Is intermittent fasting something you should try?
You’re used to eating three meals a day with a couple snacks somewhere in between. But this eating pattern hasn’t always been the norm. Before supermarkets and refrigerators existed, people ate when food was available, which wasn’t always at set times of day. Major religions including Buddhism, Islam, Judaism, and Christianity recommend fasting for various spiritual reasons, but there may be other perks.
Studies show there may be health and fitness benefits by changing the time food is eaten and the amount of food eaten. Intermittent fasting is currently a popular trend in the world of weight loss. Could changing your eating pattern help you lose weight and improve your overall health? Keep reading to find out.
What Is It?
The word intermittent means, “occurring at irregular intervals, not on a set schedule.” Often used to refer to unsteady rain, intermittent can also be used to describe eating habits that alternate between times of eating and periods of fasting. Unlike your typical diet plan, there are no rules about what you should eat, only when you should eat it.
How Is It Done?
There are different methods of intermittent fasting from which to choose. You can either fast part of the day or part of the week. While fasting, you eat very little food or no food at all, but you can still drink water, coffee, or tea. When you do eat, you’ll want to eat healthy foods and not to overeat to compensate for your period of fasting.
The 16/8 method (also called the Leangains protocol) is the most popular type of intermittent fasting and involves setting aside eight hours during the day when you can eat and fasting for the other 16 hours. This may mean skipping breakfast or not eating anything after dinner.
Another way of fasting is to not eat for 24 hours once or twice a week. This type of fasting is more difficult, especially for beginners, but is still do-able if you’re committed. On the 5:2 or Fast Diet, you eat a normal amount five days a week, but on two non-consecutive days you reduce your intake to no more than 600 calories.
On the Warrior Diet, you fast during the day and eat a large meal in the evening. Small amounts of fruits and vegetables are allowed during the day.
Another fasting option is to skip meals when you are too busy to eat or aren’t that hungry.
While diets that call for prolonged, extreme calorie restriction are unhealthy and will ultimately slow your metabolism, there seems to be evidence that occasional fasting provides positive health benefits. Studies are ongoing, but intermittent fasting may make you more sensitive to insulin, lower your insulin levels, increase your levels of the human growth hormone, help repair cells in your body, and make your genes less susceptible to disease. It may reduce high blood pressure, bad LDL cholesterol, high blood sugar, and high triglycerides; help prevent cancer; and even help you live longer.
By eating fewer meals, you consume fewer calories and lose weight. Hormonal changes that come as a result may increase your metabolism, which helps burn more calories. This combination can lead to fast weight loss. Intermittent fasting may also be an effective way to lose stubborn belly fat.
Healthy people should have no problem with intermittent fasting. Unfortunately for women, they may not have the same results with intermittent fasting as men. Because of the hormonal changes that may occur with fasting, women should proceed with caution. Underweight people, pregnant or nursing women, women trying to conceive, children, or people with a history of eating disorders should not fast at all. If you have a health condition or are on medications, talk with your doctor before fasting.