A Complete Guide to Intermittent Fasting for Everyone
Intermittent Fasting (IF) does not refer to a type of diet. Rather, it is a kind of timing or pattern of how you should eat. It is the way early humans used to eat for thousands of years. The process of fasting goes back a long time in history, and the practice can be found to be present in many cultures and faiths. Almost everybody can engage in this kind of fasting easily, and benefit in many ways. There are plenty of benefits of IF, including reduced risks of cancer, reduction in chronic aches, better metabolism, weight loss and many more. Here is a complete guide to Intermittent Fasting that you should check out.
What is the meaning of Intermittent fasting?
This refers to dietary patterns including severe caloric restriction or not eating for a prolonged time period. IF has various subgroups, and each of these has a specific variation when it comes to the fasting duration. Some of these go on for hours while others go on for days. These days, in the scientific community, IF has become very popular. This is mainly because of the various possible benefits on health and fitness that are increasingly being discovered.
This kind of feeding pattern tends to alternate between spans of controlled eating and periods of fasting. This is a basic dietary method that is categorized into numerous types. This includes alternating periods of fasting, where you have to drink nothing more than water, and feasting, where you can have as much food as you want. The purpose of IF is to have the advantages of caloric restriction. Some people use this as a weight loss mode.
What are Various Types of Intermittent Fasting?
IF comes in different forms, with each of these having amazing benefits.
Alternate Day Fasting
In this kind of fasting approach, you have to consume absolutely no calories for some days and have free eating and calorie consumption, with any type of food that you wish to have.
Such type of plan has been proven to improve markers for blood inflammation, reduction in fat or triglyceride levels, lowering of cholesterol in blood, loss of weight etc.
However, it is tough to stick to this kind of fasting, given that people who follow it tend to report of feeling hunger pangs on the days that they fast on.
It is a system of programming fasting and feasting days. However, even on the days that you fast on, you may have some food. Typically, on fasting days, you are allowed to have 20 to 25% of the usual calories.
Thus, if you have 2000 calories on the normal eating days, on the days that you fast, you are permitted to have 400-500 calories. This is also referred to as “5:2 Diet”, given that 5:2 is the ratio of normal eating to fasting days. Thus, when you stick to this regimen, normally you have to consume foods for 5 days consecutively. Then, you have to restrict caloric intake to just 20 to 25% of usual caloric consumption or fast for 2 days consecutively.
This wonderful system of fasting can help you get better body composition, achieve weight loss as well as ensure lowered inflammation, lipids and blood sugar levels. According to research, this is an effective protocol that helps in improving Insulin Resistance, lowering or improving blood inflammation markers, weight reduction etc. In studies on animals, this protocol has been found to reduce weight, lower the level of leptin (hormones responsible for hunger) and boosting the protein adiponectin that helps regulate blood sugar levels and improve fat burning.
It is easy to follow this modified system, which has just a few side effects such as some irritability while starting the program, low energy, hunger etc. However, research has also shown some improvements for health – such as:
- A more positive mood
- Improvements in self confidence
- Less fatigue
- Less anger
- Reduced tension
This is possibly the most commonly followed type of Intermittent fasting. It is used every day, and includes the consumption of calories during only a small part of the day and then fasting during the rest of the day. In time-restricted feeding, the daily intervals of fasting can range between 12-20 hours to fasting for 16 hours and having calories for just 8 hours.
What time of the day you practice it for is not essential as long you happen to be fasting for a consecutive time period and consume only in the time period that you are allowed to have foods in. It is meant that you should have this protocol of fasting each day, over a long time span. This is an extremely flexible form of Intermittent Fasting, as long as you happen to remain in the eating/fasting window.
This is undoubtedly among the easiest intermittent fasting protocols that you can follow. You can follow this along with your everyday routine and normal sleep schedule, in order to have the best kind of metabolic function. This is a wonderful program that you need to follow for various health benefits, such as improved body composition, weight loss and more.
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In the few studies on humans that this kind of fasting has been used for, many improvements have been noticed, such as:
Reduction in bad cholesterol levels, without any side effects such as confusion, fatigue, anger, depression and tension. In research conducted on animals, some of the early results of time restricted feeding have been in the form of protection from inflammation, fatty liver disease, high insulin levels and obesity.
This kind of fasting can be followed with ease, and shows promising results, which makes it ideal for management/prevention of chronic diseases and reduction in body weight. When this protocol is implemented, it might be better to start with a lowered ratio of fasting-to-eating – such as 12/12 hours. Over time, you may build this to as long as 16/8 hours.
Is Intermittent Fasting Safe?
