Diets are easy in the contemplation, difficult in the execution. Intermittent fasting is just the opposite it’s difficult in the contemplation but easy in the execution
- Dr Michael Eades
Fasting is nothing new, and the practice of fasting has a diverse, complex history which started with philosopher Pythagoras who touted the virtues of fasting.
There are different versions as it is not a diet, it's a pattern of eating. Intermittent fasting doesn’t change what you eat, it changes when you eat.
How Does Intermittent Fasting Work?
Your body is in the fed state when it is digesting and absorbing food.
In the fed state, it's very hard for your body to burn fat because your insulin levels are high.
After certain time span your body isn’t processing a meal which is known as the post–absorptive state
The post–absorptive state lasts until 8 to 12 hours after your last meal
Finally we enter the fasted state. It is much easier for you body to burn fat in the fasted state because your insulin levels are low.
This fasting creates a fasting period in which the body will have to use its own stored glycogen from carbohydrates and fat as fuel,
When the glucose and glycogen stores are used, the body switches over to a ketogenic state and burns fat for fuel.
Basically, when it's in a fasting state, your body starts burning fat as fuel instead of carbs
Below are popular ways to do intermittent fasting
#1 The 16/8 method
Meaning - This method is also known as the Leangains protocol and was popularized by fitness expert Martin Berkhan.
The 16/8 method involves fasting every day for 14–16 hours and restricting your daily eating window to 8–10 hours. Our metabolism and blood sugar control is higher in the morning, which is why we are allowed to eat whatever we want to in that time-frame of eight hours.
The diet is thought to be more effective if your time-frame is earlier in the day so calories are burned more efficiently. However, the remaining 16-hours in our day should be our fasting period, wherein we can drink plenty of water, black tea, coffee without sugar.
How to adopt this plan ?
The 16:8 diet works on an hourly basis. So each day you can eat within an 8 hour time frame and fast for the remaining 16 hours.
The best part? You don’t have to restrict yourself to 500 calories at all as long as you eat healthily in your 8 hour time frame, you’ll see the weight drop off.
Experts say that the 16:8 diet restricted schedule gives our bodies the chance to process the nutrients stored in foods and burns away calories which rarely happens during normal eating schedule
#2. The 5:2 diet
The 5:2 diet involves eating normally 5 days of the week while restricting your calorie intake to 500–600 for 2 days of the week.
This diet is also called the Fast Diet and was popularized by British journalist Michael Mosley. He is an UK-based journalist who wrote a book named "The Fast Diet"
Recent study published in The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition found that the 5:2 plan is a viable option for obese individuals seeking to lose weight and improve cardiovascular health.
How to adopt this plan -
The 5:2 diet allows to eat "normally" during most of the week. You restrict your caloric intake on two days of the week.
On the fasting days you reduce your calorie intake to 500 calories (for women) and 600 calories (for men). During the other five days you eat normally.
However, in the book, Mosley explains that eating "normally" means that you eat the number of calories your body needs to perform daily functions (also known as TDEE or total daily energy expenditure). That means you can't necessarily over-indulge on non-fasting days. Instead, diet encourages to eat reasonable portions of a wide range of foods.
It’s definitely not easy to shift from eating normally every day to eating only 500–600 calories on two days. Instead of taking such a big leap, you can try slowly reducing your calorie consumption on fasting days.
For example, during the first week, reduce calorie intake from 2,000 calories to 1,500 calories. The next week, try eating just 1,000 calories. Keep reducing in smaller increments until you’re eating the recommended 500–600 calories on fasting days.
#3. Eat Stop Eat
Eat Stop Eat was founded by Brad Pilon who came up with the plan while he was doing graduate research on short-term fasting at the University of Guelph. He also wrote a book on the diet in 2007 (he published an updated version of the diet book in 2017).
According to Brad's website, Eat Stop Eat consists of fasting for 24 hours, twice a week, then eating "responsibly" for the remaining five days, but not necessarily "dieting."
How to adopt this plan ?
This plan can be adopted by fasting from dinner one day to dinner the next day, this amounts to a full 24-hour fast.
For example, if you finish dinner at 7 p.m Monday and don’t eat until next day dinner at 7 p.m then you will complete 24 hour fast.
#4. The Warrior Diet
The Warrior Diet was popularized by fitness expert Ori Hofmekler. It involves eating small amounts of raw fruits and vegetables during the day and eating one huge meal at night.
Basically, you fast all day and feast at night within a four-hour eating window.
It’s important to note that the warrior diet isn’t based on science in the clinical sense — instead, the warrior diet is based on Hofmekler’s own observations and opinions on the tactics he used to stay fit during his time in the military.
Timing is the key component of the warrior diet. The entire protocol is based around the idea that long periods of fasting and short windows of overeating lead to optimal health, fitness, and body composition.
During the 20-hour fasting period, one should consume only minimal calories. Hofmekler encourages dieters to sustain themselves on small portions of dairy, hard-boiled eggs, and raw produce. You can also drink zero-calorie beverages, including coffee, during the fasting period.
Intermittent fasting activates body mechanisms for extending life as calorie restriction. In other words, we get the benefits of a longer life without the hassle of starving.
