Are you just tired of trying out all those diet plans that never worked well with you? Or, are you excited about trying out a diet plan that would have real benefits to give you that figure you have always dreamed of? Well, if so, we bet that intermittent fasting is going to be the thing for you.
Intermittent fasting is a diet schedule that rotates between short to prolonged fasting intervals. This program goes with either no food or notable calorie reduction and durations of permitted eating. Hence, this article is dedicated to all enthusiasts keen to learn about this diet regimen, and we will tell you how it works on your weight loss and overall well-being.
What Does Intermittent Fasting Actually Mean?
This dieting method is typically about when to eat. The term “fasting” basically means that you have to stay without eating. But, do not confuse fasting with starvation. Starvation is the spontaneous lack of food for a prolonged period. This can lead to critical misery or even mortality.
On the contrary, fasting is the deliberate restraint of food for religious, health, or other purposes. When performed accurately, fasting should not cause distress and indeed never death.
When most of the diet plans you have followed so far are about what to eat and what is not, intermittent fasting becomes a game-changer. Intermittent fasting or periodical refraining from food or drink can take many modes. It can vary from the number of fasting days to which days you reduce calories to the recommended amount of calories you split from your diet. It is encouraged to improve body structure by dropping fat mass and weight. Moreover, it helps with health signs connected with diseases, such as cholesterol levels and blood pressure.
Generally, fasting requires a constant denial of food and beverages. This can be for any stretch of time, from a few hours up to a few days. Or under medical guidance for even a week or more. You may start a fast at any time of your choice, and you may also terminate a fast at preference. As an example, you may fast between dinner and breakfast the following day, a time duration of roughly 12-14 hours. In that thought, intermittent fasting can be counted as a component of ordinary life.
How Does Intermittent Fasting Work in Our Body?
According to the experts, after hours without food, the body consumes its sugar stocks and begins burning fat. They refer to this process as “metabolic switching”. On that note, we can see that Intermittent fasting makes instinctive understanding. The food we consume is split down by enzymes in our gut and ultimately becomes molecules in our bloodstream. Carbohydrates, especially sugars and refined grains, are apparently quick to be split into sugar, which our cells utilize for energy. If our cells don’t use it entirely, we stock it in our fat cells as fat. But, sugar can only access our cells with insulin, a hormone produced in the pancreas. Insulin draws the sugar into the fat cells and holds it there.
The whole concept of intermittent fasting is to let the insulin levels decrease considerably enough and long enough to burn off our fat. Therefore, among meals, as long as we don’t snack, our insulin levels will fall, and our fat cells can then discharge their stocked sugar to be utilized as energy. Accordingly, we drop weight if we allow our insulin levels to go down.
Intermittent fasting operates by lengthening the time when your body has consumed through the calories used throughout your immediate meal and starts burning fat. However, there are many different methods to do intermittent fasting, and there are several different intermittent fasting schedules that we will discuss in further sections. But, they are all based on preferring general time durations to eat and fast. For example, you might decide to eat only through an eight-hour session each day and fast for the rest. Or, you might prefer to eat only one meal a day, two days a week.
How Do You Do Intermittent Fasting?
As we stated above, there are many different methods and several different intermittent fasting schedules that you could choose upon your preference or as directed by your health caretaker. So, here’s the most popular intermittent fasting methods and schedules that you could follow.
#01- The 16:8 Method
The 16/8 method requires fasting every day for 16 hours and limiting your regular eating window to about 8 hours. Through the eating window, you can have two, three, or more meals or snacks.
For example, you can stop taking meals after dinner (8 p.m.) and fast until 12 p.m., noon the next day. Then you’ll be technically fast for 16 hours which basically involves skipping breakfast. However, this method may be complicated for people who get hungry in the morning and feel they can’t skip breakfast. But, many breakfast skippers intuitively eat this way.
The food you can consume during the fast:
You can drink water, tea, coffee, and other zero-calorie beverages during the fast. But make sure that you do not combine milk, sugar, other sweeteners, or any other additives to the drinks.
Have healthy foods throughout your eating window. Literally, this method will be a waste if you consume lots of calories or excessive amounts of processed foods.
#02- The 14:10 Method
If you find it difficult to fast for 16 hours or follow the first method on our list, this method comes as an alternative. When you follow the 14:10, you fast for 14 hours and have your meals during a 10-hour eating window. Generally, most people begin fasting at 7 or 8 p.m., and you can start sooner or later than these times.
Just like the 16:8, you can have water, tea, coffee, and other zero-calorie beverages during the fast. And it is best if you eat healthy foods throughout the eating window.
#03- The 20:4 Method or The Warrior Diet
This method involves an eating window for 4 hours a day and fasting for 20 hours. In fact, you will primarily fast all day and eat as much food you want at night within a 4-hour eating window. However, through the 20-hour fasting phase, fasters are urged to eat,
- Hard-boiled eggs
- Raw fruits
- Limited amounts of dairy products
- Raw vegetables
- Water and other zero-calorie beverages
And, after 20 hours, dieters can have any foods they desire within a four-hour eating window. Nevertheless, processed or high-calorie foods are not encouraged.