Yes, it is more or less safe. When you follow the Intermittent Fasting protocol, you can expect:
Generally, you can experience hunger pangs after around 4 hours from the time of your last meal. But, if you fast for a whole day – or 24 hours, it does not mean that your sensations of hunger will be severe by 6 more times.
Many who take up this kind of fasting tend to worry that it will lead to severe hunger and over-consumption of foods. Research exhibits that there is obviously a 20% rise in the intake of calories on the day that follows the 24-hour fasting period. But, appetite and hunger tend to reduce astonishingly, with repeated fasting.
The sensations of hunger can be felt in waves. When you do not have food even after experiencing the sensations, there is a dissipation of hunger pangs after some time. Often, drinking beverages such as coffee (with or minus caffeine) or tea (of any type) can help combat the pangs. But it is best that you consume black tea / coffee through 1 – 2 tsp cream or half-and-half. This will not have insulin response triggered much. Never use any artificial sweetener or sugar of any type. If you feel, you can have some bone broth as you fast.
No crash in blood sugar levels
At times, people tend to be concerned that there can be a drastic fall in blood sugar levels while fasting and that they can get sweaty and shaky. However, it does not really occur – given that the body monitors blood sugar levels strictly. There are many systems that can ensure that it stays in an ideal range. While you fast, the glycogen within the liver is broken down by the body, for releasing glucose. It occurs while you sleep every night.
In case you fast for more than 24-36 hours, there is depletion in the stored glycogen. New glucose is manufactured by the liver, making use of glycerol – a kind of byproduct obtained by fat breakdown (by a method known as gluconeogenesis). Other than making use of glucose, ketones may also be used by the brain cells for generating energy. There is a production of ketones when there is metabolizing of fat. These can offer as much as 75% of the total energy requirements of the body, with glucose giving the rest of the 25%.
The sole exception is for people who take insulin and diabetic medications. You need to first have a talk with your physician, given that he might need to reduce the dosages as you are fasting. Else, it can get dangerous for your body in case you take too much medication and suffer from hypoglycemia. You need to have some sugar for compensating it. It can backfire, break your fast and prove to be counterproductive.
How Does Intermittent Fasting Helps You Lose Weight?
At present, Intermittent fasting happens to be globally popular for the reduction of weight, boosting overall health and making lifestyle much simpler. According to most studies, it has some excellent benefits for various physical systems as well as the brain. It can help you to live longer.
IF is followed in many varied forms, and most of these include breaking this into fasting and eating periods during the day or week. During fasting sessions, you might consume a small amount of food or none at all. When you reduce the number of calories that you have, all such techniques can lead to a loss of weight, unless you eat too much during your eating sessions – to compensate the lack of foods in the fasting periods.
There is weight loss when you avoid having foods for a longer duration. If you eat often, your body burns calories continuously from the foods that you have consumed. But, when you follow IF, you burn fat and manage to lose weight subsequently.
Many people find that they have an unstable or slow metabolism. Overall metabolism can be accelerated and stabilized by Intermittent Fasting. IF tends to psychologically lower the quantity of insulin that is manufactured by pancreas. It lets the amount of glucose in blood get normalized. Over time, the body’s pancreatic activities tend to get more regular, normalized and balanced naturally.
As you fast, many cellular and molecular changes occur in your body. For instance, your body begins to adjust to the levels of hormones – so as to make the amount of fat stored within the body much more accessible readily. The repairing process can also be initiated by the cells. The gene expression can be changed as well.
What are the Benefits of Intermittent Fasting?
There are plenty of health benefits of Intermittent Fasting.
Boosts overall metabolism
It manages to improve the metabolism, and can lead to fat loss and reduction in body weight. IF boosts metabolism, as compared to a daily caloric reduction diet. It is sensible from the perspective of survival. When you do not have foods, your body makes use of the energy that is stored in the form of fuel, so as to ensure your survival and give you the time to find your next meal. The body is allowed by the hormones to switch the sources of energy from calorie in foods to fat within the body. This type of phenomenon is clearly demonstrated with research.
No muscle mass loss
When compared to a continuous calorie-restriction diet, there is no burning of muscles with IF as is feared by many. Studies have shown that while no loss of muscles occurs, there is a loss of fat and significant reduction in the level of triglyceride and bad cholesterol or LDL.
The body, while fasting, manages to produce more of HGH (human growth hormone) for the preservation of bones and muscles. Generally, there is maintenance of muscle mass until fat percentage in the body goes under 4%. Thus, most people following IF do not have to fear that they will suffer muscle-wasting.
Reverses many health problems
It has also been proven through many independent studies that IF is actually able to reverse various health issues such as fatty liver, type 2 diabetes and insulin resistance.
