All About Intermittent Fasting: Food, Benefits DOs & DON’Ts
People all over the world have been trying to achieve their fitness goals in some way or another. Now their fitness goals can vary, but those who have ever tried practically achieving them will agree that along with proper exercise, diet and nutrition is important.
Some want to lose weight, some want to gain and some want to add on muscle mass. In the end, everyone wants their body to look aesthetically pleasing.
There are diet choices and exercise patterns floating around for everyone to choose from depending on the kind of physique they are trying to achieve.
However, if your goal is primarily weight loss then intermittent fasting is something you should consider trying. Knowing how what and most importantly when to feed your body becomes very crucial if you want to see some good and long-lasting results.
What Is Intermittent Fasting?
Intermittent fasting is more like a lifestyle pattern rather than a form of diet. It doesn't tell you what to eat but suggests how and when you should eat.
"In intermittent fasting, you basically go on a water fast. You can drink water but cannot eat anything."
Now the phrase intermittent fasting itself gives away its meaning of what it's like and what it’s about.
To fast is to abstain from having all kinds of food and intermittent is doing the same at regular intervals. So, you alternate between cycles of eating and not eating anything at all.
How Does It Work?
Long story short, here is how fasting works-
Your body uses up the stored glucose and begins to break down fat in order to get energy.
You enter into the state of fasting 8-10 hours after your last meal. After 12 to 14 hours your body begins to break down fat in order to get energy as the glucose reserves have been depleted. All this in turn slowly causes fat and weight loss.
Is Fasting Same As Starvation?
It's a misconception that fasting and starvation are the same things. Fasting means to abstain from eating food, this is done in moderation. It is a monitored process done for a controlled period of time after which the body is supplied with adequate nutrition.
On the other hand, starvation is the absence of nutrition where essential vitamins and micronutrients aren't there to support life. Starvation is something which is forced upon and something a person doesn't choose.
Intermittent fasting should not be confused with starvation. It doesn't ask you to starve yourself but it promotes the practice of fasting for a controlled duration of time after which you have to provide proper nutrition to your body.
Is It A Brand New Concept?
Fasting isn't a new concept at all.
No one suddenly created it out of the blue.
It has been there for thousands of years in the human civilization. Our ancestors have been doing it for reasons that range from religion to lack of food so we know that it can be done and it's safe.
There is nothing unnatural about fasting.
We unknowingly get into a state of fasting as we sleep. We fast when we skip meals or refuse to eat when we are sick.
Now fasting solely with the intention of losing weight has recently gained popularity because of the promising results that it shows. It is fairly easy to do, of course as soon as you get habitual to it. There is no harm in trying and it's not a bad deal at all.
What Are Some Benefits Of Intermittent Fasting?
Studies suggest that people who have done intermittent fasting have not only lost weight but have shown improvement in their overall metabolic functions and health as well. Here are the benefits of doing intermittent fasting -
Improved glucose tolerance
Improved brain function
Improved heart function
Reduces risk of cancer
Speeds healing and recovery
Reduces oxidative stress
A study also suggests that Intermittent fasting delays the development of diseases and disorders which in turn increases longevity. Therefore, Intermittent fasting, if done correctly can come with numerous health benefits.
How To Do Intermittent Fasting?
Here are four ways to do intermittent fasting:
#1. The 16:8 method
The 16/8 method involves fasting for 16 hours and eating in a restricted 8-hour window. However, women seem to do better with shorter fasting periods of about 14 hours so a fast of 14-15 hours instead of 16 is suggested for them.
So, If you finish your last meal at 8 pm and fast till 12 noon until the next day you’d fast around 16 hours. Doing this can be simple. Have your last meal at 8, skip your dinner, sleep and skip your breakfast the next day.
During your feeding period of 8 hours, it's important that you only eat healthy foods and stay within your calorie limit. Have 2 to 3 healthy and balanced meals. It is strongly advised that a low carb diet should be taken during intermittent fasting.
You can drink water, have black coffee and no-calorie beverages, however, this doesn't include zero calorie diet soda.
This may seem to be hard for the breakfast loving people but with a little practice and adjustment, things will fall into place.
#2. The 5:2 diet
The 5:2 diet advocates a 2 day fast and 5 days of normal eating per week.
Now, this doesn't mean that you can eat all that you want because you are going to have that 2 days fast.
During the 5 days of normal eating, restricted calorie intake is suggested. Here women can eat about 500 and men can eat about 600 calories a day.
#3. The eat stop eat method
This method involves a complete 24 hour fast 1 or 2 days a week and eating a calorie restricted balanced diet on non-fasting days of the week.
It may seem very difficult to achieve but what you have to do, is that you have to fast from one dinner to the next.
For example, if you ate your last meal at 8 pm then you'll have your next meal, next day, at 8 pm only making it a 24 hour fast.
You can even fast from lunch to lunch or breakfast to breakfast. Do whatever suits you to achieve that 24-hour window.
You cannot have any kind of solid, semi-solid or even liquid food for 24 hours. Just water or zero calorie drinks except for diet soda.
Now the only issue with this method is that not many people can last a long duration of 24 hours. Its long and it's tiresome but its definitely neither unachievable nor impossible.
It is advised to start with the 16:8 method first and when you get comfortable with that, you can try the 24 hours fast and see how it works for you.
#4. Warrior diet
Fast during day and feast at night is the key motto of the warrior diet. The eating window in warrior diet is about 4 hours. However, feasting doesn't mean that you can eat almost anything that crosses your eye. Your diet should be calorie restricted, unprocessed as well as organic. Warrior diet stresses in eating raw fruits and vegetables along with a balanced diet at night.
Do’s And Don'ts During Intermittent Fasting
Intermittent fasting has a lot of benefits only if you do it right. So, fast in a way which benefits you, not harms you. Here are some things you should absolutely make sure of -
Don't drink any artificially sweetened beverage or zero calorie soda.
Fasting doesn't give you a license to eat anything you want. You will still have to make healthy and smart food choices.
Eat a low carb diet.
Eat in calorie restriction. If you eat more than your RDI, you will still gain weight.
Don't binge on junk and processed food.
Drink water to stay hydrated.
Precautions For Intermittent Fasting
- Don't risk your life or well-being in the process of completing your fast.
You can break your fast immediately if you feel that your body cannot take it anymore.
If you have any health issues or are suffering from any kind of prolonged sickness don't try intermittent fasting without consulting your doctor.
If you are suffering from eating disorders or psychological issues don't try intermittent fasting without consulting your doctor.
- Don't try intermittent fasting if you are pregnant.
Your doctor/nutritionist's opinion is very important before you start or opt any lifestyle or diet pattern. Make it a point to meet your doctor before making any big changes in your nutrition and diet.
If you are considering doing intermittent fasting or any other diet that you think will help you get healthier, taking your doctor's opinion will only make things more clear and better for you.
Intermittent fasting has gained popularity very fast in the fitness industry due to its efficiency and results. It's a lifestyle full of benefits if done correctly.
Intermittent fasting improves control on hunger as well as choosing right portion sizes.
Intermittent fasting can require some time for you to adapt and get used to it. It will also take some time to show results. The key is to be consistent and to understand what works for you and how your body responds to the changes.
Start with what seems easy to you and you'll find the perfect combination of a fasting period and eating window soon as you move on.
But don't give up experimenting in a healthy way. You can also join the Cooking Community on SHEROES to learn more about such healthy eating habits.
P*****I am a wellness coach. We help people to achieve their fitness goals be it weight loss/ weight gain/ stay healthy. What we provide is good nutrition along with healthy active lifestyle which aids to result.