Possible Benefits Of Intermittent Fasting
- May lower risk of obesity
- May lower risk of metabolic diseases like diabetes and liver disease1
- May improve insulin sensitivity and help manage weight2
- May reduce triglyceride levels and increase HDL cholesterol levels3
- May protect nerves against aging4
- May reduce inflammation in the body and fight inflammatory conditions like obesity, diabetes, and cardiovascular disease5
- May protect against cancer6
If you’re trying to knock off some extra weight or just get healthier in general, chances are you’ve considered – and possibly vetoed – the many fad diets in the news. But among the clutter, there’s something that we have all done at one time or another without even realizing it. And that’s intermittent fasting. Some of us skip a meal like breakfast or dinner routinely while others might do a detox day each week or every few days. And some others might only eat in a fixed window every day. And yes, these all come under the bracket of what researchers dub “intermittent fasting.” Versatile and easier to do than calorie counting or highly restricted diets, such fasting can actually help you lose weight and even help with metabolic diseases like diabetes and cholesterol levels.
The 16/8 Intermittent Fasting Method Or Time-Restricted Feeding
As the name suggests, with the 16/8 fasting methods, you fast for 16 hours and then eat normally for an 8-hour window every day.7
Benefits Of The 16/8 Method
One study looked at people who trained regularly each week for at least 5 years using resistance training and would, therefore, have had good muscle tone. Those who had 100% of their energy intake during an 8-hour window in the form of three meals taken at 1 pm, 4 pm, and 8 pm saw a decrease in their fat mass compared to those who ate a normal diet, with no loss of fat-free mass and muscle in the thigh and arm. In other words, you won’t waste away into a skinny mass of bones. Your hard earned muscle tone will remain and it is the fat that will reduce.8
To Do A 16/8 Fast
During the 16 hours of fasting, you only consume zero calorie drinks like water or green tea without sweeteners. This is typically done by skipping a meal like breakfast and going directly to lunch or even having a breakfast, just later than usual. That way your previous meal was dinner.
Assume, for instance, that you eat dinner at 7 pm each night. You would normally wake up around 7 am and have breakfast by 8 am or so – that’s a 12- or 13-hour fasting window. Instead, if you were to go without breakfast and eat your next meal at 11 am, you would have a neat 16-hour window where you have fasted. You can still get in 2 to 3 meals a day if you choose, forego one meal like breakfast, or combine two and have a brunch at 11 am instead.
Intermittent fasting can take on different forms, but the key to a successful fast is avoiding binge eating and unhealthy foods during your eating window/mealtimes. Eat a balanced diet that gives you all the nutrients your body needs in the right ratios.
id="52-fasting-method-or-whole-day-fasting">5:2 Fasting Method Or Whole Day Fasting
In the 5:2 fasting method, you fast by eating a normal diet for 5 days and then restricting calories 2 days a week.9 The calorie restriction typically involves cutting about 25% of the normal recommended calorie intake.
Benefits Of The 5:2 Method
The 5:2 method of intermittent fasting helps with weight loss, boosts insulin sensitivity, and improves health indicators like blood pressure. This is even more effective than regularly eating a lower calorie or calorie-restricted diet.10 It is also a less tedious way of fasting because you don’t need to track what you eat on the normal diet days – within reason, of course! Don’t binge on desserts and fatty foods, but at the same time, you won’t need to measure each food you eat to the last calorie.
To Do A 5:2 Fast
Typically, you’d do 2 to 3 normal days eating wise, then restrict calories the next day, follow it by 2 normal days, and then again semi-fast on day 7, to achieve the 5 normal and 2 fasting days.11
Alternate Day Fasting
With alternate day fasting, you fast on one day by consuming no more than about 500 to 800 calories and follow it with a day of normal eating. Next, you again fast for a day and then eat normally the day after that. This cycle continues for as long as you want to keep up intermittent fasting. This calorie intake amounts to an energy restriction of 60 to 75%.12
Of The Alternate Day Method
Alternate day fasting may bring you weight-loss results comparable to what you’d achieve if you ate a restricted-calorie diet every single day of the year.13 What more could you ask for! Imagine being able to eat normally every other day rather than going for months without a full calorie intake. Much more manageable for most people.
It also positively influences metabolic disease risk markers. In other words, it should improve things like insulin sensitivity in people who may be at risk of metabolic disease, say, overweight women.14 It also helps bump up levels of the good HDL cholesterol in your body and brings down levels of triglycerides in the body.15 The good thing about this method is you’re never too far from a normal day of eating so it may not seem an impossible ask to hold off a little before your next regular meal again.
How To Do An Alternate Day Fast
First, look at your recommended calorie intake and then cut that by 60 to 75% so you consume 500 to 800 calories a day. Perhaps begin with a higher number of calories and then ease your way into consuming less after you’ve settled into the restricted intake on alternate days. Try and make nearly half those calories come from protein so you don’t get hit with extreme hunger pangs from quickly digested foods.
