- Intermittent fasting has been receiving positive reviews and is considered by many as an effective way to lose body fat.
- When you fast, your body starts to burn body fat, which can result in weight loss.
- Evidence suggests that intermittent fasting offers more benefits than just weight loss.
- Before trying any new diet, it’s always good to talk to your doctor.
Many people want to lean out and live a healthy lifestyle, but this can be difficult in today’s fast-paced culture, where most people have no time to cook and fast food and microwave dinners are the easiest to get hold of. There are a lot of different diets available and they all claim to be effective in helping you shed those unwanted pounds. Among these is a newer approach to eating that is gaining a lot of positive reviews. It’s called intermittent fasting.
What is Intermittent Fasting?
To start, intermittent fasting is not exactly a diet. It’s more of an eating pattern. You schedule periods of eating and hours of fasting. It makes use of the body’s fasted state to help you lose weight. Now, how does it work?
Our body stores food energy two ways: as glycogen and as fat. When we eat, we usually consume more food energy than what our body immediately needs, so our body increases the insulin levels to process the food energy and store it for future use. The body initially converts carbohydrates into glycogen, then stores it in the liver and muscles.
If we consume too much food, however — and all the space for glycogen in our liver and muscles has already been used up — our body converts the excess energy to body fat, which is more difficult to access. According to intermittent fasting, when we fast, the opposite happens. Not eating for long periods means that our body’s insulin level drops. This prompts the body’s system to start burning that difficult-to-access body fat and the effect is weight loss (1).
Studies show some evidence that intermittent fasting may provide more benefits than just losing weight. Evidence suggests that it may help reduce inflammation and maintain a healthy heart (2). Initial studies also reveal that intermittent fasting may possibly help thwart Alzheimer’s disease (3, 4).
It seems good, right? However, like all other trends, it’s best to learn more before you decide to jump onto the bandwagon. Here are five things you need to know about intermittent fasting.
1. It’s Not Really New
Although the trend is considered new, fasting really isn’t. People from all over the world have been doing it for ages. Before civilization, our ancestors didn’t have the luxury of supermarkets and restaurants. They hunted for food, and when it wasn’t available, they fasted for long periods of time.
Fasting is also practiced by various religious groups for hundreds of years. You’ve probably unconsciously fasted a few times in the form of forgotten (or neglected) meals for long hours due to your busy schedule. Fasting is more normal than we realize, and this may make it an easier weight loss program to stick to compared to traditional calorie-cutting diets (2).
2. It Will Still Require Discipline
Yes, our systems are built to withstand intermittent fasting; but as you know, when you fast and you don’t eat anything for long hours, you’ll obviously feel hungry, and nobody likes that feeling. In a society full of fast food restaurants, convenience stores and other easily accessible and mouthwatering food, it can be hard to resist the temptation. Discipline is crucial, especially during the early stages.
3. There are Different Ways to Do It
If you’re planning to try intermittent fasting, you’ll be happy to know that there are several ways to do it. You can choose the way that will best suit your schedule and your lifestyle.
There is the 16:8 diet, which is when you eat all your meals within eight hours and fast for the other 16; 20:4, which allows you to eat your meals within a four-hour period and then you fast for the next 20 hours; 24-hour, where you fast for a 24-hour period twice or thrice a week; and the 5:2, which gives you five days to eat regular meals and two days for fasting.
4. You Still Need to Watch What You Eat
Intermittent fasting focuses more on your eating pattern and not on what you eat. Although it’s easy to be tempted to just eat whatever’s accessible, nutrition is still important. Eating fruits, vegetables, lean proteins and healthy fats and avoiding sugars and refined grains is recommended (1). Getting the right nutrients from the food you consume can make a huge difference.
5. It’s Not for Everyone
There is scientific evidence suggesting that intermittent fasting can be an effective way to lose weight, but it’s not a recommended approach for people on medication, people with eating disorders and pregnant women (1).
There are a lot of good reviews about the effectiveness of intermittent fasting when it comes to weight loss, but further studies are still needed to confirm its other benefits and long-term effects. It’s always a good thing to ask your doctor first, should you decide to commit to this eating pattern. Remember, also, that there is no one-size-fits-all approach to healthy nutrition. What works for one person might not work for another.
Know that finding what’s best for you might take a little trial and error, and that’s perfectly okay. Experiment with different nutrition styles, see what gives you the best results and keep heading in that direction.
- “Intermittent Fasting Protects against Alzheimer’s Disease Possible through Restoring Aquaporin-4 Polarity”, Zhang, J., et al., (2017).
- “Intermittent fasting protects against the deterioration of cognitive function, energy metabolism and dyslipidemia in Alzheimer’s disease-induced estrogen deficient rats”, Shin, BK., et al., (2018).