Intermittent Fasting: What is it?
Intermittent Fasting, also known as Intermittent Energy Restriction, or caloric restriction, is fasting for specific intervals on a regular schedule.
There is no consideration for what you eat- only when you eat it.
To be considered a “fasting” day, one must forego consuming more than 500 calories (women) to 600 calories (men) for that 24-hour period.
There are many types of Intermittent Fasting cycles touted, such as 16-hour fasts or fasting for up to 24 hours, twice per week.
Back-to-back fasting days aren’t recommended, and you’ll need to follow the diet/fasting cycle for several weeks to see results.
Why Do People Do Intermittent Fasting?
You may be asking yourself, “Who in their right mind would willingly give up eating- and why?” Good question.
There are health benefits associated with intermittent fasting, but there are cons, too.
For one, if you consume fewer calories than you expend, you lose weight.
Second, fasting works differently than just changing the foods you eat, but not the caloric amount consumed.
An intermittent fasting article on Healthline advises that during the fasting period, your body makes changes to compensate for the lack of food. Hormone levels are altered to make stored body fat more accessible, gene expression regarding longevity and disease protection changes, and cells begin repair processes.
Human Growth Hormone (HGH) levels increase, known to help muscle gain and weight loss. Insulin sensitivity increases while insulin levels drop (which makes fat stores accessible). Fasting also increases the release of the fat burning hormone norepinephrine (noradrenaline).
All of this means short-term fasting may increase your metabolic rate by 3.6–14%. So you’re consuming fewer calories while burning more of them, a double whammy in the weight loss department.
- Weight loss
- Insulin resistance
- Inflammation reduction
- Heart health
- Cancer prevention
- Brain health
- Possible Alzheimer’s disease protection
Sounds good, right? Well, it isn’t all sunshine and roses. While your body acclimates to your new eating regime, there are some cons.
- Foggy brain
- Feeling weak
These symptoms should dissipate after you’ve acclimated, but every body is different, and there is no definitive timeline for when you’ll overcome these symptoms.
Intermittent Fasting is NOT for Everyone
Those with a history of eating disorders or those that are underweight should not consider intermittent fasting without consulting a physician first.
Children have growing bodies, and need sustenance regularly, so fasting isn’t recommended for them.
There is evidence that intermittent fasting benefits men more than women. (Don’t hate the player, ladies, hate the game.) Intermittent fasting has the potential to lead to emaciation, masculinization (because the female body no longer prioritizes female hormone production), loss of menstrual cycle and infertility. Therefore, women who are breastfeeding, pregnant, or want to become pregnant should not participate in intermittent fasting.
How to Intermittently Fast
There isn’t one specific way to fast.
Some prefer the 16/8 cycle, where you fast for 16 hours, then break the fast for 8 hours.
Others may prefer fasting for a 24-hour period 1–2 times per week (fasting not performed two days in a row).
Some do the 5:2 cycle, where they eat 500–600 calories 1–2 days per week, and eat regularly the other five days of the week.
It’s also important to remember that if you’re not hungry, don’t eat. The clock doesn’t tell you when to eat, your body does. Skip breakfast if you’re not hungry when you wake up. Chances are by the time lunch rolls around, you’ll have fasted for 16 hours (presuming you aren’t a sleep eater).
Staving Off Hunger
Notice that if you’re following the 5:2 diet, you’re supposed to eat- just not a lot.
And no matter which plan you follow, hydration is paramount to your success. Drink plenty of water and other low-calorie fluids, like unsweetened coffee or tea, or if you want something bursting with flavor, try one of Globallee’s 15-calorie TAKA Hibiscus or Blueberry Lemonade drink packets.
It’s safe to take supplements during fasting periods, just remember to read the supplement’s instructions to see if it works better when taken with food.
Is Intermittent Fasting For You?
If you aren’t a child, pregnant, nursing, or going to become pregnant, you may consider trying intermittent fasting for a few weeks to see how your body responds.
Remember that it will take time for your body to understand the changes you’ve made, so proceed with caution and care.
- Intermittent Fasting 101- The Ultimate Beginner’s Guide. Gunnars, Kris. April 21, 2020. Healthline.com. https://www.healthline.com/nutrition/intermittent-fasting-guide.
- Intermittent Fasting. Leicht, Laura. November 26, 2018. WebMD. https://www.webmd.com/diet/a-z/intermittent-fasting.