Some of the important dietary concepts I passively came across in my medical training include the Mediterranean diet, low-cholesterol diet, low-calorie diet, and intermittent fasting. In this post, I will be talking more about intermittent fasting.
Intermittent fasting (IF) is an effective dietary method to regulate body weight and keep your body healthy. It has also been shown to help in the management of chronic conditions such as cancer, diabetes, and obesity. Intermittent fasting has been shown to improve insulin sensitivity and thus, help in the management of diabetes mellitus.
This concept of intermittent fasting gained heightened popularity in the 2010s but fasting in general is not a new thing. Even after the agricultural revolution, the ancient Greeks still viewed fasting as a form of treatment. But instead of prolonged periods of fasting, intermittent fasting was invented to allow dieters to reap the benefits of fasting without going for prolonged periods without food.
Due to the growing popularity of intermittent fasting, many researchers have delved into studying it and its immense health benefits. However, not many people know much about the concept of intermittent fasting in full detail.
In this post, I will show you every basic fact you need to know about intermittent fasting and how it benefits the body.
Intermittent fasting is an eating pattern that alternates between periods of fasting and eating. It means switching between cycles of fasting and non-fasting within a given period.
Intermittent fasting involves taking a break from the regular cycle of eating three square meals every day. Rather than focusing on specific to eat or to avoid, it revolves around when you should eat. Thus, allowing your body to retain its optimal ability to respond to periods of low calories.
It also primes the body to remove its excesses as it prepares to fully harness energy and nutrients from the next meal. The most common methods of intermittent fasting include the daily fasting windows and the 5:2 method. We will discuss these types in the next section below.
Types/Methods of Intermittent Fasting
There are around seven methods of intermittent fasting differing in intensity and relative duration of fasting and non-fasting period. Intermittent fasting is a very effective way to maintain or lose weight healthily. Adopting any of the methods of intermittent fasting will depend on your weight loss needs.
If one intermittent fasting approach is not working for you, try another method until you find the IF plan that best suits your needs. Below are the five most popular types of IF regimens. These are based on dividing the day or week into eating and fasting periods.
The 12-hour fast: This method involves consuming all your calories for the day within 12 hours and fasting for the remaining 12 hours. This is the best intermittent fasting approach for beginners because the fasting period can include sleep time.
OMAD intermittent fasting: This is the One-Meal-A-Day diet. It is a type of intermittent fasting where you eat only one meal a day. The basic rule of OMAD is to consume all your daily calories within one hour and fast for 23 hours. Weight loss with OMAD varies from person to person, but most people typically lose 2-4 pounds in one week.
Alternate-day IF: The alternate-day intermittent fasting (IF) method is a type of IF regimen that alternates between days of regular eating and days of fasting or significantly reduced calorie intake. It involves a pattern of unrestricted eating on one day and either complete fasting or a low-calorie diet the next day (typically around 500 calories).
The 16/8 diet: People adopting the 16/8 dietary plan stretch their day’s meals within 8 hours and fast for the rest 16 hours. This is a popular intermittent fasting method because it is less restrictive than OMAD and alternate-day fasting yet very effective at weight loss.
The 5:2 diet– with this type of intermittent fasting, you eat normally for five days and restrict your calorie intake to 500-600 calories for the remaining two days of the week. The 5:2 intermittent fasting method is more attractive to users because it does not cut out food completely.
Benefits of Intermittent Fasting
Intermittent fasting benefits the body in the following ways.
1. Weight loss
Intermittent fasting is an effective method for losing unwanted body weight without total calorie restriction. IF focuses on altering the periods of eating to allow the body to fully utilize available food before eating again.
IF works for weight loss by giving the body a food-free period during which it can efficiently tap into its fat stores/reserves after depleting available glucose from the last meal. Fats burning (a process known as ketosis) typically starts after about 12 hours of fasting, and IF can enable an individual to burn a reasonable amount of fats without fasting for longer periods.
When you eat several times a day, leftover calories from past meals may accumulate, and then, another meal tops it up. Intermittent fasting technically makes it a challenge to consume your recommended daily calories within the non-fast period, so you burn more calories than you consume.