Reduce the risk of cancer, but also cardiovascular disease.
It is an effective strategy for weight loss in obese adults and many surveys concluded that “subjects quickly adapt” to an intermittent fasting routine.
It reduces insulin resistance and helps lower blood sugar levels by up to 6%. This provides significant protection from type 2 diabetes.
Efficiently increase BDNF hormones in the brain. This promotes the growth of new neurons and also provides protection against Alzheimer’s disease.
Improve brain health and memory
Hunger is the most common side effect of intermittent fasting. It will be difficult to resists hunger during 16 fasting period but this will last only few days. Eventually body gets adjusted with such fast.
Constipation is common. Less food in means less or no food out. However, keep in mind this is a most common response to eating less. So its important to stay hydrated.
Headaches, mood swings etc are common and tend to disappear after the first few times on fasts.
Other possible side effects include dizziness, heartburn and muscle cramps
Since most of these side effects are manageable, they do not mean you have to stop your fast. However, if you truly feel unwell then you should break your fast. But please go slowly when you break fast and prioritize fluids and avoid binge eating.
One should not do intermittent fasting if you are
Underweight (BMI < 18.5) or have an eating disorder like anorexia.
Pregnant and during breastfeeding as women will need extra nutrients for your child.
A child under 18 need extra nutrients to grow.
Any person having eating disorders and diabetes
The fasting also helps trigger the release of norepinephrine; a fat-burning hormone. Even if you fast for a short period, your metabolic rate jumps up by 3.6 to 14%.
According to a 2014 study conducted at the University of Illinois at Chicago, intermittent fasting caused up to 8% of weight loss over a 24 week period. This is a notable amount of weight loss compared to other methods
When we don't follow fasting -
When we eat, more food energy is ingested than can immediately be used. Some of this energy must be stored away for later use
Insulin rises when we eat, helping to store the excess energy in two separate ways i.e store sugar in liver and store fat in liver
So the carbohydrates we consume are broken down into individual glucose (sugar) units, which can be linked into long chains to form glycogen, which is then stored in the liver or muscle.
A very limited storage space is available for carbohydrates; and once that is reached, the liver starts to turn the excess glucose into fat. Some of this newly created fat is stored in the liver, but most of it is exported to other fat deposits in the body.
When we fast ?
The process goes in reverse when we do not eat. Insulin levels fall, signaling the body to start burning stored energy because no more is coming through food.
Blood glucose falls, so the body must now pull glucose out of storage to burn for energy.
Glycogen is the most easily accessible and provides enough energy to power much of the body’s needs for 24-36 hours. After that, the body will primarily be breaking down fat for energy.
So to restore balance or to lose weight, we may simply need to increase the amount of time spent burning food energy. Hence, 16 hours of fast will efficiently contribute to weight loss.
Intermittent Fasting Diet
Frequently Asked Questions
1. What are the best tips for intermittent fasting ?
Drink coffee or tea with no sugar i.e no calories during fasting period
Give yourself one month to see if intermittent fasting (such as 16:8) is a good fit for you.
Consume minimally processed foods most of the time
Adopt healthy diet lifestyle after fasting for next "8 hours"
Consume more fiber rich foods to avoid constipation
Eating too large a meal after fasting can give you a stomach ache. Be gentle and calm. Don’t binge after fasting
Fridge must be healthy, certainly you would cook healthy and eat healthy. Toss away the fattening foods, chocolates, sauces, dressings etc.
Apart from facilitating nourished and clear skin, regular consumption of green tea is also best intermittent fasting as on flip side it promotes weight loss by boosting metabolism. This is primarily because of the presence of rich antioxidants.
Eat your meals slowly and mindfully, until you're satisfied.
Consider low-calorie options like coconut water or natural sports drinks can help ensure your body gets electrolyte replenishment without breaking your fast
2. What kind of exercises can one do while intermittent fasting?
The short answer is yes. The longer answer is that it depends on how you feel. "It's important to listen to your body," says Vincent Pedre, M.D., a functional medicine physician who often recommends IF to his patients.
Moderate cardio like brisk walk, jogging etc can be a great addition to the exercise regimen.
Besides, if somebody is working to increase mass and strength, then its recommended to workout either right before fast or in their eating window, not at the end of their eating window as muscles have enough fuel to do the work without breaking down.
When intermittent fasting and workout together makes body super depleted then skip workout or try yoga or Pilates. Ultimately, the best workout plan for you is the one that makes you feel strong and rejuvenated rather than exhausted
3. Does intermittent fasting reduce muscle mass?
Intermittent fasting will not reduce muscle mass as we consume adequate calories with carbohydrates,protein and fats proportionately during eating period.
4. Can I Drink Liquids During the Fast?
Yes. Water, coffee, tea without sugar and other non-caloric beverages are fine. Small amounts of milk or cream may be okay. Coffee can be particularly beneficial during a fast, as it can control hunger.
Intermittent fasting is quickly becoming a health and lifestyle trend informed by human evolution and the study of metabolism. It asks the human body to be much more efficient and self-protective than it is accustomed to being in modern times.
There is no need to follow a structured intermittent fasting plan to derive at least some of the benefits. Experiment with the different approaches and find something that you enjoy and fits your schedule.
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