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What Is Intermittent Fasting Its Benefits And How To Do It Correctly

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Intermittent fasting has become a popular method in recent years among health-conscious people. Intermittent fasting is not a new concept as fasting is an ancient practice rooted in many different cultures. Newly discovered scientific health benefits of intermittent fasting have made it so popular in recent years. In this blog, I am going to talk about what is intermittent fasting and how to do it correctly to get more benefits out of it.

Historical Perspective Of Fasting

Historically, fasting was often linked to religious or spiritual rituals. Fasting is an integral part of Hinduism, Muslims fast from dawn till dusk during the holy month of Ramadan, Christians observe Lent, Jews observe Yom Kippur, and Buddhists often avoid eating after noon. Outside of religious contexts, fasting was sometimes used to purify oneself. Yet, beneath these spiritual and social reasons, a foundational benefit was always the transformative effect on our body and mind.

Different Methods Of Intermittent Fasting

Intermittent fasting (IF) consists of various methods, each method has its own unique structure. Here are some of the most popular methods of it

1. 16/8 Method

The 16/8 method is one of the most followed intermittent fasting methods. This method of fasting divides the day into two parts: a 16-hour fasting window and an 8-hour eating window.

Fasting (16 Hours): No food should be consumed during this 16-hour window. One can have plain water, black coffee, tea without milk and cream, lemon water and other non-calorie beverages to curb hunger.

Eating (8 Hours): One is allowed to have all meals of the day during this time period. Having access to this eating window doesn’t mean overeating or indulging in unhealthy foods. It’s important to focus on balanced, nutritious meals to get the full benefits of this fasting method.

For instance, If you choose to eat between 12 PM and 8 PM, then your fasting window will be from 8 PM till the next day 12 PM.

2. 5:2 Method 

The 5:2 method is a form of intermittent fasting where an individual eats normally for five days of the week and on the remaining two days significantly reduces calorie intake.

Normal Eating (5 Days): On these five days, one can have normal meals as usual, for example, breakfast, lunch and dinner without any specific calorie restrictions. It’s still advisable to consume a balanced diet at every meal.

Restricted Eating (2 Days): On these two fasting days, one’s calorie intake is drastically reduced. It’s suggested that women should consume around 500 calories and men around 600 calories during these days. These fasting days should not be in a row; they should be spaced out during the week.

3. The Eat-Stop-Eat method

24-hour Fast: The Eat-Stop-Eat method involves a full 24-hour fast once or twice a week. This method emphasizes occasional, but more extended, fasting periods.

24-hour Fast: Once or twice a week, you’ll refrain from eating for a full 24 hours. For example, if you finish dinner at 7 PM on a Monday, you won’t eat again until 7 PM on Tuesday.

Regular Eating: On non-fasting days, you can have regular meals, without specific calorie restrictions. However, a balanced diet is still recommended during these non-fasting days to get maximum health benefits out of it.

4. Alternate-Day Fasting (ADF)

In this method, individuals alternate between days of regular eating and days of fasting or very restricted calorie intake.

Fasting Days: On fasting days, individuals either completely avoid eating food or consume a very reduced calorie intake, typically around 20-25% of their usual calorie requirement, For example, one can only be allowed to eat about 500-600 calories.

Feeding Days: On non-fasting days, individuals can have their regular meals without specific calorie restrictions. Eating a balanced diet during this period will help you to get the desired benefits of the fasting period.

5. Warrior Diet

The Warrior Diet is a type of intermittent fasting based on a daily fasting pattern. It is said to be inspired by the eating habits and lifestyles of ancient warriors.

Fasting Window (20 Hours): During this prolonged fasting period, the intake of foods is minimal. You’re mainly allowed to consume only small amounts of raw fruits and vegetables, dairy, and hard-boiled eggs. Along with drinking plenty of water beverages like herbal tea and black coffee can also be consumed.

Feeding Window (4 Hours): In this short feeding time, you consume one large meal. The Warrior Diet emphasizes having whole, unprocessed foods. It also focuses mainly on high-protein, low-carbohydrate intake. It recommends starting with a salad, followed by proteins, and fats, and finishing with carbohydrates if desired.

Benefits of Intermittent Fasting

1. Weight Loss and Fat Reduction:

Caloric Deficit: Intermittent fasting often leads to reduced calorie consumption due to short eating windows available, which helps in weight loss.
Increased Fat Oxidation: During fasting periods the body uses its stored fat as an energy source. This process reduces the overall fat percentage inside the body.
Reduced Insulin Levels: High insulin levels promote the storage of fat inside the body. During fasting, your intake of food reduces which leads to reduced fluctuation of blood glucose levels due to which insulin levels drop. These stable insulin levels promote the utilization of body fat for energy.

