Its difficult these days to keep up with the latest and greatest diets and trends people are using to help shift a few unwanted pounds. With many influencers and fitness experts giving their opinion as to what you should be doing, its difficult to know where to start?
One of the main culprits that gets mentioned frequently and has for a few years now is intermittent fasting. So, what is intermittent fasting and does it work? There are many questions, reasons and various factors as to why its become so popular and how its more than just a diet for some, its been a lifestyle change or even done for religious reasons…but to some its still a bit of a mystery.
Pulling A Fast One
Fasting has existed for thousands of years, as early man would spend hours of the day being without food regularly before hunting down or coming across any kind of sustenance.
The art of IF has also been used in various forms of religion for centuries as a way to show faith and personal abstinence. The Jewish faith have Yom Kippur for a day of atonement, Muslims do the same thing with Ramadan for a month to show their devotion to Allah, Buddhists fast as a way to reach heightened enlightenment, while Christianity and Catholicism have Lent as a way of religious fasting every year.
Intermittent fasting (IF) is the process of restricting the time you spend eating meals to a set length of time throughout the day, with no eating or drinking for the period before and after. It has been beneficial for many as a way to lose weight and improve health. People also use IF as a way to cleanse the body and detox every so often by flushing their internal system, while others use it as a spiritual practice to gain a greater understanding of themselves.
Its only been over the last few years that fasting as emerged as a way to lose weight and a lifestyle choice for the public, sports enthusiasts and celebrities such as Hugh Jackman and Terry Cruz, who find it beneficial for them.
Dos And Donuts
There are questions whether IF is good for you? The answer is yes, if done sensibly by the individual and not taken to the extreme by increasing the length of fasting to the point at which could lead to headaches, massive hunger pangs, mental fogging and aggression (we all know someone who gets hangry).
These may still occur when only fasting for short periods, especially if your regular diet isn’t the healthiest and you eat a lot of bread, pasta, sugars and processed foods. The other thing to consider is what is classed as “healthy” when in the eating phase. This is the part that is down to the individual as to what might work for them. I eat lots of fresh fruit, nuts, eggs, fish, protein and drink plenty of water through the day (around 2 litres), with a meal at teatime. However, the foods mentioned may not work for others, so you have to find what’s right for you.
You can still drink while in the fasting part of the diet and you don’t just have to drink water either. It is believed that you can drink anything that’s less than 50 calories, so any flavoured teas such as lemon, black and green and black coffee are all acceptable here.
Fasting over a period such as weeks or months will definitely help you lose weight, but you have to make sure the task in hand is maintainable long term. There is no point starving yourself and doing serious damage for the sake of a dress size.
If fasting is being done as a cleanse, then a longer period short term should be OK and won’t cause any long term problems internally.
What type And Is It Hype?
There are various fasting methods in use, they are as follows:
12 hour fast – this is where the person eats for 12 hour window everyday. Research suggests that fasting for 10–16 hours can cause the body to turn its fat stores into energy, which releases ketones into the bloodstream. This can encourage weight loss.
This type of IF may be a good option for beginners as the fasting window is relatively small, with most of the fasting occurring during sleep. For example, a person could choose to fast between 7pm and 7am. They would need to finish their dinner before 7pm and wait until 7am to eat breakfast but would be asleep for much of the time in between.
16 hour fast – Fasting for 16 hours a day, leaving an eating window of 8 hours, is called the 16:8 method.
During the 16:8 diet, men fast for 16 hours each day and women fast for 14 hours. On this fast, people usually finish their evening meal by 8 p.m. and then skip breakfast the next day, not eating again until noon. The amount of time fasting can lower insulin levels and increase weight loss.
The 5:2 fast – People following the 5:2 diet eat standard amounts of food for 5 days and reduce calorie intake on the other 2 days. During the 2 fasting days, men generally consume 600 calories and women 500 calories.
People generally separate their fasting days in the week. For example, they may fast on a Monday and Thursday and eat normally on the other days. There should be at least one non-fasting day between fasting days.
Alternate day fasting – This plan involves fasting every other day. For some people, alternate day fasting means a complete avoidance of solid foods on fasting days, while others choose to eat up to 500 calories.
On feeding days, people tend to eat as much as they want.
Fasting On Cellular Level
What does IF do internally though? It can encourage blood sugar control by reducing insulin levels. A study has shown that people with type 2 diabetes who fasted for a short period reduced their blood sugar levels considerably.
inflammation can be reduced with IF as study shows. Some studies have found that fasting can help decrease levels of inflammation and help promote better health.
Research shows that incorporating IF to your diet can be beneficial when it comes to heart health and it may boost brain function and prevent neurodegenerative disorders, as 11 month study with mice showed IF increased their brain function and brain structure. Studies show that fasting can increase levels of human growth hormone (HGH), an important protein hormone that plays a role in growth, metabolism, weight loss and muscle strength.
Various animal studies have found that IF could delay aging and increase longevity, but human research is still lacking. Some animal and test-tube studies suggest that fasting could block tumor development and increase the effectiveness of chemotherapy.
If you have tried IF or know somebody that has please comment below, I would love to know how you got on with it and found it beneficial to you.