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Intermittent Fasting 101: A Beginner’s Guide

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Can you dupe your body into losing weight without entering the fad diet club? Yes! With intermittent fasting (IF), you can. This cyclical method of eating and not eating has become a widespread approach to increase metabolism, revitalize brain function, and protect the body from ailments.

What Is Intermittent Fasting

Intermittent fasting is an eating pattern with alternating periods of eating and fasting.

Humans have been fasting for years. Our ancestors hunted and sought for food, but some days, they went without food because they could not find any! People also fast for spiritual reasons.

Nevertheless, it’s essential to remember that fasting or intermittent fasting is not the same as deprivation. While fasting has many health gains, starving can make you feeble and also lead to death.

So, don’t starve but fast!

How Does Intermittent Fasting Work?

Intermittent fasting works by reducing the glucose/insulin levels in your blood, which, in turn, decreases the chance of fat storage in your body. When you are in a fasted state (not had food for at least 6-8 hours), it becomes easier for your body to burn fat, irrespective of what you have eaten. Instead of drawing fuel from glucose, your body starts transforming glycogen and/or protein to glucose. When the protein stock is fully utilized, fat is used as a source of fuel.

Intermittent fasting raises the number and variety of gut microbes that support proper digestion. It also helps reduce inflammation and inflammation-induced weight gain.

Types Of Intermittent Fasting (IF)

The various types of IF are:

Alternate Day Fasting

This fasting approach consists of alternating feed days and fast days. On the feeding days, you can devour anything. But on fast days, you can consume only about 20% of your body’s total energy requirement.

Who Can Try This: This type of fasting works best for beginners. Fasting and feasting every alternate day will keep up your interest, and you will not feel too starved.

5:2 Diet

5:2 fasting involves consuming food without any limitations for five days in the week and being on a rigorously calorie-restricted diet for two non-consecutive days.

Who Can Try This: Choose this IF method if you have fasted before and are used to it. Space out the fasting days so that you don’t go on a critically restricted diet before you have fully healed from the previous fast day.

16/8 Diet

Also known as Time-Restricted Feeding and the 8-Hour Diet, the 16/8 diet needs you to fast for 16 hours and space out your meals within a short window of 8 hours. For example, if you eat your breakfast at 9 in the morning, your last meal of the day will have to be at 5 in the evening. You will then have to fast until the next morning.

Who Can Try This: If you want to fast without feeling like you are fasting, this is an excellent way to go about it.

What You Should Eat on Feeding Days And What to Avoid on Fasting Days

On feeding days, try to consume foods that satisfy your hunger and keep your taste buds alive. But, you must avoid foods that can revoke your effort entirely when consumed in excess. Also, avoid foods that you are allergic to.

On fasting days, stick to 500 calories per day (for women) or 600 calories per day (for men). Consume foods rich in dietary fiber that will keep you full. You can also fill up on water, coconut water, freshly pressed juice, and a raw vegetable salad with lime juice, a pinch of Himalayan pink salt, a tablespoon of olive oil, and a dash of smoked paprika. Sip on detox water made with watermelon, kiwi, cucumber, and a pinch of salt so that your body does not miss out on essential micronutrients and electrolytes. From my knowledge, mint leaves tend to develop a hunger, so I would recommend avoiding using them.

Benefits Of Intermittent Fasting

Intermittent Fasting Is Easier Than “Dieting”

Fasting intermittently is easier than going on a restrictive diet. Intermittent fasting breaks the monotony of consuming the same foods in the same quantities and makes “dieting” fun and interesting.

May Aid Weight Loss

Intermittent fasting is one of the most powerful ways to lose weight and maintain weight loss. The alternating low-calorie and high-calorie food intake keep your cells functioning well, which, in turn, boosts metabolism.

May Improve Heart Health

Intermittent fasting is a great way to shed fat and, consequently, help improve your heart health. American scientists found that by practicing alternate-day fasting, obese patients were able to lose weight and reduce the risk of coronary artery disease (CAD).

May Improve Insulin Sensitivity

Intermittent fasting may also help improve insulin sensitivity. When your body becomes insulin sensitive, your glucose metabolism improves, and you stop feeling hungry all the time.

May Promote Cellular Repair And Autophagy

Intermittent fasting may also enhance cellular repair and autophagy. Autophagy is your body’s natural process of degrading the dysfunctional components of the cells and recycling them. Upregulation of autophagy may be neuroprotective and act as a treatment for Alzheimer’s disease.

May Reduce The Risk Of Cancer

Intermittent fasting may help reduce the risk of cancer by increasing the antioxidant effect and inhibiting cancer cell growth. However, no such studies have been done on humans yet.

May Boost Brain Function

Scientists have found that IF can help ameliorate neurodegeneration in mice with induced Alzheimer’s disease.

IF can also help increase the production of brain-derived neurotrophic factor (BDNF), which has been found to protect the brain from degeneration and dysfunction in animal models.

May Reduce Inflammation And Blood Pressure

Intermittent fasting may also help reduce inflammation and pro-inflammatory cytokines. Additionally, if you are hypertensive, fasting intermittently may help reduce your blood pressure.

Who Should Avoid Intermittent Fasting?

Note: Always consult your doctor before practicing intermittent fasting.

Side Effects Of Intermittent Fasting

  • You may feel irritated.
  • When practiced long-term, it may lead to an eating disorder.
  • May hinder athletic performance.
  • May cause muscle loss.
  • May cause amenorrhea and infertility in women.

Bottomline

One approach of intermittent fasting may or may not work for you. So, you need to be extra careful. Amenorrhea and infertility also have other physiological and psychological effects that can limit you from leading a happy and healthy life. You may fast intermittently, but do not make it a custom. You must talk to your doctor and get an expert opinion about any diet instead of blindly following a weight loss trend that everyone is following.

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