Obesity is related to the body’s accumulation of fats that are not used for energy generation. It is seen when the Body Mass Index (BMI) exceeds 30.
Fats accumulation in the body can result in the clogging of blood vessels, abnormal deposition in the liver, and excess pressure on the joints and bones. IF helps to reduce body fats or increase their mobilization for energy during the period of fasting or reduced glucose intake.
Intermittent fasting has also been shown to improve metabolic health by reducing inflammation, improving insulin sensitivity, and regulating hormones involved in appetite and fat storage. Thus, suppressing excessive intake and accumulation of excess body fats.
3. Diabetes mellitus
Diabetes mellitus (DM) is an endocrine condition associated with relative or absolute insulin deficiency. Insulin insufficiency or an impaired body’s response to it is what brings about the usual symptoms of diabetes mellitus. The latter is what is referred to as insulin resistance.
Intermittent fasting helps to reduce insulin resistance (improve insulin sensitivity) so that the normal amounts of insulin produced by the body result in maximal insulin action in breaking down fats and proteins.
Research has suggested that intermittent fasting may play a role in the management of cancer. It may induce a process known as autophagy, where body cells eat up damaged cellular components and recycle the materials into growing new healthy cells.
This cellular “clean-up” process is thought to help protect against the development and progression of cancer cells.
Basic Rules & Tips on Intermittent Fasting
The basic explanation of IF involves consuming all your daily meals within a particular time frame and staying away from food for the remaining period. As against other regimens such as Keto and Mediterranean diet, intermittent fasting is not so concerned with what you eat but rather with when you eat.
It is recommended to consult a healthcare professional before starting an IF regimen. While it can be an effective means of managing weight, it may fail to produce the desired results and can even be dangerous if not done properly.
Here are some basic rules and tips on intermittent fasting to achieve the best results or prevent further problems.
i. Start slow or small
To effectively harness the power of intermittent fasting, consistency is key. Starting with extreme and unsustainable methods is the main reason most beginners quit intermittent fasting. Overnight fasting or 12-hour fasting is a good place to fast if you have never fasted before.
ii. No cheating
Intermittent fasting pushes your body to burn fats as alternative energy sources during the non-eating window. Cheating with consumer foods or drinks with calories no matter how small will break your fast and mess up your weight loss attempts, denying you of the benefits of IF.
iii. Stay hydrated
Fasting or IF does not stop you from drinking water. As a matter of fact, drinking water during an intermittent fast is not only okay but also highly encouraged. Water is calorie-free, so it won’t break your intermittent fast. And you need to maintain your hydration status for optimal body function at every time.
iv. Be consistent
Again, consistency is key to reaping the benefits of IF. If you are consistent with your intermittent fasting regimen, your body will unlearn previous eating habits and adapt to the new routine. That means, IF can work on your appetites and unnecessary cravings, making it easier to switch from easy IF methods to more extreme and rewarding regimens.
v. You can eat anything
When it comes to intermittent fasting, no foods are off-limits. You can eat anything, including junk food, during your non-fasting windows.
However, making smart food choices is important, particularly if you are trying to lose weight. Although you can eat anything during your non-fast periods, consuming calorie-laden foods negates the benefits of IF.
The secret to successful IF is eating healthy, nutrient-dense foods, and eating slowly and mindfully without trying to make up for what you think you lost during your fasting window.
vi. Remember, it is not for everyone
As good as IF can be, it is not for everyone. Intermittent fasting is safe for most people but experts have warned that you should not attempt IF if you:
Are pregnant or lactating
Have a history of disordered eating
Have sleep problems
Have a sensitive bowel
Struggle with weak immunity
Your job requires intense focus, energy, and concentration
It’s crucial to note that while intermittent fasting shows promise for various health benefits, individual responses can vary, and more research is needed to fully understand its long-term effects. Before starting any fasting regimen, especially for individuals with existing health conditions, consulting with a healthcare professional is recommended.
Additionally, adopting a balanced and nutritious diet during eating windows is essential for overall health during intermittent fasting.
I am a medical doctor, a seasoned writer and passionate blogger. Thanks to many years of trials, failure, and near successes. I am the founder of Knowseeker and our content are geared towards enlightening and making you a better and happier audience.