Intermittent fasting has been practiced since the beginning time. It quickly became one of the top trending health and fitness routines. Doctors recommend it, and many religions around the world endorse it.
Modern research reveals that intermittent fasting has some health benefits. However, many people still struggle with it.
What is intermittent fasting? Can everyone do it? How can you start? Do you need to eat a particular diet? These are the questions bugging the minds of many beginners who plan to get part of the spoils.
This article will explain intermittent fasting and why people do it. We’ll unveil the history, and discuss its science-backed benefits and potential side effects. We’ll also offer a simple intermittent fasting guide for beginners to follow. Additionally, we’ll provide answers to frequently asked questions about intermittent fasting.
What is intermittent fasting, and why do people do it?
Intermittent fasting is a strategy that involves changing the pattern of eating. It often involves fasting for some time, and then eating after a while. To practice intermittent fasting, one doesn’t necessarily need to change their diet. They only need to adjust their eating habits.
Many people practice intermittent fasting to lose weight. This is a good reason because intermittent fasting is an easy way to lose weight without overhauling your diet or cutting your calorie intake. When you start intermittent fasting, you’ll be advised to maintain the same calorie intake level.
Some people do intermittent fasting because it helps them stick to a healthy diet. Many intermittent fasting methods require consuming different nutritious varieties of foods.
The history of intermittent fasting
For many centuries, fasting was part of the human race. Different circumstances like religion and food scarcity led humans to practice fasting. Fasting is among the most famous ancient healing tradition in the world. Hippocrates of Cos, a Greek scientist, recommended fasting. Plato and Aristotle, other Greek philosophers, also took to the idea. The ancient Greeks regarded fasting as a universal cure for many illnesses. Several religions like Islam, Christianity, and Buddhism consider fasting as a spiritual exercise that purifies or cleanses the soul.
In the 1940s, laboratory experiments on animals (mainly mice) publicized intermittent fasting in the modern era. From the laboratory experiments, researchers discovered that calorie restriction, liken to intermittent fasting, seemed to prolong the lifespan of animals. Those animals such as fish, dogs, mice, or yeast were restricted from consuming food for a certain period.
Benefits of intermittent fasting
Here are some science-backed benefits of intermittent fasting:
Supports weight loss
Intermittent fasting aids weight loss. No one needs to restrict consuming calories to achieve their weight loss dreams.
Studies reveal that intermittent fasting is a good practice to lose weight.
Improves brain health
Intermittent fasting induces brain hormones such as BDNF. BDNF plays a vital role in brain health. Intermittent fasting also encourages the birth of new brain cells.
Studies on mice suggest that Intermittent fasting induces BNDF brain hormone and supports the generation of brain cells. These components affect brain health.
Lowers insulin resistance
Intermittent fasting lowers insulin resistance by reducing blood sugar and insulin levels in the body. This helps prevent type 2 diabetes.
Studies demonstrate that intermittent fasting reduces insulin resistance and the risk of type 2 diabetes.
May help fight cancer
Intermittent fasting hinders the reproduction and development of cancerous cells.
Animal studies show that intermittent fasting inhibits the growth of cancerous cells and improves the survival rate of cancer mammals.
May produce anti-aging effects
Intermittent fasting possesses anti-aging properties on animals. Studies on mice indicate that intermittent fasting prolongs lifespan.
Reduces inflammation and oxidative stress
Intermittent fasting lowers symptoms of inflammation in adults. Inflammation and oxidative stress are the leading causes of many chronic diseases in humans.
Clinical trials show that intermittent fasting positively affects inflammation in humans.
Improves heart health
Intermittent fasting decreases cholesterol, triacylglycerol concentrations, blood sugar, and blood pressure. These mechanisms play a role in heart health.
Studies demonstrate that intermittent fasting positively affects blood pressure, cholesterol, and triacylglycerol levels.
Side effects of intermittent fasting
While the concept and health benefits of intermittent fasting are exciting, it is not meant for everyone, for example, if you suffer from a medical condition such as diabetes, low blood pressure, blood sugar control issues, or you are taking medication. In that case, you should seek medical advice from your doctor before practicing intermittent fasting to avoid damaging your health.
A study conducted on non-obese subjects (male and female) revealed that intermittent fasting affects glucose tolerance in women but not in men.
Not enough evidence on human subjects is available. Therefore, women should consult with a doctor for separate guidelines if they plan on practicing intermittent fasting.
Intermittent Fasting Guide for Beginners
If you have skipped breakfast or haven't eaten in a long period of time, you unconsciously practised intermittent fasting. Many people live their life this way.
As a beginner, you need to research the different approaches to intermittent fasting. The most popular approaches include:
This approach entails fasting daily for 12 hours or over and eating within the next few hours left. A popular example of this is the 16/8 intermittent fasting. The 16/8 involves fasting for 16 hours and eating for 8 hours. You can eat up to 3 meals in the eating window. To successfully utilise this approach, you need to add different varieties of foods such as proteins, fruits, whole grains, veggies, and healthy fats.
It would help if you also chose a time window. Popular 16/8 time windows include 7 am to 3 pm, 9 am to 5 pm, 12 pm to 8 pm, and 2 pm to 10 pm.
Eat Stop Eat approach
An Eat Stop Eat method comprises of fasting for 24 hours once or twice daily per week.
The Warrior diet is among the most popular diet added to intermittent fasting because of its convenience and flexibility. The warrior diet comprises of eating a small amount of fruits and vegetables during the day and a regular meal at night.
The 5:2 Diet
The 5:2 diet intermittent approach is similar to eating as you usually do for five days of the week. With the remaining two days, you’d have to maintain a calorie intake of 500 to 600.
Alternate Day Fasting
Alternate Day fasting is an intermittent fasting approach that allows people at their preferred time and eat anytime they desire. However, they are required to eat healthy foods. Alternative Day fasting has another form referred to as modified alternative day fasting. It allows people to consume between 400 to 500 calories on their fasting days.
To get the best out of intermittent fasting, you need to follow a structured plan. The goal is to figure out which works out for you.
Frequently Asked Questions
Is Intermittent fasting good for everyone?
Intermittent is not suitable for people suffering from medical conditions such as eating disorders, diabetes, low blood pressure, blood sugar control issues, or taking medication. Please seek medical advise if you fall within this category.
Isn’t skipping breakfast unhealthy?
Skipping breakfast is not ideal for your health. You’d be fine if you followed a particular intermittent fasting method consistently.
Can I survive a day without food?
Yes, you can. You can also start gradually with 4, 8, 12 hours, increasing with time. You’d never know when you clock 24 hours. Our ancestors fasted for more than a day.
Can I drink liquids during the fast?
You can drink water, coffee, tea (including matcha fuel), and other non-caloric beverages. When making coffee, do not add sugar. You can add a small amount of milk or cream.
Can I take supplements while fasting?
Since it depends on the type of supplement, and we don’t know the kind of supplement you wish to take, a medical practitioner is in the best position to answer that.
Which intermittent fasting approach would you recommend for me?
Different intermittent fasting approaches possess slight differences. You have to pick what you find convenient for yourself, and work your day around that. You also have to consider your goal when selecting an intermittent fasting method.