Intermittent Fasting, what's is all about?
Intermittent fasting, what is it all about?
Intermittent fasting popularly called (IF) is now a trending topic in nutrition and body wellness, but the concept itself isn't new. It has been an age long practice since the beginning of time, but it is just being re-accepted as a healthy way of living.
Contrary to popular belief, intermittent fasting is not a type of diet; it is basically a pattern of eating that involves eating for a specific period (eating window) and then not eating for a certain period (fasting window), whether on a daily or weekly basis. Intermittent fasting requires that you go through a designated period without eating at all, then you eat a selected amount of calories during your eating window and repeat the whole process to create a calorie deficit in order to lose weight. This eating pattern is focused on going for a designated period without consuming any calories.
As much as intermittent fasting is becoming the “New thing” some people are still not open to the idea for fear of some unhealthy risk that it brings. Well, intermittent fasting isn’t well suited for everyone, especially individuals with health conditions such as anxiety disorder, a binge-eating disorder or food sensitivities. However, if you are cleared of any health-related problems, then it is perfectly okay to take up intermittent fasting, as it has no known side effects when done properly.
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Types of Intermittent Fasting
If you are about to begin your intermittent fasting journey, there are many variations of intermittent fasting that you can try out just to find the type that suits you well. These variations are included so that beginners interested can find the variation that is well suited to their lifestyle.
- Time-restricted fasting - Time restricted fasting is a variation of intermittent fasting that limits your eating to a certain number of hours each day. With the time-restricted fasting, you should go without consuming calories for about 12-16 hours per day, giving you about 8 hours alone to eat in the day.
Most people who adopt this variation of intermittent fasting do this by starting at night, skipping breakfast and eating their first meal around lunchtime. With this method, you can choose to eat all your food for the day in an 8-hour period, such as from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. The remaining 16 hours can now be taken as your fasting window in which no calories are consumed.
- Modified fasting- the modified fasting is commonly known as the 5:2 diet. In summary, it simply means that you can eat anything you want for five days in a week and the other two days should be taken as your fast days.
During your five days period on this plan, you eat normally without thinking about restricting calories. Then on the other two days, you reduce your calorie intake to a quarter of your food needs - which is about 500 calories per day for women and 600 for men. It is important to understand that during the 5-day window, you must maintain a healthy eating habit. If you binge on junk food during this period, then the whole essence of modified fasting will be lost.
- Alternate fasting- this is a variant of intermittent fasting that involves fasting one day, eating the next, and repeating the whole cycle all over. This style is more extreme than the others, as it allows you to switch between periods of consuming zero calorie-foods and actual eating.
When choosing this plan, you can opt to follow a high -fat or ketogenic diet on your days off fasting. This plan is hardly advised for beginners because it is more restrictive than the rest except you are looking for immediate and drastic weight loss results.
When choosing any of these variants, it is best to consult your doctor or a dietician if it is safe for you. Don't jump right into it without a personal background check on your health and fitness status. Not everything works for everyone, so it is best to talk to your physician first as it is no silver bullet!
How to choose the best intermittent fasting that suits your lifestyle
Take into consideration your work schedule, your workout routine, your family life, and your goals. No one plan is best or the most effective; you must have to choose one that you can stick with on the long term. When choosing any plan, try to adopt a healthy eating style during your window breaks as much as you can. Your go-to foods should typically include cruciferous veggies like broccoli, cauliflower, Brussels sprouts and any type of vegetable that is rich in fibre. Fish and other good animal proteins should be largely consumed as well. Also, beans and legumes, avocados and sweet potatoes are healthy options too.
How Intermittent fasting works
Intermittent fasting is one of the best possible plans to maintain or lose body weight. New beginners might get the wrong idea that this trend only causes starvation which might even lead to binging on unhealthy food to make up for the time of not eating but this is far from the truth. You don't need a ticket scientist to tell you that since intermittent fasting promotes calorie deficit appropriately, you'll eventually lose weight if you stick with it. How does this whole process work you might ask? Intermittent fasting simply allows your body to burn off excess body fat. Burning your body fat is not harmful; it is merely a process of converting good energy that has been stored away. So the logic is “if you don’t eat, your body will simply "eat" it's own fat for energy causing you to lose weight.
Normally when we eat, more food energy is ingested that can immediately be used. Some of this food energy ingested is stored away for later use. Insulin is the key hormone that controls this process and directly involved with the storage of food energy in the body. Your body’s insulin spikes up when you eat, and it automatically helps your body store the excess energy in two different ways. Excess sugar gotten from ingested food is converted to glycogen by insulin and then stored in the liver. There is, however, a limited storage space for glycogen in the body and once your body reaches its limit, the liver automatically starts to turn the excess glycogen into fat. The newly created fat is stored in the liver, but most of it is exported to other fat storage locations in the body, thereby causing weight gain. There is no limit to the amount of fat that can be created by the liver; it all depends on the excess glycogen in the body.
