One of the hottest diets and nutrition trends nowadays is intermittent fasting. People seem to be giving a lot of attention to this method because it has a great potential in losing weight, in improving the blood sugar metabolism, slow ageing and reversing diabetes or DNA damage.
As its names implies, intermittent fasting means to voluntarily submit to eating nothing for extended periods of time. Also known as time-restricted eating, this concept is mostly an umbrella that includes different approaches, most of them alternating day fasting with restricted eating windows.
Doing this, your body will start burning fat for fuel instead of glucose, helping you shed weight this way.
Short-term abstention from food can improve your health by giving your gut a much-needed break from processing food, by providing you daily structure, breaking this way the habit of snacking and making it easier to recognise contentment and fullness, so you’ll not be eating sooner than you should.
Intermittent fasting is not about deprivation but about mindful eating. It means you are establishing a healthier relationship with food and that can help you live longer.
Here are the most common types of fasting:
This method requires to extend the duration of overnight fasting from 12 to 20 hours, basically shrinking the window of time in which you eat every day. You have the option to skip breakfast or dinner or you can just compress all three meals in this short period of time.
The most common approach, the 16:8 version it involves 8 hours when you can eat as many meals as you want and 16 hours of fasting. You are allowed to drink water, non-caloric beverages and coffee while fasting and you also have to eat only healthy foods when compressing your meals. This method is mostly used by obese people who want to lose weight and need to lower their blood pressure.
Popularised by nutritional expert Ori Hogmekler, the Warrior Diet is another time-restricted approach that extends the fasting period to 20 hours, shrinking the eating window to 4 hours a night. However, snacking is allowed during the day as long as it involves raw fruits and vegetables.
Just as its name says, this method implies 24 hours of fasting and it is usually happening once or twice per week. Of course, there are variation of the method, 5:2 being one of the popular approaches where you have two days of consuming around 500 calories each day and five days of normal food intake. Popularised by Dr. Michael Mosley this method is the only one that requires you to count calories in the “almost fasting” days.
But all of these approaches are quite flexible since they became mostly a way of living, so it is OK if you don’t feel like fasting in times of stress or if you overeat during holidays.
Overall, intermittent fasting can have great benefits for your health but if you want to optimise this time-restricted diet, here are some simple advice to follow:
- Choose an eating period that is more realistic, such as 8-12 hours;
- Try to stop eating at least two hours before bedtime;
- Pre-plan your eating intervals for the next two meals;
- If you really want to snack try to do it two times a day, the most;
- Choose a snack of 100-200 calories if you get signs of hunger;
- Be mindful of your portion size;
- Stay hydrated with lots of water or other low-calorie beverages;
- Make sure you have a varied diet: fruits, veggies, whole grains, moderate amount of lean protein, non-fat dairy;
- Limit starchy carbohydrates like bread, rice, pasta, potatoes and cereals;
- Focus on lean protein on the low-calorie days;
- Be careful on your “standard eating” days;
- Try to avoid overeating;
- Have three meals a day;
But like in the case of any other diet regimen, it is always good to talk to your doctor especially if you have chronic illness or take a prescribed medication. Significant changes in your eating habits can have an important impact on your general health.
So, you might not want to fast if:
- You’re suffering from chronic fatigue;
- Your hormones are out of whack;
- You’re a woman trying to maximise fertility;
- You suffer from an eating disorder;
- You’re under a lot of stress at work or at home;
If you are already a healthy eater but you need some structure, if you are a snacker and you need to compress your eating habits or if you’re not in touch with your body’s fullness or hunger signals, intermittent fasting can be a good solution for you.
Making nutrient-smart choices and adjusting the time of your eating can help you loose weight but not only.
Let’s see together what other benefits can intermittent fasting have beside burning fat:
- Improvements in metabolic health;
- Increased insulin sensitivity;
- Reduction in risk for cardiovascular disease;
- Prevents neurological disorder and other chronic conditions;
- Protects against memory loss;
But how does intermittent fasting works?
So, your body needs food to function. This food is breaking down during digestion into sugar that your cells can use to create energy. In case they don’t use all the available glucose, it gets stored as fat. When you’re fasting, your cells use that fat to produce energy instead of glucose, thus fat gets burned up and you lose weight. Experts have suggested that this shift happens mostly after 10 to 16 hours of not eating. Other studies suggest that the breakdown of proteins for fuel will not happen until the third day of fasting. This way you can lose weight while maintaining your muscle mass.
When you fast, your insulin levels drop down and the levels of nor-epinephrine rise. The rise of the stress hormone contributes to weight shedding, improving the metabolism and breaking down fats for fuel. When your cells get stressed, they are also adapting by enhancing their ability to cope with stress, making you more resilient to chronic diseases.
Since insulin regulates the extra glucose from digestion, the fat won’t be stored in the body anymore and the insulin resistance will improve, preventing and reversing this way diabetes. Fasting can also initiate the waste removal
Fasting can also initiate the waste removal process cleansing your body from damaged cells that were a result of oxidative stress and inflammation.
Following a time-restricted diet will improve your metabolism as well, improving this way your circadian rhythm. Harmonising our biological clock with our eating patterns promotes the liver’s health, restores beneficial gut bacteria, improves weight regulation and reduce obesity.
We’re fans of intermittent fasting and we believe it’s a great strategy to improve your well-being. Did you try intermittent fasting before? How did it work for you?