An Introduction To Intermittent Fasting
Intermittent Fasting (IF) is a method of eating where you only consume food for short periods throughout the day. I was first introduced to the public in 2010 by Dr. Valter Longo who practices at the University of Southern California’s Longevity Institute. He developed the diet after noticing the positive effects of calorie restriction on his lab mice. By implementing IF he discovered that restricting calories could increase lifespan in animals while decreasing inflammation markers and increasing insulin sensitivity. In addition to these findings, Dr. Longo noticed that people practicing IF had increased levels of human growth hormone and decreased cortisol levels. These studies lead him to believe that IF may have similar benefits in humans.
The basic premise behind Intermittent Fasting is to eat less often and over shorter periods than what is considered normal. When you do eat, you should aim to eat until satisfied rather than overeating. You should not skip any meals either; instead, aim to snack throughout the day. There are many different methods of IF, but they all follow the same guidelines. Here we will discuss two commonly practiced forms of IF: 16/8 and 5/2.
16/8 Diet: The 16/8 diet consists of alternating between a period of 16 hours without eating and 8 hours where you can eat normally. To begin the 16/8 diet, you start by consuming no food for 16 hours. After 16 hours pass, you can start eating normally again. This cycle repeats continuously for the rest of the week.
5/2 Diet: The 5/2 diet works similarly to the 16/8 diet except that you eat normally for five days each week. On the sixth day, you fast for five consecutive hours before starting back up with your regular schedule. This pattern continues indefinitely.
Both diets work well for those looking to lose weight, improve their metabolic rate, reduce inflammation, and boost their immune system.
Pros of Intermittent Fasting
1. Fast helps you lose weight faster.: Fasting provides both short-term and long-term benefits. When we eat less than our bodies require, we tend to burn fat more quickly. Intermittent fasting helps us shed pounds because it encourages us to eat smaller meals throughout the day, making the body think it’s already been fed. Fasting may seem extreme at first, but it works well if done properly. You should follow these tips to get started right away:
- Eat five small meals per day (breakfast, lunch, snack, dinner, and then again before bed) rather than three large ones.
- Have a protein shake after breakfast, lunch, and dinner.
- Drink plenty of water.
- Exercise regularly.
- Avoid alcohol and processed foods.
- Don’t skip meals!
In addition, fasting promotes autophagy, the cellular process responsible for degrading damaged organelles and toxins. Autophagy plays a major role in aging and disease and its activation is a promising strategy in cancer treatment. Research shows that fasting can stimulate autophagy even in young mice.
2. Fasting reduces inflammation.
The human body produces over 100 trillion white blood cells, which play a significant role in detecting foreign particles and pathogens. White blood cells are activated by inflammation, which is triggered by infections or injuries. Inflammation causes pain, swelling, fever, fatigue, and mental confusion. Chronic inflammation can lead to heart attacks, strokes, and diabetes.
When people fast, their immune systems produce fewer inflammatory chemicals called cytokines. These molecules cause damage to the brain, liver, and kidneys. Once the body stops producing them, the organs begin to heal themselves. So, fasting not only enhances the body’s natural cleansing abilities but also reduces chronic inflammation.
3. Fasting boosts your mood.
One study showed that participants who followed a strict diet for two weeks reported decreased levels of depression compared to those who ate normally. If you’re feeling down, try an intermittent fast instead of taking antidepressants.
There are several benefits of IF. One benefit is weight loss. People who do IF tend to lose weight because their bodies burn fat instead of muscle while they sleep. Another benefit is increased insulin sensitivity. Insulin is a hormone that helps regulate blood sugar levels. When someone does IF, their body becomes less sensitive to insulin, therefore regulating blood sugar levels easier. A third benefit is improved mental clarity. Many studies have shown that IF increases cognitive function. A fourth benefit is reduced risk of diabetes. Studies show that people who do IF have lower risks of developing type II diabetes than those who don’t.
How to start IF
The first step to starting IF is choosing a specific diet plan. There are many different plans out there, some of them being the 16/8 diet, the 5/2 diet, the 4/1 diet, and the 2/1 diet. Each diet plan differs slightly in terms of food choices and time frame. To choose a diet plan, research each plan thoroughly and find one that works best for you. Once you’ve chosen a diet, make sure you stick to it! If you decide to go back to eating after fasting, then you’ll need to undo any damage done to your body.
People often make mistakes when doing IF. One mistake is not sticking to the diet. You should only eat certain foods during the day and nothing else. Also, if you’re going to skip breakfast, make sure you eat something before bedtime. Skipping breakfast causes hunger pangs throughout the day, making it harder to stay on track. Another mistake is consuming too much protein. Protein is great for building muscles, but it’s hard to digest and can cause stomach problems. Lastly, people sometimes overeat at night. Make sure you keep yourself well-hydrated and avoid snacking between meals.
Frequently Asked Questions
How does intermittent fasting work?
When we’re hungry, our bodies release hormones called ghrelin and leptin, which tell our brain how much energy we have stored in fat cells. When we don’t eat for some time, these hormones drop, causing our brain to think we’re low on energy. Our brain then releases adrenaline, cortisol, and dopamine, which make us want to eat. By skipping meals, we trick our brain into thinking we’ve had plenty of food, and therefore reduce cravings.
Is intermittent fasting safe?
Yes! There are many different types of intermittent fasting, including alternate-day fasting (ADF), 5:2 dieting, and 16/8 dieting. These diets allow you to eat normally five days out of seven and fast for two days. You should consult your doctor before starting any type of intermittent fasting plan.
Are there any side effects associated with intermittent fasting?
There are no known negative side effects associated with intermittent feeding. However, if you experience headaches, dizziness, nausea, diarrhea, constipation, or fatigue after fasting, stop immediately and contact your physician.
Can I use intermittent fasting to lose weight?
While some studies show that intermittent fasting can lead to weight loss, others suggest that it doesn’t affect weight. If you’d like to try intermittent fasting to lose weight, talk to your doctor first.
Should I follow a specific intermittent fasting schedule?
No. Different individuals respond differently to fasting. Your best bet is to experiment with various schedules until you find what works best for you.
Why do people choose to practice intermittent fasting?
There are many reasons why people choose to practice intermittent fasting. One of the biggest reasons is that they want to lose weight. Many people who have tried intermittent fasting say that they lost weight without feeling hungry. Other people use intermittent fasting to help them sleep better. People who practice intermittent fasting often report having less hunger and sleeping better.
Can I still exercise while practicing intermittent fasting?
You should always consult your doctor before starting any type of diet plan. Your doctor can tell you whether or not you can exercise while practicing intermittent fasting. He or she might even suggest that you try exercising first before trying intermittent fasting.
Does intermittent fasting make me feel tired?
If you follow a 16/8 intermittent fast, then you will probably feel tired at the beginning of the day. But, after a couple of weeks, you will get used to it.
What about protein intake?
Protein is necessary for building muscle mass, repairing cells, and maintaining bone density. However, some research suggests that consuming high amounts of protein may hinder weight loss. A study published in the journal Appetite found that overweight women who consumed higher-protein diets experienced less satiety than those who ate lower-protein diets. Furthermore, individuals who consumed higher-protein meals were more likely to eat larger portions later in the day. So while protein may help build lean muscle mass, it might also lead to overeating.