Have you ever come across a food pattern that alternates between fasting and eating alternately for long intervals of time? This is one of the most interesting fitness fads that is doing the rounds these days and is called intermittent fasting. Apparently, intermittent fasting has a number of benefits- it aids in weight loss, protects from diseases like diabetes, heart attack and cancer; it also has positive outcomes on mental health; helps in building up physical fitness and strength.
A lot of researches have been dedicated to intermittent fasting and every time, they come up with some new benefit associated with it. It is more about ‘when’ rather than ‘what’, that is to say, it addresses the time periods when one must have food instead of what they should have. The various methods divide the day or week into the periods when one has to eat and when one has to fast. For instance, you can skip your breakfast, have your first meal at 12 and your last meal at around 8-9 pm. This way, you will be limiting your eating to an 8-hour eating window and technically, eating nothing for 16 hours a day. Despite what you may think, intermittent fasting is actually fairly easy to do. Many people report feeling better and having more energy during a fast.
Initially, it sounds a little difficult to start with, considering fasting for fairly long periods of time. Even though no food can be eaten during the fasting period, but you can consume lesser amounts of non-caloric drinks like coffee, tea, and water of course. However, there are some forms of intermittent fasting that do not call for strict abstinence of food.
How Does It Work
When your body does not take any food, it has a tendency to make the stored energy more accessible. Things like insulin and Human Growth Hormone(HGH) change when you fast. As insulin decreases when you fast, its lower levels cause more fat burning. Similarly, HGH is a hormone that is responsible for fat loss. During a fast, HGH levels escalate drastically.
Intermittent fasting is the best for weight loss for a simple reason that it helps you eat fewer calories. All you need to do is religiously maintain your fasting periods. Also, make sure that you do not try to compensate by eating more during the eating periods. All of the different protocols involve skipping meals. If you follow it properly, you will be surprised by your weight loss.
Like we have mentioned before, the effect that intermittent fasting has on insulin plays a very important role in weight loss. Usually, diets rich in carbs and sugars raise our insulin levels. As a result, your body stores what you eat as excess fat. This is one of the reasons for obesity, type II diabetes, and other health problems.
Clinical studies have shown that following an intermittent fasting style of diet for 15-20 days initially when you only start helps in balancing your insulin levels. The body remains in the fat-burning state.
Another way in which intermittent fasting helps in weight loss is that it lowers the pangs of hunger that you otherwise face throughout the day. Naturally, you will eat less and be fitter and healthier.
How Much Weight Can You Lose
There is no definite amount of weight that you can lose in intermittent fasting. It all depends on how often and regular you are in your fasting patterns and what you eat in your eating window. However, fasting for 16 hours a day can help you shed 2-3 pounds every week.
Also, intermittent fasting is super convenient. Losing weight via IF implies that you are free from keeping track of calories and the cumbersome task of planning and preparing a lot of meals in a day.
Should You Do Intermittent Fasting?
Sometimes, the risks of Intermittent Fasting outweigh the potential benefits. People with the following issues should refrain from intermittent fasting:
- Gut Issues: If you are frequently plagued by gas, bloating and other digestion problems, intermittent fasting can aggravate these, making you feel more uncomfortable. It is better to cut down on sugar and other gut unfriendly foods if you really want to go ahead with IF or else it is a strict no-no. It just does not suit people suffering from gut issues.
- Anxiety & Stress: Fasting can heighten stress and anxiety levels in people. Those battling with anxiety on a regular basis should not try intermittent fasting. Fasting increases your stress hormone cortisol which makes you hangry and is harmful in case you take a lot of stress in your daily life.
- Pregnancy: Intermittent fasting adds to the list of other trends not recommended for pregnant women. Pregnant women are not advised to go without eating for long hours. It is dangerous for them to lose weight and moreover, they need to keep eating every now and then to keep themselves from feeling ill and to maintain their blood sugar level. So fasting intermittently is neither feasible nor recommended for pregnant women.
- Eating Disorders: If you have a history of facing eating disorders in the past, intermittent fasting is not for you. A fasting pattern can lead you to a path that might unsettle you and create problems for you. So, there is no point in messing with your health.
- New to Dieting: It will be wise of you to first consult a doctor and see if you have any nutritional deficiencies before starting with intermittent fasting. If you lack something, you cannot start with IF since it requires you to remain hungry for 16-18 hours and it is always smarter to start dieting from a solid nutritional platform first. IF is everything but that!
In general, women face a lot more difficulties in following intermittent fasting. This may be because of kisspeptin, a protein-like molecule used by neurons to communicate with each other. Kisspeptin triggers the production of Gonadotropin-releasing hormone in both males and females and we know for a fact that it is sensitive to leptin, insulin, and ghrelin- hormones pertaining to hunger and satiety. But, women have more kisspeptin than males which naturally implies greater sensitivity to the changes in the body. This is why women’s body reacts differently to men while fasting.
It sounds like a magical solution to problems of weight gain and obesity but intermittent fasting does come up with its fair share of cons. You need to be an experienced exerciser, have a history of dieting, preferably single with no children to start and complete it successfully. Otherwise, it can have adverse effects on our bodies.