Diet trends come and go more quickly than the seasons change. But there’s something different about the rising trend in intermittent fasting, and that’s because it’s not a diet at all. Intermittent fasting is a different approach to eating, which involves periods of fasting and periods of time when food can be consumed. In addition to being a weight loss strategy, intermittent fasting can improve your overall health and potentially simplify your life.
What Is Intermittent Fasting?
Let’s dive deeper into what constitutes an intermittent fasting lifestyle. Intermittent fasting doesn’t include just one specific fasting regimen. In fact, there are several popular intermittent fasting regimens that experts, like Krista Varady, associate professor of nutrition at the University of Illinois, Chicago, recommend. Different intermittent fasting regimens work for different lifestyles, but the following are three of the most popular methods.
- 16:8 fasting: This is a time-restricted feeding schedule, during which you fast for 16 hours per day and eat normally for the remaining eight hours. Common 16:8 fasting schedules include consumption between 10 a.m. to 6 p.m., or 12 p.m. and 8 p.m.
- Alternate day fasting: This form of intermittent fasting to lose weight means consuming just 500 calories one day, then eating like normal the next. This cycle is then repeated day after day.
- 5:2 fasting: The 5:2 plan involves eating like normal five days per week and fasting for two full, non-consecutive days per week.
It’s important to note that intermittent fasting is a defined eating pattern that involves consuming calories during a specific time window. It’s not designed to limit the amount or type of food you consume.
Intermittent Fasting Benefits
As the intermittent fasting trend becomes more popular, more research is being completed to uncover the benefits and potential risks of this type of timed eating. The following are some of those benefits.
One of the major reasons people try intermittent fasting is to shed some pounds. Several studies have shown results that intermittent fasting can enhance weight loss in several ways. For instance, limiting food intake to certain times per day typically reduces calorie intake, leading to weight loss. Even more, studies have shown that intermittent fasting may increase the neurotransmitter and hormone norepinephrine, which can boost metabolism.
Intermittent fasting may also make it easier for your body to use its stored fat by reducing levels of insulin. It is even said to greatly increase human growth hormone, which helps your body grow muscle while utilizing body fat.
Intermittent fasting can change the expression of some genes, which may help your body fight off certain diseases. It may also help the body begin the healing process known as autophagy, during which the body recycles or digests aged or damaged cells. Similarly, research has shown that fasting can help manage diabetes, metabolic syndrome and possibly digestive diseases.
Improved Overall Health
Fasting can improve a person’s overall health by lowering blood pressure, blood sugars and inflammation. It has also been shown to decrease triglycerides and cholesterol, improving heart health.
Simplify Your Life
One of the most desirable benefits of intermittent fasting is that it can simplify your life. Knowing when you can and cannot eat can make planning your days and meals easier, reducing stress and promoting a healthier, more enjoyable lifestyle.
Sample 16:8 Meal Plan
Starting an entirely new schedule and style of eating can be intimidating. This sample meal plan can help you understand what a healthy 16:8 consumption period between the hours of 12 p.m. and 8 p.m., can look like.
- Morning (8 a.m.): This is the morning fasting period. However, you can drink black coffee, water, green tea, and other teas as long as they don’t contain milk, sugar, honey, etc.
- Mid-day (12 p.m.): You can now eat a full lunch. A meal rich in fiber and vegetables will make you feel full longer. A grilled chicken breast on top of a hearty salad is a healthy yet filling example.
- Afternoon Snack (3 p.m.): Now is the time for an afternoon snack if you tend to get hungry between lunch and dinner. We suggest something light yet satisfying, like a hearty Greek yogurt topped with fresh berries.
- Dinner (7 p.m.): It’s important to start cooking around 7 p.m. (or earlier), because your consumption window closes at 8 p.m. A 200-gram beef steak or chicken breast served with vegetables is an example of a healthy yet filling dinner. This can also be followed by a piece of fresh fruit, toast, and black coffee.
Water can be consumed at any time throughout the fasting or non-fasting periods.
Frequently Asked Questions
Is intermittent fasting for everyone?
Intermittent fasting is safe for a majority of well-nourished, healthy people, but anyone with a medical condition should check with a doctor before starting. Intermittent fasting is not recommended for lactating women, pregnant women or people with type 1 diabetes.
What if I get hungry?
It’s common to get hungry throughout the fasting periods, especially if you’re just starting your new eating cycle. Eating foods high in fiber and protein during your consumption period can help curb your hunger for the non-consumption hours. You may also think you’re hungry when you’re actually thirsty, so drink plenty of water.
Will I be tired?
It’s not uncommon to feel lower energy or less focused while fasting. However, this can be combated by giving yourself a break, or even meditating, during the fasting period. Meditating and mindfulness can help you calm down, reset and refocus. Calorie-free back coffee can also boost energy and improve concentration without breaking your fast.
Intermittent fasting is a trend we think will be sticking around for a while. Unlike fad diets, intermittent fasting promotes healthy lifestyle changes that don’t restrict the foods you can enjoy. Are you up for the challenge?