#04- The 5:2 Method
This method has its name because five days of the week are regular eating days, while the other two limit calories to 500–600 per day. You eat as usual five days per week and don’t need curbing calories in this schedule. Then, you decrease your calorie consumption to a quarter of your regular requirements on the other two days. This is approximately 600 calories per day for men and 500 for women.
You are free to pick whichever two days of the week as your preference. But, there should be at least one non-fasting day among them. For example, you can choose to fast on Mondays and Thursdays, with two or three small meals, then eat normally for the remainder of the week.
Eating ordinarily does not imply you can eat anything. If you depend on junk food, you seemingly won’t drop any weight. But, instead, you may even gain weight. And, you must have the same quantity of the food as if you hadn’t been fasting at all.
#05- One-Meal-A-Day Method (OMAD)
This method is to have one meal and fast for the remainder of the day or eat little food throughout fasting. However, eating just one meal per day is one of the most advanced intermittent fasting methods related to other time-restricted fasting methods.
You can pick only to have dinner, although some prefer breakfast or lunch as their one meal. Some variants of this eating sequence permit a snack or two in addition to one meal.
#06- Eat-Stop-Eat Method
This method includes fasting entirely for a total of 24 hours. Usually, it is only made once or twice a week. Most dieters fast from breakfast to breakfast or lunch to lunch. However, some people consider fasting from dinner one day to dinner the following day, as it circles to a complete 24-hour fast.
For instance, if you complete dinner at 8 p.m. Sunday and don’t eat until dinner at 8 p.m. Monday, you have achieved a complete 24-hour fast. You can also diet from breakfast to breakfast or lunch to lunch. No matter the way, the final outcome is the same.
Foods to take throughout the fast:
- Tea or herbal teas
- Any other non-calorie beverages
Foods to avoid during the fast:
- No solid foods are allowed
If you’re taking this diet to maintain your weight, it’s crucial that you cling to your ordinary diet through the eating periods. In other terms, you should have the same quantity of food as if you hadn’t been dieting at all. The potential downside of this procedure is that a complete 24-hour fast may be pretty challenging for many people. However, you don’t want to go all-in right away. You could always begin with 14-16 hours and then proceed uphill from there.
#07- Alternate-Day Fasting Method
This fasting method comprises fasting about every other day, not eating anything or consuming only a few hundred calories. There are various methods of this diet. Some of them let around 500 calories through the fasting days. However, a recent study revealed that alternate-day fasting wasn’t very beneficial at creating weight loss or sustaining a standard calorie-cut regime.
In fact, a total vague every other day can look pretty extreme. Therefore, it’s not encouraged for novices. And, with this method, you may hit the bed starving numerous times per week, which is not very comfortable and seemingly uncontrollable in the long run.
#08- Spontaneous Meal Skipping
Not all intermittent fasting programs follow a strict time arrangement. For example, if you had a heavy lunch, you might choose not to have dinner. With spontaneous meal skipping, you can just skip a meal, and it is not necessary to eat from time to time. This method is particularly excellent for newcomers who aren’t sure what intermittent method might work best for them.
While adaptability might be the most significant benefit of this approach, it also can be its disadvantage.
Because spontaneous meal skipping may assist you in lessening calories, but you are prone to overeat later.
Intermittent Fasting for Beginners
Anything could be easy and more successful when you give it a smooth start and then proceed to extremities. As soon as you hear the words fasting or dieting, some of you tend to give up even without giving it a try. Likewise, some of the intermittent fasting methods may seem too complicated for you. Therefore, we suggest that beginners like you would start with something less complicated.
As a start, try to fast for a fixed number of hours each day. In that case, you can first start with the number 07 on our list above, The Spontaneous Meal Skipping. Then after you get comfortable with that method, you could gradually proceed to the 14:10 method. This choice enables you to begin fasting for approximately 14 hours a day, most of which you will be asleep. Then, after you get more comfortable with 14-hour fasts, you can extend the time period. Afterward, you could eventually move into the 16:8 method and then advance yourself into more complex forms.
However, it is really important that you pick the most practical and attainable method. And always keep in mind that the quality of food you eat is nevertheless of absolute importance.
What Can I Have While Fasting?
We need to emphasize the fact that fasting is not starvation. Therefore, there are things that you can consume during your fasting period. Most importantly, you should not let your body dehydrate or feel very weak. We have stated the food you can have and food you should avoid under each intermittent fasting method. If in case you missed the point, here’s a brief reminder:
- You can drink as much water as your body requires during the fast.
- In addition, tea, coffee, herbal teas, bone broth, and other zero-calorie beverages are recommended. (Do not add milk, sweeteners, or any other additives to the drinks)
- Limited amounts of dairy products, raw veggies and fruits, and hard-boiled eggs are allowed during specific methods.
Intermittent Fasting Rules
When you eventually master the methods of intermittent fasting, it becomes a part of your lifestyle, unintentionally. On that note, you may have to follow certain rules that could be helpful to reap the best results from this diet program. If you ignore these facts, what you will do or have been doing will just be a waste of time.