The health condition, Type 2 diabetes, arises when there is an excessive amount of sugar within the body – so much that the cells are unable to respond to insulin and unable to take glucose from blood any more (a type of condition that is referred to as Insulin Resistance), which leads to high blood sugar. The liver also gets too much fat-loaded, as it attempts to remove the excesses amount of glucose by having it transformed to and stored in the form of fat.
Thus, for the reversal of this issue, there is a need for two things:
- Stop the consumption of more sugar
- Burning off the remaining sugar
This can be achieved best with the help of a diet that is filled with high-healthy fat, moderate-protein and low-carbohydrate, also referred to as ketogentic diet. This is a diet low in carbs, and can lower the burden of glucose that is coming in. For some individuals, however, it is enough already to have Type 2 diabetes and Insulin resistance reversed. But diet is insufficient alone in cases that are of a more acute nature.
While exercises can help in burning off glucose within the skeletal muscles – including the fatty liver, it cannot do the same for all the organs and tissues. Workouts are obviously important. However, for removing the excess amount of glucose that is present within the organs, it is important to have the cells “starve” for a short term.
This can be achieved with the help of Intermittent fasting. This is the reason why, for centuries, fasting is referred to as a Detox or Cleanse by many people. This can be a great way to remove all the excesses from your system. This is the quickest way to reduce the levels of insulin and blood glucose, and over time managing to reverse health issues like:
- Fatty liver
- Type 2 diabetes
- Insulin resistance
Improves cardiac health
Over a period, high blood glucose that arises due to Type 2 diabetes might cause damage to the nerves and blood vessels that regulate the heart. If you have diabetes for more time, there is a risk of development of heart disease. With IF, blood sugar can be reduced, and the risks of stroke and cardiovascular disease can be reduced as well.
Intermittent Fasting has also been found to reduce the inflammatory markers associated to numerous chronic disorders, triglycerides in blood, LDL cholesterol, total cholesterol and blood pressure.
Improves brain power
In many studies, numerous neurologic benefits of fasting have been shown, such as:
- New brain cell generation
- Immediate memory
- Faster reaction time
- Improved focus
- Better attention
Research on mice has revealed that brain inflammation can be reduced with IF, and it can also prevent Alzheimer’s symptoms.
Should You Try Intermittent Fasting?
Yes. If you are planning to start it, you absolutely should. However, it is ideal that you switch first to a healthy fat-rich, low- carbohydrate diet for 3 weeks. It can let the body adjust itself to fat use instead of using glucose for energy. This means the removal of all types of sugars, refined vegetable oils, legumes and grains like rice, pasta, pastries, cookies and bread. It can reduce most of the side effects that are known to arise due to fasting.
When it comes to fasting regimen, no single regimen is said to be absolutely correct for everyone. It is important that you pick one that suits you the best. Some individuals tend to achieve great results with fasting for a shorter time. Others might have to fast for a longer time. Some individuals tend to fast only on water, which is the classic or traditional version. Others tend to fast with the consumption of only beverages like coffee and tea. Others are found to fast with the intake of only bone broth. Regardless of the kind of regimen that you take up, it is essential for you to have enough water and keep checking your state of health. In case you feel sick at some point, you need to stop fasting instantly. Feeling hungry is okay, but feeling sick is not.
Keep in mind that IF is not intended for those who are faint of heart. Before you consider taking up Intermittent Fasting, it is important that you know about the important basics for proper nutrition and losing weight in a healthy way. In case you a dieter of a more advanced level or are a more advanced exerciser in search of a challenging new way of fat burning, you might like to check out IF. It is important for you to remember that you have to plan well and follow a strict discipline to be able to follow such a fasting regimen and be successful at it.
After sticking to an Intermittent Fasting plan, it has been found that rats have experienced better survival rate and witnessed higher longevity. However, researchers warn that only a handful of studies have been conducted on human beings participating in intermittent fasts. But they also say that it might be useful in cognitive function deficits related to advancing age. It is being found that this can help prevent various kinds of dementia, such as Alzheimer’s disease. A few positive results are noted as well. When you follow a healthy IF regimen, there can be a reduction in your risks of various cardiac ailments – such as heart disease. There may also be a reduction in the risks of long-term diseases such as chronic ailments. Intermittent fasting can make you live for 40%-56% more time. This gives you enough reason to follow this kind of fasting regimen.
Regardless of which type you intend to follow, you need to inform about your plans to your health care professional and work with him / her to attain your objectives. In case you wish to lose fat, reduce weight and have a better feeling, you might like to take up Intermittent Fasting.