent fasting. Fasting for a set number of hours per day or eating only one meal a few days per week can help your body burn fat. Scientific research also indicates certain health advantages.

Mark Mattson, a neurologist at Johns Hopkins, has been researching intermittent fasting for 25 years. He claims that our bodies have evolved to survive without food for many hours, days, or even weeks. Before humans learned to farm, they were hunters and gatherers who evolved to live — and flourish — for extended periods without eating. They had to: hunting wildlife and gathering nuts and berries required a lot of time and energy.

It was easy to maintain a healthy weight even 50 years ago. Christie Williams, M.S., R.D.N., a nutritionist at Johns Hopkins, explains: “There were no laptops, and TV shows were switched off at 11 p.m.; people stopped eating because they went to bed.” As a result, the portions were significantly smaller. In addition, more people worked and played outside, and they received more exercise in general.”

Nowadays, television, the internet, and other forms of entertainment are available 24 hours a day, seven days a week. We stay up later to watch our favorite shows, play games and talk online. We’ve been sitting and munching all day — and most of the night.”

Obesity, type 2 diabetes, heart disease, and other disorders can be exacerbated by more calories and decreased movement. According to scientific evidence, intermittent fasting may help reverse these changes.

What is the process of intermittent fasting?

There are numerous approaches to intermittent fasting, but they all revolve around establishing regular eating and fasting times. For example, you may try eating only eight hours a day and fasting the rest of the time. You might also choose to eat only one meal daily, two days per week. There are several intermittent fasting schedules available.

According to Mattson, after several hours without eating, the body depletes its sugar reserves and begins to burn fat. He calls this metabolic switching.

“Intermittent fasting contrasts with most Americans’ regular eating routine, which is to eat during their waking hours,” Mattson explains. “If someone eats three meals a day plus snacks and doesn’t exercise, they’re running on those calories and not burning their fat reserves every time they eat.”

Intermittent fasting works by extending the time between when your body has burnt through the calories from your last meal and begins to burn fat.

Choosing an Intermittent Fasting Strategy

There are several techniques of intermittent fasting. Among the most popular are:

  • the 16:8 method
  • the 5:2 diet
  • the Warrior diet
  • Eat Stop Eat
  • fasting on alternate days (ADF)

All strategies can be helpful, but determining which one works best for you is up to you.

Here’s a rundown of the advantages and downsides of each strategy to help you decide which one is best for you.

The 16/8 method

One of the most common types of fasting for weight loss is the 16/8 intermittent fasting regimen.

The strategy restricts eating and calorie-containing drinks to an 8-hour window each day. It necessitates fasting for the remaining 16 hours of the day.

While other diets might impose harsh restrictions and regulations, the 16/8 technique is more flexible since it is based on a time-restricted feeding (TRF) concept.

You can eat calories over any 8 hours.

Some individuals skip breakfast and fast from midday to 8 p.m., but others avoid eating late and follow a 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. diet.

Limiting your daily eating hours may help you lose weight and decrease your blood pressure.

According to research, time-restricted meal patterns, such as the 16/8 technique, may prevent hypertension and minimize food consumption, resulting in weight loss.

A 2016 study discovered that when paired with weight exercise, the 16/8 technique helped male participants lose fat while maintaining muscle mass .

A recent study found that the 16/8 technique did not impede muscular or strength growth in women who completed resistance training .

While the 16/8 approach is simple, some people may find it difficult to forgo eating for 16 hours straight.

Furthermore, consuming too many snacks or junk food during your 8-hour window might nullify the benefits of 16/8 intermittent fasting.

To optimize the potential health advantages of this diet, consume a balanced meal rich in fruits, vegetables, whole grains, healthy fats, and protein.

The 5:2 method

The 5:2 diet is a simple intermittent fasting schedule.

You eat regularly and do not restrict calories five days a week. Then, on the remaining two days of the week, you limit your calorie consumption to one-quarter of your daily requirements.

For someone who usually eats 2,000 calories per day, this would imply cutting their calorie consumption to 500 calories per day, twice a week.

A 2018 research found that.

According to a reliable source, the 5:2 diet is equally efficient as daily calorie restriction for weight reduction and blood glucose management in people with type 2 diabetes.

Another study discovered that the 5:2 diet was just as efficient as continuous calorie restriction for weight loss and the prevention of metabolic disorders such as heart disease and diabetes .

The 5:2 diet allows you to choose which days you fast, and there are no limits about what or when you eat on full-calorie days.

However, it’s worth noting that eating “normally” on full-calorie days does not entitle you to eat everything you want.

Even if it’s only for two days a week, limiting oneself to 500 calories per day is difficult. Furthermore, eating too few calories may cause you to feel uncomfortable or faint.

The 5:2 diet can be beneficial, but it is not suitable for everyone. Consult your doctor to discover whether the 5:2 diet is good for you.

Eat Stop Eat

Eat Stop Eat is an unorthodox intermittent fasting technique promoted by Brad Pilon, author of “Eat Stop Eat.”

This intermittent fasting method entails choosing one or two non-consecutive days every week to go without eating or fast for 24 hours.

You can eat anything you like the rest of the week, but it’s best to eat a well-balanced diet and avoid overindulging.

The logic behind a weekly 24-hour fast is that eating fewer calories will result in weight loss.

Fasting for up to 24 hours might trigger a metabolic shift in which your body uses fat as an energy source rather than glucose .

However, foregoing meals for 24 hours at a time takes a lot of effort and may lead to bingeing and overeating later. It may also result in disordered eating habits.

