Intermittent fasting has proved to be one of the most popular health trends since the beginning of 2020. Unlike other weight loss programs that require you to exercise vigorously or watch your diet, intermittent fasting focuses on controlling when you eat. Some of the suggested benefits of this method – other than weight loss – include lowering cholesterol, improving blood pressure, improving glucose control, and reducing liver fat. Many individuals who try this method also claim to benefit from better motor coordination, increased endurance, and improved sleep. In this article, we are going to learn more about intermittent fasting and what it can do for you.
How does intermittent fasting work?
Mark Mattson, a Ph.D. neuroscientist based at Johns Hopkins, has studied intermittent fasting for more than 25 years. Mattson says that our bodies are capable of going without food for many hours or even days on end. In ancient times when humans were hunters and gatherers, they had to stay without food for lengthy durations of time.
Mr. Mattson explains that when our body goes for hours without food, it exhausts its sugar supply and commences the process of fat burning. This process is referred to as metabolic switching.
What are the benefits of intermittent fasting?
A scientific study published in the New England Journal of Medicine shows that intermittent fasting offers a number of benefits:
- Mental clarity – intermittent fasting improves verbal memory in people and has also been shown to improve working memory in animals.
- Improved heart health – there is increasing evidence that intermittent fasting can improve blood pressure, resting heart rate, and other markers of good heart health.
- Better physical performance – younger people who fast for 16 hours each day experienced fat loss while keeping their muscle mass.
- Prevent diabetes – animal studies have shown that intermittent fasting can improve blood sugar control and thus prevent diabetes.
- Better tissue health – intermittent fasting can reduce tissue damage during surgery as well as lead to better results afterwards.
Types of intermittent fasting
There are various ways in which you can start on your intermittent fasting journey:
- 16-8 method – this method requires that you eat within an 8-hour window and fast for the remaining 16 hours on a daily basis. For instance, you can start your first meal in the day at 10 am, then make sure you have the last meal by 6 pm. This would mean that your body has to do without any caloric input for the remaining period, during which the benefits of intermittent fasting can be experienced.
- 5-2 diet – this type of intermittent fasting requires that you stick to your normal diet for 5 days of the week, then limit your caloric intake to 600 over the remaining 2 days. This method is also referred to as the Fast Diet and was made popular by a British journalist.
- Eat-stop method – this method requires that you eat normally for most days of the week, but then make sure that you fast throughout the 24-hour period for a day or two.
- Alternative-day method – this method entails eating normally for four days of the week then fasting through the entire 24 hour duration for alternative days. In total, this means that you eat normally over 4 days and fast entire through 3 days.
Regardless of the fasting method used, you should stick to a healthy diet during eating hours and keep your caloric intake to a minimum. Water, coffee, and other zero-calorie drinks are allowed during the fasting period.
Is intermittent fasting safe
People try intermittent fasting for different reasons. Some may try it for weight management, while others may attempt to address chronic conditions such as high cholesterol, arthritis, and irritable bowel syndrome. Keep in mind though that intermittent fasting may not be safe for:
- Children and individuals below the age of 18
- Pregnant or breastfeeding women
- Individuals who already have diabetes or blood sugar problems
- People who have a history of eating disorders
Even if you are not in any of these categories, you may still want to consult your doctor just so as to stay on the safe side. Keep in mind that intermittent fasting can have different effects for different people.