Intermittent fasting is currently rising in popularity as an effective way to lose weight. Moreover, it simplifies lifestyles and improves overall health, making it a worthy option. Globally, numerous people are gradually adapting to this new method proven to be efficient. Also, several studies back up intermittent fasting claiming that it’s capable of having robust effects on your brain and body. Some studies have gone further to imply that intermittent fasting can also help you live a longer life!
If you want to know all about intermittent fasting, well, you are in the right place. This guide will provide all the details you need. Let’s dive in.
What Exactly Is Intermittent Fasting?
In Layman’s terms, intermittent fasting (IF) is an eating pattern that revolves around eating and fasting. This method of losing weight doesn’t precisely tell you what you need to eat, but when you should. It’s not a traditional diet but rather an eating pattern.
Intermittent fasting typically happens 16 hours or 24 hours twice a week. I think we can all agree that fasting is a historical practice that has been observed for centuries. For instance, when ancient human beings who hunted to survive didn’t have food to eat, they stayed hungry. Therefore, humans evolved to be able to stay extended periods without eating.
Moreover, fasting is also a religious practice that involves religions such as Christianity, Judaism, Islam and Buddhism. Conclusively, fasting is a natural phenomenon.
Various Techniques To Succeed At Intermittent Fasting
Intermittent fasting is conducted using several methods. The common factor that makes these procedures similar is they all involve splitting a day or a week to fast. While fasting, you can either choose to eat nothing or eat very little—it’s your call!
Below are the most common techniques of intermittent fasting:
Eat-stop-eat: This method allows you to fast for 24 hours once or twice a week. You can choose to skip meals from one breakfast to the next breakfast.
The 16/8 method: This method is also known as Leangains. You begin by missing breakfast and limiting eating times to 8 hours, allowing you to fast during the 16 hours in between.
The 5:2 diet: This technique allows you to eat only 500 to 600 calories in 2 days, simultaneously. However, you can proceed with your normal meals on the other 5 days.
These techniques reduce your weight drastically by consuming less calories. Regardless, if you want the method to work, don’t compensate by eating more after breaking the fasting periods. When it comes to selecting the easiest method that’s simple to follow, most individuals prefer the 16/8 method.
How Does Intermittent Fasting Affect Your Cells And Hormones?
As you fast, various activities happen in your body especially on molecular and cellular levels. For instance, your cells conduct essential repair activities and alter gene expressions and since it’s a new phenomenon happening in your body, it adjusts hormone levels, making stored fats more available. Below are several changes that occur in your body as you fast:
Insulin: Insulin drops significantly in the body because insulin sensitivity improves. Decreased levels of insulin allow stored body fat to be more available.
Human Growth Hormone (HGH): Growth Hormone levels heighten as much as 5-fold, benefiting muscle gain and fat loss.
Gene expression: Genes begin to work differently to protect the body against diseases.
Cellular repair: As you fast, your body begins to allow the repair of various cells. Some of the processes include autophagy. This is a process that involves the removal of old and dysfunctional cells that are found in cells.
As your hormones and cells change and function differently, they are in charge of the success of intermittent fasting.
The Relationship Between Intermittent Fasting And Weight Loss
The primary reason why intermittent fasting attracts numerous people is they all want to achieve weight loss. Eating low calories is attainable by practicing intermittent fasting every week. Once you eat low calories weekly, you’ll gradually start to notice a reduction in weight since intermittent fasting changes hormone levels.
Weight loss paired with intermittent fasting is assured to give great results, especially when you follow a low carb diet. A low carb diet consists of large amounts of protein in the form of meat and eggs, lots of leafy greens and non-gluten grains. The key is to avoid carbohydrates, especially the processed kind. A low carb diet reduces hunger and makes a lot easier to practice IF.
Moreover, it decreases insulin and heightens growth hormone levels, allowing norepinephrine to be released, which is a fat burning hormone. This chain of reactions ultimately leads to weight loss.
Does Intermittent Fasting Have Any Other Benefits?
Yes. Apart from helping in weight loss, intermittent fasting also helps in lowering blood insulin and sugar levels. Insulin plays a crucial role in regulating the amount of glucose in the blood. However, there are times when the body develops a resistance towards insulin, whereby the body doesn’t respond effectively to the hormone. Intermittent fasting helps correct this situation.
Also, IF increases energy so that a person can do more throughout their day without feeling exhausted quickly. It is proven to improve mental clarity and concentration. People who practice intermittent fasting have noted that they are more hypervigilant and more energetic than people who don’t.
Can You Fast and Still Exercise?
Yes, you can. Studies show that the best time to exercise while fasting is towards the end when you are about to break your fast. You will be using more of your stored fat for energy instead of available blood glucose. Experts also advise that you drink a lot of water, preferably half a gallon of water to a gallon when combining IF and exercise.
Side Effects of Intermittent Fasting
Those who practice intermittent fasting have noted a few mild and harmless side effects associated with the practice. Constipation is among the common ones, but you should keep in mind, it’s a perfectly normal response to eating less. It shouldn’t be a cause of concern, that’s unless it’s accompanied by significant bloating or abdominal discomfort.
Hunger is another side effect. It’s very common, but it may be less for people who incorporate a keto or low carbohydrate diet into their practice. Other less common ones include dizziness, heartburn, headaches, and muscle cramps.
Remember, most of these side effects are manageable and shouldn’t cause you to panic. Remember to stay hydrated and keep your electrolyte levels healthy.
Can Everyone Practice Intermittent Fasting?
Of course! However, there are some exceptions. Women who are underweight, pregnant, or breastfeeding shouldn’t fast. It isn’t advised for pregnant and breastfeeding women to fast because their bodies are already under strain. Intermittent fasting would cause a drop in their already low blood sugar.
Besides, women who are actively trying to conceive are cautioned against intermittent fasting. This is because it might increase the risk of irregular menses, hence, lowering their chances of conception.
People with Diabetes Mellitus type 1 or 2, people taking prescription medicines, and anyone with a serious medical condition should consult with medical providers before embarking on IF. This group of people can probably fast but may require medical supervision.
Does Intermittent Fasting Cause A Decrease In Muscle Mass?
It all depends on how long the person’s fast is and the person’s diet and practices. During fasting, the body first breaks down glycogen to provide energy. After that, the body starts burning fat instead. This may cause a significant decrease in muscle mass.
However, you can mitigate these effects by incorporating weight training along with IF. Weight training helps build more lean muscle mass and increases strength. Also, keep your protein intake high to aid in building lean muscles.
Tips For Healthy Intermittent Fasting
Remember to drink water and always keep hydrated, especially if you pair it with exercise. Also, keep in mind that it may take a while before the results start to show. Good things take time, so don’t panic when you don’t see any benefits by the first week.
Follow a low carb diet. It will go a long way in helping reduce hunger and making your experience easier. Also, it may help with weight loss for those fasting to lose weight. Lastly, don’t indulge your cravings. Don’t binge-eat after fasting. It makes it harder to control your blood sugar levels.
Intermittent fasting is currently a popular practice, more so for people trying to lose weight, especially when paired with exercise. A typical fast can take around 16 to 24 hours when done two times a week.
There are various types of intermittent fasting methods. The most popular techniques are eat-stop-eat, 16/8, and the 5:2 diet. IF has numerous benefits such as improved weight loss, increased energy, improved mental clarity and concentration, and, lastly, cellular repair through autophagy. It has also been proven to increase the secretion of the human growth hormone.