Intermittent fasting prompts the whole calorie to fat conversion process to go in reverse order. When we don't consume enough calories or consume none at all, the insulin levels fall and automatically signals the body to start burning the stored fat as no more energy is coming in through ingested food.
So basically, the human body exists in two states- the Fed state (high insulin level) and the fasted state (low insulin level). Either we are storing excess glycogen away as fat, which causes weight gain or we are burning it. Intermittent fasting comes in to help the body restore a balance or lose weight by allowing the body to use its stored energy. If you are looking to get healthy results through this lifestyle, you need to increase the amount of time you burn energy. It is quite important to understand that when done correctly, intermittent fasting doesn’t harm the body and there is absolutely nothing wrong with taking it up as a healthy routine.
If you are constantly eating as recommended, you will only succeed in maintaining your body weight - your body will use the incoming food energy and never use the already stored body fat. Your body will save its stored fat for a time when there is nothing to eat - that is if the time ever comes unless you want to make it happen through intermittent fasting.
Health-based benefits of intermittent fasting
There are so many health-based benefits of intermittent fasting; in fact, recent studies have shown that intermittent fasting is one of the healthiest ways an individual can maintain body balance. However, apart from losing weight people choose intermittent fasting for some reasons especially health-related reasons and some of them include-
- It promotes improved body composition - naturally, when you are fasting, you are not consuming calories, and as a natural consequence, you lose weight. This is one of the most common reasons people take up intermittent fasting as part of their diet plan.
Intermittent fasting allows to use up all of your stored sugars as fuel and also tap into your body’s fat storage. When your body begins to burn fat stores, you automatically begin to lose weight. It helps to improve your overall body composition by demanding a calorie deficit, promoting weight loss and decreased body fat, and causing positive changes to your body metabolism.
- It helps with disease prevention and lowers disease risks - research from Halter Longo, a professor of gerontology and director of the Longevity Institute at the University of Southern California, has found that intermittent fasting for four or five consecutive days a month may extend life and reduce disease risk. In other words, in addition to weight loss, intermittent fasting can help control a handful of common health problems like diabetes, lowers the body cholesterol, and reduces blood pressure, all of which are important factors that should be managed for disease prevention.
Intermittent fasting is highly recommended if you are looking to manage blood sugar. It has a proven ability to lower insulin resistance and increase body metabolism, and it is highly recommended for patients with blood sugar problems. It can also be used to improve autoimmune conditions, which is a good way to prevent diseases. Consistently keeping up with an under 1000 calories diet a day for three-day cycles has been shown to improve symptoms associated with autoimmune conditions like multiple sclerosis as well as lupus.
- It promotes healthy brain function - intermittent fasting has a way of helping your brain work more quickly. According to Mark Matton a professor of Neurology at John Hopkins University, “fasting increases the rate of neurogenesis in the brain”, which is the “growth and development of New brain cells and nerve tissues”. This activity in his opinion increases brain performance, mood, focus, and memory.
Intermittent fasting is advised for better brain aging- it helps the brain stay younger! According to research, it is an excellent way to protect the brain from neurodegeneration (loss of structure and function of neurons) from Alzheimer’s disease, Parkinson’s disease, and Huntington’s disease. Intermittent fasting can also be used to improve cognitive ability in people with cognitive impairment.
- It helps to curb harmful eating habits - it is only logical that having a controlled way of eating on a daily basis can help you curb eating habits that are harmful to your health. Some people are binge eaters and taking up intermittent fasting as part of your daily routine is a way of putting a conscious stop to it.
There are several unhealthy eating habits that most people put up with such as late night snacking. Not only do these habits lead to an increased weight gain but it also prevents good body cleansing. Intermittent fasting is a way of building a guardrail around these habits and curbing them.
Apart from curbing harmful eating habits, it also helps you to make smarter food choices. Having ample time to choose what and when to eat every day allows you to make smarter food choices that are not only healthy but also beneficial to your long-term health goals. It allows you to plan ahead of time for healthy meals during your eating window and this is a great way to maintain body weight.
- It promotes skin rejuvenation - regular intermittent fasting can help pave the way for healthy skin care and routine. One of the most common skin problems related to eating is acne, and acne sufferers know that one of the best ways to control bothersome skin conditions is through maintaining a proper diet - eating only unprocessed foods and strictly limiting the consumption of dairy products.
Many of these common skin related problems are caused by food sensitivities which can lead to inflammatory conditions and acne; intermittent fasting has a way of curbing them effortlessly.
- It helps to boost body metabolism - Intermittent fasting is an effective way to stimulate your body’s metabolism. Part of the reason intermittent fasting helps to lose weight is that the restriction of food followed by regular eating can help boost the body's metabolism.
Intermittent fasting is more effective than other calorie restrictive diets which might cause great havoc on the body’s metabolism. Although intermittent fasting helps regulate the body’s metabolism, it is also useful to maintain the muscle tissue to keep the body running smoothly.
If you have read through this guide and you are interested in kick-starting the intermittent fasting plan, contact your doctor first and find out if it’s suited for you. And if it is, you’ll find your journey meaningful and rewarding.
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