#01- Pay Attention to What You Eat
You are actually what you eat. No matter what diet plan you strictly follow, you fail if you eat junk in heaps at the end of the day. Therefore, if you expect to lose weight, you must pay attention to what you eat. Moderate eating is the best way to deal with your favorite processed, high-carb, or sweet food. We indeed said that you could eat anything during the eating window. But, still, it would be best if you try to have fresh, unprocessed, and whole foods as much as you can.
#02- Intermittent fasting and Keto Is a Perfect Combo
The studies have shown that when the keto diet is combined with intermittent fasting, you can have doubled results. The studies further show that depending on your body size, the glycogen stocks in your body can keep 1700-2200 calories. For this cause, intermittent fasting functions better with a keto or low-carb diet. Thus, when you are already in nutritional ketosis, the body can turn back to burning fat as promptly as possible after eating.
#03- Stay Hydrated
Drink plenty of water when you feel thirsty. During intermittent fasting, the body drops more water due to the reduction of glycogen stores. Therefore, it is crucial to drink sufficient to counteract dehydration and headaches. In addition, drink a cup of tea or a glass of water when the hunger awakens. If the hunger wanes after half an hour, you will know that you were just thirsty.
#04- Refrain From Sweeteners
According to university research, it is revealed that sweeteners can stimulate insulin secretion in your body. Moreover, although sugar-free drinks insignificantly raise blood sugar levels, they could trigger cravings for sweets in the brain. Accordingly, sweeteners can make people hungrier than regular sugar. So strive as much as possible to stay away from sweeteners.
Intermittent Fasting Benefits And Disadvantages
When done correctly, you can have several benefits, apart from losing weight from any intermittent fasting method you choose to do. On the other hand, these methods could have potential downsides too.
- It could aid in lowering cholesterol.
- Promotes weight loss and obesity.
- Maintain blood glucose levels.
- Reduce blood pressure.
- It supports managing inflammation.
- Improves insulin resistance which can aid in preventing type 2 diabetes.
- It keeps cells healthy and active.
- Support brain health and functions.
- Increases quality of life.
- It can help better quality sleep.
- The potential danger in indulging in harmful dietary habits during non-fasting periods and ultimately lead to weight gain.
- Skipping meals could provoke dizziness, nausea, and headaches.
- Can influence eating disorders.
- Some may experience fatigue and even insomnia, but these symptoms tend to go away within a month.
Is Intermittent Fasting Safe For Everyone?
Although this dieting method can overall give out many benefits, some people should not try intermittent fasting. They are:
- Pregnant and breastfeeding individuals.
- Diabetic patients
- People with eating disorders (Bulimia nervosa or anorexia)
- Individuals at rapid growth age like children and adolescents
Moreover, this would be hard for someone who eats every few hours. It would also not be suitable for situations needing food at regular periods due to metabolic fluctuations caused by their medications.
How Much Weight Can You Lose in a Month with Intermittent Fasting?
The answer to this question may mainly depend on an individual’s body type and the means someone carries out the diet plan. But generally, according to the university and expert statistics, it was discovered that intermittent fasting was effective for weight loss, with an expected loss of 7-11 pounds of baseline weight over 10 weeks. Furthermore, they found out that this fasting method is a promising way to treat obesity.
Does Sleeping Count As Fasting?
According to the data by the nutrition specialists, it is said that sleeping does count as fasting. Which means, when you follow the time-restricted intermittent fasting methods, the fasting time window includes the hours you sleep. This will unquestionably be a piece of good news as you will less likely feel hungry when you are asleep.
Intermittent Fasting and Exercising
Can you exercise while following intermittent fasting? How effective can that be, and what are the safety tips to follow? We have answers to these questions in this section.
Research implies that through periods of fasting, glycogen stocks are empty. This means the body begins to burn for energy during exercise, which may promote weight loss. However, the calories you absorb must be less than those they burn each day to lose some weight. Also, another study discovered that working out while fasting led to a more significant fat loss than in people exercising after a feed. Intermittent fasting may support a person to lose weight as it regulates the number of calories they eat.
In a fasted state, it is vital that you follow the following safety tips when planning and carrying out your workouts. This is mainly because your body is much different from it since you eat less food and adapt to fasting.
- Drink a lot of water as it is essential to replenish fluids lost during exercises.
- Go for low-intensity exercises, do not over-exhaust yourself.
- Work out after periods of eating.
- Listen to your body. If you feel like you are not in a mood to work out, then don’t.
You know that taking charge of your body is really important as it is the only place you have to live in. So, intermittent fasting is one beneficial way to lose weight and enhance your overall health in many measures. It may have some possible downsides, and thus, you have the sole responsibility to choose what is best for you. Let us know what fasting method you are willing to try, and tell us how our article guided you with things you longed to know. Have a healthy life!
Sources and References
Mayo Foundation for Medical Education and Research (MFMER)
The President and Fellows of Harvard College
The Johns Hopkins University, The Johns Hopkins Hospital, and Johns Hopkins Health System.
National Center for Biotechnology Information, U.S. National Library of Medicine