Intermittent fasting is all the rage right now. But what is intermittent fasting? How do you do intermittent fasting? What are the benefits of intermittent fasting? Dangers of intermittent fasting?
What is intermittent fasting?
Intermittent fasting is an eating pattern that involves timed cycles of eating and fasting (not eating). It is also known as “time-restricted eating”. Technically, we already fast intermittently by eating 3 meals a day — eat breakfast, fast 4-6 hours, eat lunch, fast 6 hours, eat dinner, fast 12 hours. But the concept of intermittent fasting for weight loss or for health benefits typically involves longer periods without food.
How do you do intermittent fasting?
There are many different ways to do it, but the most common methods involve fasting for 16-24 hours, and eating only during a specific window of time each day.
There are several different versions of intermittent fasting, but the most popular ones are:
- 16/8 fasting: This is the most common version of intermittent fasting. You eat meals and snacks normally for 8 hours a day (typically lunchtime until 7 or 8 pm), and fast for the remaining 16 hours.
- 5:2 fasting: On this diet, you eat as you normally do for 5 days per week, and restrict your calories to 500-600 on the other 2 days.
- Eat-stop-eat fasting: This involves fasting for a full 24 hours once or twice a week.
- Alternate-day fasting: This involves fasting every other day.
Benefits of intermittent fasting
There are many potential benefits to intermittent fasting, including:
- Weight loss: Intermittent fasting can help you lose weight by reducing your total calorie intake and increasing your metabolism.
- Improved blood sugar control: Intermittent fasting can help improve blood sugar control in people with type 2 diabetes.
- Reduced inflammation: Intermittent fasting can help reduce inflammation throughout the body.
- Improved mental clarity: fasting can help improve mental clarity and focus.
- Increased energy levels: Intermittent fasting can help increase energy levels and reduce fatigue.
- Improved sleep: IF has been shown to help improve sleep quality.
However, it’s important to note that intermittent fasting is not a magic bullet for weight loss, or for anything else! It’s important to talk to a qualified health expert before making big changes to your diet, especially if you have any underlying health conditions.
Here are some of the scientific studies that support the benefits of intermittent fasting:
- A study published in the journal Diabetes Care found that intermittent fasting was effective in helping people with type 2 diabetes lose weight and improve their blood sugar control.
- A study published in the journal “Cell Metabolism” found that intermittent fasting was effective in reducing inflammation.
- A study published in the journal Nature Reviews. Neuroscience. found that intermittent fasting was effective in improving mental clarity and focus
- A study published in the journal “Medicine and Science in Sports and Exercise” found that intermittent fasting was effective in increasing energy levels and reducing fatigue (well, in mice at least).
- A study published in the journal “Sleep” found that intermittent fasting was effective in improving sleep quality in mice.
Problems with intermittent fasting
Intermittent fasting can have some negative consequences, such as:
- Hunger: Intermittent fasting can make you feel hungry, especially if you’re not used to it.
- Headaches: Intermittent fasting can cause headaches, especially if you’re not used to it.
- Fatigue: Intermittent fasting can make you feel tired, especially if you’re not used to it.
- Irritability: Intermittent fasting can make you feel irritable, especially if you’re not used to it.
- Depression: Intermittent fasting can worsen depression symptoms in people who are already depressed.
- Anemia: Intermittent fasting can cause anemia, especially if you’re not getting enough iron in your diet.
- Kidney stones: Intermittent fasting can increase the risk of kidney stones.
- Eating disorders: Intermittent fasting can trigger or worsen eating disorders in people who are already at risk.
Going longer periods without food is not for everyone, though. Here are some of the contraindications for intermittent fasting:
- Pregnant women and breastfeeding mothers
- Children and teenagers
- People with a history of eating disorders
- People with severe kidney or liver disease
- People with diabetes that is not well-controlled
- People with a history of fainting or dizziness
- People who are taking certain medications, such as blood thinners or insulin
What Do Nutritionists Say About Intermittent Fasting?
Nutritionists have mixed opinions on intermittent fasting. Some believe that it is a safe and effective way to lose weight and improve health, while others believe that it is too restrictive and can have negative side effects.
There is some scientific evidence to support the benefits of intermittent fasting. Studies have shown that intermittent fasting can help to reduce body fat, improve blood sugar control, and increase insulin sensitivity. It may also have other health benefits, such as reducing the risk of heart disease and cancer.
However, there are also some potential risks associated with intermittent fasting. If you are not careful, it can lead to malnutrition, nutrient deficiencies, excessive hunger, or even disordered eating. This is why you should consult with a qualified nutrition coach or health coach. It’s important to design the right nutrition plan for YOU!
Here’s a recap (for those who skip to the end):
Intermittent fasting is a safe and effective way to lose weight and improve health for most people.
Here are some of the pros and cons:
- Can help to lose weight and improve body composition
- May improve blood sugar control and insulin sensitivity
- May have other health benefits, such as reducing the risk of heart disease and cancer
- Can be difficult to stick to, especially if you are not used to going long periods without eating.
- May lead to excessive hunger, increased cravings, or overeating during the eating window.
- Not suitable for everyone, such as pregnant women, people with diabetes, and people with eating disorders.
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