The phenomenon of intermittent fasting is gradually becoming a popular health and fitness trend. It involves alternating cycles of fasting and eating and claims benefits like weight loss, improved metabolic health, protection against disease, etc. This article will give you answers to all those questions popping inside your mind regarding intermittent fasting.
Intermittent fasting or "IF" is an eating pattern where you entirely or partially abstain yourself from eating for a set amount of time, before eating regularly again. Surprisingly, most of us do it every day or should I say, every night. When we go to bed, as long as we are not getting up in the morning and eating, we are fasting. This is the reason the first meal of the day is known as breakfast because you break your fast.
Intermittent fasting can be beneficial to the human body in the following ways -
1. Helps in boosting brain health and lowers the risk for neurodegenerative diseases such as Alzheimer and Parkinson.
2. Ease mood disorders like depression.
3. Has a positive effect on fluctuating blood pressure and cholesterol levels.
4. Helps in consuming fewer calories while boosting metabolism slightly. It is indeed an effective way to lose weight and belly fat.
5. Reduce oxidative damage and inflammation in the body.
6. Help the brain by protecting nerve cells from degeneration.
7. Makes it easier to maintain weight in the long term.
There are six different types of intermittent fasting that one can follow -
1. Skip A Meal - This is one of the easiest and most commonly followed methods of intermittent fasting. The idea here is to skip one meal of the day. People usually skip either their breakfast or dinner.
2. 16/8 - Also known as the daily window fasting, here, one can eat for a period of eight hours and then needs to fast for 16 hours. It is totally up to the person if he wants to eat later in the day and skip breakfast or eat an early dinner and not eat again until breakfast the next day.
3. Alternate Day - Alternate day fasting involves fasting on alternate days of the week and eating unrestrictedly the other days. For instance, Monday-Wednesday-Friday-Sunday can be the eating days and Tuesday-Thursday-Saturday can be the fasting days.
4. Fat Fasting - Fat fasting is a great option for those who want to get into keto diet quickly. Here, your diet comprises of nearly 80-90% of calories from healthy fats for 2-4 days and for the rest of the days of the week, you eat nothing.
5. The Warrior Diet - Another way of getting the benefits of caloric restriction is the Warrior Diet. In this, one needs to munch on light snacks throughout the day and consume one big meal in the night.
6. 5:2 Diet - The 5:2 diet is similar to the alternate day diet but it is slightly easier to follow. In this, one can eat normally for five continuous days in a week and then fast completely for the rest of the two days.
However, intermittent fasting also has certain side-effects attached to it -
1. If done for long, it can reduce the muscle content of the body.
2. It can leave the body in an acidic state and trigger frequent headaches.
3. Fasting for long periods of time can disturb the blood sugar levels of the body.
4. The small feeding window of intermittent fasting can leave you feeling uncomfortable and constipated.
5. Longer fasting duration leads to an increase in fluid intake and can cause diarrhea.
6. Long-term intermittent fasting can lead to missed periods, metabolic disturbances and early-onset menopause in women.
7. Lastly, it can result in low energy and weakness, making it difficult to perform day-to-day physical activities.
Intermittent fasting focuses on the absorption state of the body. Indulging in a type of intermittent fasting helps in making the body shift from 'glucose adapted' to “fat adapted”. In a research published by the 'Havard Medical School', Dr. Deborah Wexler, Director of the Massachusetts General Hospital Diabetes Center said -
"There is evidence to suggest that the circadian rhythm fasting approach, where meals are restricted to an eight to 10-hour period of the daytime, is effective"
Certainly, it is not a diet for everyone, especially for- people who are underweight, pregnant women and breastfeeding mothers. According to Carly Pollack, Certified Clinical Nutritionist at Nutritional Wisdom, if you have decided to go for intermittent fasting -
"You have to take into account your current symptoms, and current relationship to food. Don’t ever fast for more than two days in a row. Likewise, don’t let a foray into intermittent fasting turn into an unhealthy cycle. Be in the practice of eating unprocessed foods that are alive and rich in nutrition."
Intermittent fasting is thus a promising way of losing weight and maintain health in the long run without worrying about the number of calories consumed. However, the diet plan comes with the fear of overeating. So, if you can control your munching and can stay on water from 16-48 hours, intermittent fasting is for you.