Intermittent fasting… you’ve probably heard the term thrown around when people are talking about lifestyle, diet and weight loss. But what really is it? Is it another one of those fad diet plans? Intermittent Fasting (IF) isn’t another diet plan. It’s a lifestyle shift and a change in consumption pattern. From helping your body better absorb nutrients to aid in weight loss, this super-easy diet plan is going to help your overall health and well being. Today we’re going to tell you absolutely everything you need to know about intermittent fasting.
To put things into context immediately, let me start off by telling you that intermittent fasting is NOT a diet plan. It’s a meal-timing plan, an eating pattern you must follow. Intermittent fasting is all about WHEN you choose to eat. In this particular plan, you have a set window where you can consume food and a set window where you abstain from consuming any food - that’s referred to as the fasting period. There are no must-eat and must-not eat rules that you would typically follow in other diet plans. That does not mean that you can eat cheese and pizza. All you need to do is eat nutritious, calorie-controlled food and you’ll be on your way to a healthier lifestyle.
If you’re looking for a healthier alternative to give your weight-loss goals a boost then this might be a lifestyle choice that you can lean towards. The logic behind this is quite simple. When you put your body in a fasting state - your insulin levels go down and when this happens, your body is able to burn fat. This drop in the insulin allows your body to use the glucose stored in your body as energy. When this happens frequently enough, you continue to burn fat and lose weight.
There are a few methods in which you could put this diet plan into action in your day to day life. Some people choose to follow this every day and make it a complete lifestyle shift while others choose to do it a few times a week. Either way, you do reap the benefits of the intermittent fasting diet plan. Here are the different methods of implementing it.
This type of fast involves eating during an 8-hour window and fasting for 16 hours. It’s the best plan that’s recommended for beginners. It’s also the easiest to implement. For eg. you can have your last meal at 10 pm and then have your next meal (i.e) lunch at 2 pm. The 16th hour of your fasting period is typically when your body starts to reap the benefits of this meal plan. Once your body is used to this shift in eating patterns, you can gradually move your way up to an 18-20 hour fast.
This plan requires you to consume minimal calories on two consecutive days of the week while eating normally on the remaining five days. The 2 days of the fast, you can consume only about 5-600 calories.
This type of IF involves fasting for 24 hours at a stretch once or twice a week.
Typically, the easiest way to get yourself onboard such a meal-timing plan is to follow the 16:8 diet plan. Depending on your lifestyle, you can choose your eating and fasting window. It makes it the most convenient and least intrusive diet plan.
Contrary to what people believe, fasting has a lot of health benefits for the human body. Weight loss is just one of them. Research has shown that people who have made intermittent fasting a lifestyle choice rather than a diet pattern tend to lose weight quicker, are protected against chronic diseases and see improved brain function.
The primary physical benefit you see is most definitely, fat loss. The good part about fat loss that comes with intermittent fasting is that you lose fat, without losing any muscle mass. The diet helps you lose weight while maintaining muscle mass, tone and density. If you manage to workout during the time you fast, you can further your weight loss process.
You don’t believe this one, do you? Most of us assume that we tend to get slow and sluggish when we’re hungry but research proves that intermittent fasting can actually help with increased focus and better mental clarity. This is because when you’re in the fasting state, your body produces ketones which are like fuel for your brain.
Over time, you will see that your body has more energy. The initial few days of any new diet or change are bound to be hard, but once your body adapts you will notice a rise in your energy levels.
Intermittent fasting helps your overall body while promoting cellular repair. It is often referred to as autophagy - the process of cellular self-cleaning. It breaks down damaged cells and helps them regenerate. In this way, it also helps your skin, hair and nails. Autophagy takes place when your body is in the fasting state.
Apart from the above-mentioned benefits, intermittent fasting is known to help lower bad cholesterol. It also protects your body from neurodegenerative diseases and reduces insulin resistance and protects against type 2 diabetes. During the fasting period, your GI tract also gets a break to repair and rejuvenate.
If you are apprehensive about the side-effects of IF, you should speak to a physician or a dietician before you start. If you have any health conditions or you are taking medication for some kind of illness, it is best to consult a doctor before you start. If you are pregnant, breastfeeding or have any kind of eating disorders, this is not the diet plan for you.
Some basic side-effects of intermittent fasting are:
Until your body gets used to this new eating cycle, you’ll feel hungry and it might make you irritable. Don’t worry it gets better. Just keep yourself hydrated.
You may end up overeating
Because you have only a few hours to eat food, there are chances that you consume too many calories. Be mindful of the type of food you eat during your non-fasting period. If you must eat a cheat meal, try to compensate by cutting out the same amount of calories from your day for best results.
You might be irritable in the initial few days
Being hungry does make you irritable. This is only temporary. Once your body adjusts to this new way of eating and fasting, it’ll all be better.
During the fasting period, you can consume lots of liquids - water, black tea, green tea, black coffee and bulletproof coffee. You can consume any liquids which don’t have any calories or sugar. This means that you cannot have any type of creamer, milk or sweetener. You can consume diet sodas but it is not recommended. If you absolutely must sweeten your beverages, use stevia. Some people say that you could also have any type of broth - bone, vegetable or chicken while others are against the idea.
Studies show that consuming foods that are high in fibre can really help you feel full and satiated for longer. Apart from that, you should eat healthy foods like green veggies, eggs, meat, nuts and fresh fruits. It is advised to stay away from excessive sugar, carbs and junk foods as these foods are high in calories. If you consume too much of these during your ‘eating’ period, you may end up consuming too many calories which might render your intermittent fasting period pointless.
The basic fasting period is 16 hours. It’s the 16:8 method. You eat your meals during an 8-hour window and fast for 16 hours. Once you’re used to this method, you can gradually build your way up to fasting for longer periods of time. The longer you are able to fast, the better. But go slow, give your body time to adjust.
Yes, it is safe for most people. There are however certain medical conditions that require you to consult a doctor before you get on this diet. Diabetics, people with eating disorders, pregnant or breastfeeding women are advised caution before getting on this diet plan.
You can take water-based medications like Vitamin C during your fasting period. Medications like omega 3 supplements or anything with oil in it will end up breaking your fast because they contain calories. So those type of oil-based supplements are a no-no. While water-based supplements can be consumed during the fast, to avoid putting too much pressure on your stomach - it’s best if you restrict all medication to your eating period.
Yes, with time you will notice a change in your weight, provided you maintain a healthy diet and continue to workout. In order to effectively lose weight on the intermittent fasting diet plan, you must reduce your calorie intake to about 500-600 calories per day. The consumption of lesser calories is what will put your body into a fat-burning zone and this is what will boost weight loss.
It depends from person to person. There is no right or wrong. The IF plan may work for some people and it might not work for others. Some people follow this diet plan for months and years and some stop after they’ve reached their goal weight. Some research shows that intermittent fasting can actually increase your lifespan too. So if you look and feel good once you start, there is no reason for you to stop unless you want to. Whenever you do stop, always remember to give your body the same amount of calories as you were consuming when you were on the IF meal plan - this will help avoid putting on weight. Whatever you do, always be consistent. If you don’t think you can keep up with intermittent fasting every day, you can do the 5:2 fasting method or the alternate day IF method!