More study on the Eat Stop Eat diet must establish its possible health advantages and weight reduction qualities.

Before attempting Eat Stop Eat, please consult with your doctor to see whether it is a viable weight reduction option for you.

Alternate-day fasting

Alternate-day fasting is an intermittent fasting strategy with a simple framework. You fast every other day on this regimen but can eat whatever you want on the non-fasting days.

Some variations of this diet advocate a “modified” fasting technique that entails ingesting 500 calories on fasting days. Other variants, on the other hand, exclude calories entirely on fasting days.

Alternate-day fasting has been shown to help people lose weight.

In a randomized pilot investigation of people with obesity, alternate-day fasting was shown to be equally efficient for weight loss as daily calorie restriction .

Another study indicated that after alternating between 36 hours of fasting and 12 hours of emotional eating for four weeks, individuals consumed 35% fewer calories and lost an average of 7.7 pounds (3.5 kg).

Incorporating exercise into your daily routine can assist you if you want to lose weight.

According to research, combining alternate-day fasting with endurance exercise may result in double the weight reduction as merely fasting .

Fasting every other day might be challenging, especially if you’re new to fasting. However, overeating on non-fasting days might be tempting as well.

If you’re new to intermittent fasting, start slowly with a reduced fasting regimen.

Whether you start with a reduced fasting plan or a complete fast, eating a nutritious meal with high-protein foods and low-calorie veggies is essential to help you feel full.

The Warrior diet

The Warrior Diet is an intermittent fasting strategy based on ancient warriors’ feeding habits.

The Warrior Diet, developed by Ori Hofmekler in 2001, is more intense than the 16:8 technique but less restricted than the Eat Fast Eat method.

It entails eating relatively little throughout the day and then eating as much as wanted during a 4-hour window at night.

During the 20-hour fast, dieters are encouraged to consume tiny amounts of dairy products, hard-boiled eggs, raw fruits and vegetables, and non-calorie drinks.

After a 20-hour fast, people can eat anything they want for four hours, although unprocessed, nutritious, and organic meals are suggested.

While there is no particular study on the Warrior Diet, human studies show that time-restricted meal cycles can result in weight loss .

Other health advantages of time-restricted eating cycles are unknown. However, time-restricted feeding cycles have been shown in studies to prevent diabetes, reduce tumor growth, postpone aging, and enhance longevity in animals .

More study on the Warrior Diet is needed to appreciate its weight reduction advantages properly.

The Warrior Diet may be tough to follow since it limits significant calorie consumption to only 4 hours daily. As a result, overindulgence at night is a widespread issue.

The Warrior Diet may also result in problematic eating habits. If you’re up for the task, see your doctor to discover if it’s suitable.

What may I consume when fasting intermittently?

Water and zero-calorie liquids such as black coffee and tea are permitted while you are not eating.

And “regularly eating” throughout your eating intervals does not imply going insane. However, if you fill your meals with high-calorie junk food, super-sized fried foods, and desserts, you’re unlikely to lose weight or get healthy.

What Williams appreciates about intermittent fasting is that it allows for various things to be eaten — and savored. “We want people to be conscious and enjoy delicious, nutritious meals,” she explains. In addition, she says that dining with people and sharing the mealtime experience increases enjoyment and promotes good health.

Whether you’re trying intermittent fasting or not, Williams, like other nutrition experts, believes the Mediterranean diet is an excellent model for what to consume. You can’t go wrong when it comes to complex, unprocessed carbs like whole grains, leafy greens, healthy fats, and lean protein.

The Advantages of Intermittent Fasting

According to research, intermittent fasting does more than only burn fat. “Changes in this metabolic switch influence the body and brain,” Mattson adds.

One of Mattson’s investigations, which was published in the New England Journal of Medicine, provided information concerning various health advantages linked with the practice. These include living a longer life, having a slimmer physique, and having a sharper intellect.

“During intermittent fasting, numerous things happen that can protect organs against chronic illnesses including type 2 diabetes, heart disease, age-related neurological disorders, even inflammatory bowel disease and many malignancies,” he explains.

Here are some of the benefits of intermittent fasting that have been discovered thus far:

  • Memory and thinking According to research, intermittent fasting improve working memory in animals and verbal memory in adults.
  • Cardiovascular health. Intermittent fasting increased blood pressure, resting heart rate, and other heart-related measures.
  • Physical ability. Fasting for 16 hours reduced fat while retaining muscular mass in young males. In addition, mice fed on alternate days have more endurance when running.
  • Obesity and diabetes Intermittent fasting prevented obesity in animal trials. In six brief experiments, obese adult individuals lost weight by fasting intermittently.
  • Tissue well-being. Intermittent fasting decreased tissue damage and enhanced surgical outcomes in rats.

Is intermittent fasting safe?

Some people use intermittent fasting to lose weight, while others treat chronic diseases like irritable bowel syndrome, high cholesterol, or arthritis. However, intermittent fasting is not suitable for everyone.

Williams emphasizes that you should consult your primary care practitioner before attempting intermittent fasting (or any diet). In addition, some people should avoid attempting intermittent fasting:

  • Children and teenagers under the age of 18.
  • Women who are pregnant or nursing.
  • People who have diabetes or blood sugar issues.
  • Those who have had an eating disorder in the past.

However, according to Williams, people who are not in these groups and can safely practice intermittent fasting can continue the diet indefinitely. “It may be a lifestyle shift with advantages,” she explains.

Keep in mind that various people will react differently to intermittent fasting. Consult your doctor if you have unusual anxiety, headaches, nausea, or other symptoms after beginning intermittent fasting.

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