Obesity is becoming a worldwide phenomenon now. This is due to many factors; the most significant one is a decrease in physical activity. Another is the easy availability of processed food in supermarkets which people opt for out of convenience.
Are you wanting to lose weight? Is your main aim to work towards a healthier lifestyle? If your answer to both the questions is yes, intermittent fasting may just be what you need.
Intermittent fasting is one of the oldest and most successful dietary interventions. It has been practiced by many for spiritual as well as health reasons.
If you are looking to gather some knowledge about intermittent fasting you have reached the ultimate guide! Read on to find out everything you need to know before starting your fitness journey.
What is Intermittent fasting?
Intermittent fasting is slightly different from other dietary modifications. It does not really change what you eat; rather it changes the timing of the meals. Intermittent fasting is a term that is used for diet plans that cycle between times of fasting and not-fasting.
There are two ways of fasting, whole day fasting and time restricted feeding. Full day fasts involve 24 hours of fasting whereas time-restricted feeding involves eating during a restricted few hours daily.
How can Intermittent Fasting help me lose weight?
The food that you consume is used by the body to release the energy used for its functioning. When there is a constant supply of calories through food, the body does not need to break down the stores. The body stores extra calories in the form of fats that lead to obesity.
To achieve weight loss, the most important thing is to achieve a calorie deficit. When fasting, the body depletes its store of readily available calories. As there is no intake of food, the body starts looking for other ways to provide energy. This comes from the fat stored in the body.
During intermittent fasting, you are allowing your body to use up the energy it’s stored. This helps decrease fat content and increase lean mass.
Does intermittent fasting provide any other health benefits?
There are several health benefits of intermittent fasting.
It is beneficial for those suffering from Type 2 Diabetes Mellitus, according to research. High blood sugar levels cause insulin resistance which is the hallmark feature of this disease. Intermittent fasting leads to a reduction in both fasting blood sugar and insulin.
For patients suffering from heart problems, intermittent fasting has also proven to be beneficial. It improves the risk factors which cause heart disease. This includes lowering blood pressure, harmful cholesterol levels, triglyceride levels as well as other markers of inflammation.
It can also help prevent cancers and stroke, as well as improve your lifespan.
Is intermittent fasting a diet?
No, intermittent fasting is not a diet. It is more related to timing your meals instead of restricting your food. However, to achieve weight loss goals it is necessary to ensure that the intake is less than the calories the body needs. Intermittent diet is more of a lifestyle modification than a diet.
What are the different methods of Intermittent Fasting?
There are many ways to perform intermittent fasting. All these involve durations in which you can eat and those in which you fast the most popular methods are mentioned below.
The 16/8 or daily method:
This is also known as the Leangains method. It involves eating for 8 hours and fasting for 16 hours. There is no restriction on when the fasting or eating period begins. You can choose whichever times are convenient for you to start the 8 hours of eating, e.g., from 1-8. This is the best way for beginners in my opinion.
The 20/4 method:
This method involves 20 hours of fasting and only 4 hours of eating. There are no restrictions on timings. They can be chosen according to your own convenience.
This method is performed around 2-3 times a week. It involves skipping meals for 24 hours. For example, if you take lunch on day one, you will skip dinner on the same day and breakfast for the next. Your first meal will be lunch on day 2.
This version allows five days of normal meals and two days in a week when no more than 500-600calories can be consumed. These 500-600 calories can either be taken as a single meal or as small portions throughout a day.
Can every one perform Intermittent Fasting?
Some people should not perform intermittent fasting. They fall into the following categories.
- Pregnant women: Extra calorific and nutritional needs are necessary for the fetus.
- Underweight with a BMI of less than 18.5 or people suffering from an eating disorder.
- Breastfeeding mothers: Extra nutritional requirements are needed for lactating mothers.
- Growing children under the age of 18.
Certain individuals can perform intermittent fasting under the supervision of medical personnel. They include:
- Individuals suffering from diabetes mellitus, both type one and two.
- People taking prescription medications
- Individuals having high levels of uric acid.
- Anyone suffering from heart, liver and kidney diseases.
- Women who are trying to conceive.
- Women who have amenorrhea.
How do I start fasting?
Don’t worry too much about it.
The fact is that you must have skipped dinner sometime, or maybe breakfast in a hurry. That’s almost how intermittent fasting is like; you are just skipping some meals. Start slow, for a month see how fasting works for you. Prefer to follow the 16:8 cycle as it’s simpler to manage. All you really will be doing is skipping breakfast and having your lunch and dinner in the 8 hours.
