Have you heard of intermittent fasting? It’s a popular method of eating that helps individuals achieve realistic weight loss goals without telling them what to eat. Instead, intermittent fasting focuses on when you eat.
For most people who practice intermittent fasting (IF), the name is self-explanatory. Instead of eating 3 meals or at least regularly throughout the day, people who do IF limit the amount of time where they can be eating. The most common schedule is the 16/8 method, which involves 8 hours of eating, followed by 16 hours of fasting. If you’ve ever skipped breakfast and had a late lunch, you’ve done this type of intermittent fasting before.
When you do this regularly, your body starts to compensate for these missed hours of eating, and big hormonal, molecular, and genetic changes start to occur. These changes are part of why people so often achieve realistic weight loss goals when practicing IF.
Today, we’ll delve into the details of this eating plan, and explore the various potential benefits of intermittent fasting. By the end of this post, you should have enough information to decide whether IF is right for your needs.
Is Intermittent Fasting Good for You?
When people first hear about intermittent fasting, it’s easy to dismiss it as both unnatural and unhealthy. However, that couldn’t be further from the truth.
Thousands of years ago, our early ancestors were used to periods of famine and starvation, followed by abundance. Food wasn’t always available, and often depended on them finding it and potentially killing it themselves. As a result, our bodies evolved to be able to sustain life without food for many hours or even days at a time.
In the last 50 years, most humans have become reliant on conveniences like refrigerators and grocery stores, which have put food within our grasp 24 hours a day.
Study after study has shown that intermittent fasting is actually much healthier for our bodies than the typical eating schedule that most of us adhere to every day.
The Benefits of Intermittent Fasting
When you practice intermittent fasting, there are a few things that start to happen to your body.
Increased metabolic rate
Several studies have shown that most individuals practicing IF increase their metabolic rate anywhere from 3.6% to 14% more than someone who eats normally.
Improved insulin sensitivity
Insulin sensitivity refers to your cells’ response to insulin. Poor insulin sensitivity (also called insulin resistance) makes it more difficult for your body to use insulin effectively, forcing the body to work harder and potentially leaving you with dangerously high blood sugar. If this continues over a long period of time, it increases your risk for diabetes.
Individuals who practice intermittent fasting typically find that their insulin sensitivity improves when they’re following this eating plan. This also makes stored body fat more accessible, accelerating weight loss.
Optimized cellular repair
When a person is fasting, their cells initiate a response that removes old proteins and replaces them more rapidly with new, healthier proteins.
Together, all of these changed bodily processes help facilitate weight loss and improve our health.
Regardless of which method you use (we’ll talk more about the various methods below), most people who stick to intermittent fasting experience some weight loss. However, it’s important to note that all the health benefits associated with intermittent fasting depend on the individual eating regular, healthy meals when they are not fasting. Binging on lots of high-calorie, unhealthy foods during your eating periods negates these benefits.
Using Intermittent Fasting to Accomplish Realistic Weight Loss Goals
There are several different methods of intermittent fasting which were invented and popularized by different nutritionists and fitness experts. Here are some of the most popular.
The 16/8 Method
This is by far the most popular method of intermittent fasting. It involves 16 hours of fasting, followed by an 8 hour eating period.
The majority of people who use this method fast from 8-9 pm until 12-1 pm the next day. Anyone who has ever skipped breakfast has done this type of fasting. It’s considered the easiest type of intermittent fasting because most people are asleep for the majority of their fast.
During the fast periods, drinking water and other zero-calorie beverages is permitted. This can help reduce some feelings of hunger until you get into the habit of fasting.
Most experts recommend that women who want to use this method limit their fast to just 14-15 hours, rather than the full 16
5:2 Method / Fast Diet
This method, which has been called both the 5:2 diet and the Fast Diet, follows a unique eating plan. For 5 days a week, individuals on this diet eat normally. On the other two days, they’re restricted to between 500-600 calories. This amount is roughly ¼ of most people’s standard daily caloric intake. Most people either choose healthy snacks on these days or will eat 1-2 small meals.
This method of intermittent fasting is great for people who are worried about their fast periods. However, tracking calories on your restricted days is important, and many people get frustrated having to carefully track the calorie content of everything they eat.
Eat Stop Eat
The Eat Stop Eat method is similar to the 5:2 method of intermittent fasting, but with one important difference. Instead of restricting your calorie intake on the twice-weekly fast days, people following the Eat Stop Eat method eat nothing at all. It’s essentially a 24 fast every 2-3 days. It’s really simple, since it involves almost no food tracking or calorie counting. However, the 24-hour fast can be intimidating, especially to people who are new to this method of eating.
Spontaneous Meal Skipping
Have you ever had a day where you just didn’t feel hungry? You may not have realized it, but technically, skipping meals is a form of intermittent fasting. If you ever feel inclined, you can try out intermittent fasting by skipping meals periodically. By listening to your body, you can reap some of the benefits of intermittent fasting without putting in much effort.
Using Nutrigenomics to Enhance Intermittent Fasting
Now that our science-based nutrition experts have weighed in on intermittent fasting, do you think you’ll try it out? If you’re looking to improve your metabolism and help your body be less resistant to insulin, intermittent fasting might be a good choice for you.
However, it’s important to remember that intermittent fasting is just an eating plan. People who eat a healthy, balanced diet tend to get the most out of intermittent fasting.
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