2. Improved Metabolic Health:

Insulin Sensitivity: Intermittent fasting improves insulin sensitivity which can reduce the risk of type 2 diabetes.
Blood Lipids: Some studies have shown that intermittent fasting can improve cholesterol and triglyceride levels. During periods of fasting, the body requires energy. As a result, it uses stored triglycerides and burns them to get the energy. Over time, Intermittent fasting can lead to reduced triglyceride levels in the blood, promoting one’s heart health.
Reduced Inflammation: Inflammation is linked to various chronic diseases. Fasting activates the process of autophagy. Autophagy helps maintain cellular health and removes inflammatory agents and damaged cells from the body that could contribute to inflammation.

3. Brain Health:

Neuroprotection: Fasting can stimulate the release of neurotrophic factors inside the brain. These factors support brain function and reduce the risk of neurodegenerative diseases.

Enhanced Brain Function: Fasting may enhance brain function by increasing the release of neurotransmitters and promoting the growth of new neuron connections.

4. Cellular Health and Longevity:

Autophagy: Fasting activates cellular processes like autophagy, where cells remove damaged components from them. This cellular cleaning make cells healthy and improves their functioning.

Extended Lifespan: Animal studies have shown that intermittent fasting can extend lifespan, although conclusive evidence in humans is still pending.

5. Hormonal Improvements:

Human Growth Hormone (HGH): Fasting promotes the secretion of HGH, which plays a role in muscle growth, fat metabolism, and overall health.

Norepinephrine: Fasting increases the release of norepinephrine hormone, which boosts metabolism and energy levels.

6. Simplicity and Convenience:

Reduced Meal Prep: Fewer meals mean less time spent shopping, cooking, and cleaning.

7. Mental Clarity and Focus:

During fasting, some individuals report heightened alertness and improved concentration, possibly due to the body’s adaptive response to food scarcity.

8. Improved Relationship with Food:

Mindful Eating: The structured nature of intermittent fasting can foster a more mindful approach to eating, helping individuals recognize genuine hunger cues and avoid overeating.

How To Get Started with Intermittent Fasting

Understand why you want to start IF:

Before diving into intermittent fasting, clarify your motivation. Are you aiming for weight loss, improved metabolic health, mental clarity, detoxification of the body or something else? This specific goal of yours will make you stick to your fasting method for longer period of time.

Choose a Suitable Fasting Method:

There are various intermittent fasting methods available as mentioned above. Research each method thoroughly, and choose one that aligns with your lifestyle, goals, and comfort level.

Start Slow:

If you are new to fasting, you can start with shorter fasting periods and gradually extend them as your body gets used to it.

Plan Your Meals For The Day:

It’s better to plan ahead what you’ll eat during your feeding window for the day. This will avoid overeating as well as any cravings for junk foods. Focus on having nutrient-dense foods to ensure you’re getting essential vitamins and minerals. This will help maintain energy levels during the fasting window and maintain your overall health.

Always Stay Hydrated:

Drink plenty of water during fasting periods. It will help to suppress your hunger and also help the body to ease the detoxification process.

Monitor Changes In Your Body and Mind:

Pay attention to how fasting affects you both physically and mentally. Note any changes in energy levels, mood, sleep patterns, and hunger cues. The positive changes that you will observe will motivate you in the process.

Incorporate Physical Activity:

Pairing intermittent fasting with regular exercise can enhance its health benefits. However, be mindful of your energy levels, especially during extended fasting periods. Some may find it best to work out just before their eating window.

Consult a Healthcare Professional:

Before starting any fasting regimen, especially if you have pre-existing health conditions or take medications, it’s advisable to consult with a healthcare professional.

Stay updated:

Continually educate yourself about intermittent fasting. The field is evolving, with new research emerging regularly.

Listen to Your Body:

If you feel unwell, overly fatigued, or notice any concerning health changes, reconsider your fasting method or schedule. Adjusting the duration or type of intermittent fasting might be necessary.

Social and Lifestyle Considerations:

Consider how fasting fits into your social life, work commitments, and family routines. You might need to make adjustments, such as changing your fasting days or eating windows to accommodate special events.

Remember: IF Is Not for Everyone:

While many people benefit from intermittent fasting, it’s not always the same for each one of us. If you find it’s not benefitting you as you expected it to be, that’s okay. There are many paths to health and well-being.

Conclusion:

Intermittent fasting is like giving your body a scheduled break from eating. This approach has its perks, like possibly losing weight and feeling more focused. But, as with any diet, it’s all about finding the right balance and what feels good for you.

Sources:

https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/27810402/

https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/27810402/

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3946160/

https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/21410865/

 

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