The Basics of Intermittent Fasting

The Basics of Intermittent Fasting

Sarah Johnson
By: Sarah Johnson
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Summary


Intermittent Fasting is cycling between a period of fasting and non-fasting. Here’s how it works....

Ever get confused on all the dieting "fads" out there? There's a lot of them to choose from and sometimes it can be confusing trying to pick which one is best for you or if it will even work at all. Today we're going to examine intermittent fasting, a topic you've probably heard of and even probably have some friends who have tried it out but maybe need to know more before trying it out yourself.

Per definition, intermittent fasting is cycling between a period of fasting and and non-fasting. It's not waking up in the morning after a night of sleep and eating - although yes you are technically fasting while you are sleeping, intermittent fasting is more than that. It's a planned schedule of when you will eat and when you will skip meals. There are a few different types of methods used when it comes to time-restricted eating. Here is the breakdown of the different types:

1. Feeding Window

This is the most common type of IF used. It involves eating throughout a set number of hours during the day and the rest of the time only consuming water or no calorie liquids. For example, eating only from 1pm to 8pm.

2. Alternating Days (also called the Eat-Stop-Eat method)

This form of IF involves eating very little (500cal or less) to no calories for 24 hours and then eating normally for the next 24 hours.

3. The 5:2 Diet

Here you would eat normally for 5 days of the week and then for 2 days (usually spread apart during the week) you eat very little (500cal or less) to no calories.

The main benefit of intermittent fasting is how simple it is. The rules are that you eat during a certain time and outside of that, don't eat - simple as that. Some studies have shown that IF is effective in helping with weight loss, but not all studies agree with these findings. You still have to remember the most basic equation to weight loss - calories in versus calories out. If you fast for 16 hours, but then blow through 3,000 calories in 8 hours you won't experience magic weight loss just because you follow IF. Intermittent fasting can simply just make it easier to eat a controlled amount of calories with the smaller window of food intake. This is one of the reasons I personally have tried IF. I'm the type of person that once I start eating, a fire of hunger is lit and I can graze all day long and sometimes my calories go overboard because of this. I've found that by fasting until a certain time of day, I can then do my normal grazing for the rest of the day and it makes staying within a certain amount of calories much easier. If you're someone who finds it easier to eat less often as opposed to just eating less (aka you enjoy food as much as I do) this might be a diet style to try out for yourself.

You also need to be aware of when you plan to workout or when you will be simply be more active throughout the day. For example, if you workout in the morning then fasting until 1pm might not be the smartest move. You will need fuel for your workouts and food after to replenish your glycogen stores and preserve muscle. If you have a physical job, you might not want to fast when you will be on your feet and moving for a number of hours. Just be aware of when you will need fuel and energy during the day and plan your fasting schedule around that.

As with anything, there are pros and cons you need to be aware of before you try it out...

Pros Cons
Simple Stress from fighting hunger
Reduction of body fat (if you also watch calories) Headaches
Improves sensitivity to insulin* Constipation
Lowers inflammation* Dehydration (you must still drink water while fasting!)
Improves digestive system* Not suitable foro all. Do not try if you are pregnant, under 18, diabetic or have any kind of impaired glycemic control, or have heart issues
Increases release of growth hormone* You will feel extreme hunger until you rbody adjusts (this one's a no brainer)

*Claims have been made, but still needs substantial research to back up

In conclusion, using intermittent fasting can be a great way to help reach your goals by helping you intake a controlled amount of calories in a controlled amount of time, but you still need to be smart about what and how much you are intaking calorie wise. Do not expect magic to happen just because you follow the fasting schedule. Eat the amount of calories you need for your body and eat HIGH QUALITY nutritious food too.

Below are three studies involving IF, check them out to see what each one found.

  1. Effects of intermittent fasting on body composition and clinical health markers in humans
  2. Skipping breakfast leads to weight loss but also elevated cholesterol compared with consuming daily breakfasts of oat porridge or frosted cornflakes in overweight individuals: a randomised controlled trial
  3. The causal role of breakfast in energy balance and health: a randomized controlled trial in lean adults
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Sarah Johnson

Sarah Johnson