Also, try following a low-carb diet when you have the meals instead of loading up on heavy meals while breaking the fast. It is important to avoid binging as much as possible.
How can I carry out my daily activities while fasting?
Your body will get used to it soon. Initially, you may feel dizzy and lightheaded, but with time your body gets used to it and starts functioning efficiently.
People do not just carry out their daily tasks but also exercise during their fasting cycles. If they can do it, you can too. Several religions including Hinduism, Christianity, and Islam routinely have scheduled fasts for their followers.
What are the side effects of intermittent fasting?
Hunger is an extremely common side effect. Keeping yourself busy and hydrated will help avoid giving into hunger pangs.
Headaches and dizziness are also very frequent during fasting. This is due to a decrease in blood sugar levels, which your body adapts to soon.
Constipation is extremely common; it’s mainly because of a decreased intake of food. Try including crunchy green vegetables and fruit for a rich source of fiber to help the bowel movements.
Some people also complain of severe muscle spasms. Any source of food rich in Potassium such as bananas should be taken to prevent them.
Does intermittent fasting burn muscle?
Your body utilizes energy that is stored in the form of glycogen in the liver. When your body is in the fasting state, glycogen reserves are used up first. When glycogen is depleted the body uses the fat stores and breaks them down.
Muscles are the last thing a body utilizes for fuel, so chances of muscle wastage are quite low. If you aim to lose weight and conserve muscle, intermittent fasting can work well for you.
How will I manage social gatherings?
The best part about intermediate fasting is that you can schedule your eating period to whatever time is convenient. For example, if you have to go out with friends and you follow the 16:8 fast, you can keep your 8-hour feeding cycle during the time you are out with friends! Intermittent fasting offers you a better social life than most diets can. You can even have a meal or two with your family daily as long as it falls in the feeding period.
Isn’t breakfast supposed to be the most important meal of the day?
Not as much as we have been made to believe it it is. However, if you do enjoy it, remember you aren’t skipping out on it completely. A well-balanced diet and sufficient calories burn are more critical for a healthy lifestyle. You can have breakfast items whenever you want, during your eating cycles.
How can I manage my hunger pangs?
Many people are afraid of fasting because of hunger pangs. Always remember, the more you think it, the more they shall affect you. Keeping yourself occupied with tasks is a great way to avoid feeling hungry. As most of you would have noted boredom leads to hunger. The more free time you have to think about hungry you are, you will just end up hungrier!
There are several ways to avoid hunger pangs. Take slow sips of coffee or tea (without sugar and milk, otherwise add very less milk) whenever you feel hungry. Try drinking water throughout the day. There’s a small secret about drinking lots of water – it distends the stomach and tricks into believing its full! So you can get rid of the hunger pangs and stay hydrated, both at one time!
Is it better to diet or to do intermittent fasting to lose weight?
What most people really fail to understand is that there is no quick solution to lose weight. There has to be a lifestyle modification. Most diets do not work out as they are mostly a fad to be followed for a certain period.
A diet restricts the intake of foods and is often not followed for a sufficient period. This is why it more ineffective when it comes to weight loss.
If you manage to get your body tuned to not having small meals, intermittent fasting is far simpler. The human body has amazing adaptability, once you get used to fasting it just will keep getting simpler. However, if weight loss needs to be achieved, low carb meal options should be followed for meals.
Should I try intermittent fasting?
If you want to, why not? As long as you set your mind to it, it WILL work out. In fact, one of the major barriers to weight loss has always been a lack of motivation.
We are always being told how we need to keep on eating to function, that is highly untrue. The basic metabolic needs of a human body are met easily in an individual who eats healthy. This era of obesity is mainly because we refuse to believe that we take in much more than we need.
Many people fast all over the world for spiritual reasons. Christians, Jews, and Muslims all practice months of fasting while carrying on their regular activities.
Does intermittent fasting work well for everyone?
Now that is a tricky question. Every single person is different and functions differently; the same is the case for their bodies. What may work for one person may fail terribly for another. There is no real way to decide what can work for you or what won’t work for you. You just need to try it and see if it does work for you.
If you feel more comfortable with the idea of a diet as compared to staying hungry or fasting, it’s better to go for that. Remember you will always do better with a task that you are most comfortable and enthusiastic about.
Some diets and exercises also do not work for some people and have a significant effect on others. You really can not figure it out unless you try and see its results yourself.
In case you are suffering from any medical conditions or feel extremely sick during a fast, it is always recommended to consult your doctor before getting started.