Earlier, people would try and have one main meal on fasting days, usually lunch. But if you’re someone who would rather divide those calories up into several mini meals or snacks, then go right ahead. Or if dinner is the meal you’d like to eat and you can go without lunch, that’s fine too. Researchers have now found that the cardioprotective effects and weight loss from the method are comparable to what you would get if you ate all those calories together only at lunch.16
Other Types Of Intermittent Fasting
The following methods are less backed by scientific evidence or are still being researched for their health benefits. However, you may find these can also help your personal health or weight-loss goals. Remember, these may not work for everyone and should certainly be run by a nutritionist or doctor – especially if you have any other underlying health problems. If you try these and end up feeling queasy, weak, or off in any way, stop. These methods should never be practiced long-term.
- The Warrior Diet: Like a warrior fast through the day and eat only at night when the day’s work is done. You can eat some raw vegetables and fruit during the day to keep yourself fueled for work, but the bulk of your energy intake will be at night during a 4-hour window.
- Eat Stop Eat: Conduct a 24-hour fast a couple of times a week by beginning a fast at dinner time on one day and then eating next at dinner 24 hours later. You could also do this from breakfast to breakfast and so on.
- Spontaneous Meal Skipping: Intermittent fasting may also be ad hoc for some people. Like if you skip a meal whenever you can and find it convenient. This is a little unstructured and results too may be varied as a result. For instance, you may find it easy to skip meals on weekends when you don’t have to commute to work, or you may find it too much effort to cook some evenings and just end up skipping those dinners.
Tips To Follow For All Types Of Intermittent Fasting
Regardless of which kind of intermittent fasting you opt for, there is some wisdom that applies to all methods.
- Most fasts do allow you to eat some raw vegetables and fruit during the day or the fasting window. Water and calorie-free herbal tea/black coffee are also allowed while fasting. Don’t go overboard with the tea or coffee, though – have no more than 2–3 cups.
- Do drink plenty of water and calorie-free fluids. You can also have calorie- and sugar-free drinks like herbal teas warm or cold if that’s your beverage of choice. Low-calorie drinks like coconut water that are nutrient-rich may also work for you.
- Make your meals count. Since you’re cutting down on your food intake overall, either by restricting how much you have every day or on certain days of the week, you will need to ensure what you eat at meals is quality food because that’s where your body will get its nutrition from. So be sure you’re not missing out on your recommended daily intake of essential nutrients like vitamins and minerals alongside healthy amounts of proteins, carbs, and fats. Stock up on fresh fruit and vegetables, whole grains, nuts and seeds, lean protein and vegetarian proteins like legumes and beans.
- Have proteins and fiber-rich food that keep you feeling satiated longer.17
- Avoid junk foods, greasy, fatty, salty, and sugary foods that will make you hungry too soon.
- Sip slowly on a glass of warm water when you’re hungry to fill your stomach when hunger pangs strike; or depending on the method of fasting, eat a raw vegetable or fruit salad.
- Don’t give up in a day or two. Once you get used to this form of eating it, will become easier.
- Don’t overeat. The key to making this successful is not to use your normal diet days to binge. The underlying assumption is that you’ll consume as many calories as your body needs and won’t overeat.
Whether or not intermittent fasting is the means to your personal fitness or health goals will depend on your medical condition. Being diabetic, for instance, might make these restricted intake diets not just challenging but also potentially problematic. It will also depend on the go-ahead from your doctor, your own mental makeup, and how your body copes with the fasting. Intermittent fasting isn’t for everyone, so some people might prefer and even do better with alternative methods like yoga or exercise to get fit and lose weight. If you do decide to try these out, remember to be mindful of what you’re eating and drinking and ensure you are not reacting adversely to the new eating patterns. Good luck!
|↑1||Hatori, Megumi, Christopher Vollmers, Amir Zarrinpar, Luciano DiTacchio, Eric A. Bushong, Shubhroz Gill, Mathias Leblanc et al. “Time-restricted feeding without reducing caloric intake prevents metabolic diseases in mice fed a high-fat diet.” Cell metabolism 15, no. 6 (2012): 848-860.|
|↑2, ↑14||Harvie, Michelle N., Mary Pegington, Mark P. Mattson, Jan Frystyk, Bernice Dillon, Gareth Evans, Jack Cuzick et al. “The effects of intermittent or continuous energy restriction on weight loss and metabolic disease risk markers: a randomized trial in young overweight women.” International journal of obesity 35, no. 5 (2011): 714-727.|
|↑3, ↑6, ↑15||Varady, Krista A., and Marc K. Hellerstein. “Alternate-day fasting and chronic disease prevention: a review of human and animal trials.” The American journal of clinical nutrition 86, no. 1 (2007): 7-13.|
|↑4||Tajes, M., J. Gutierrez-Cuesta, J. Folch, D. Ortuño-Sahagun, E. Verdaguer, A. Jiménez, F. Junyent, A. Lau, A. Camins, and M. Pallàs. “Neuroprotective role of intermittent fasting in senescence-accelerated mice P8 (SAMP8).” Experimental gerontology 45, no. 9 (2010): 702-710.|
|↑5||Brown, James E., Michael Mosley, and Sarah Aldred. “Intermittent fasting: a dietary intervention for prevention of diabetes and cardiovascular disease?.” The British Journal of Diabetes & Vascular Disease 13, no. 2 (2013): 68-72.|
|↑7, ↑8||Moro, Tatiana, Grant Tinsley, Antonino Bianco, Giuseppe Marcolin, Quirico Francesco Pacelli, Giuseppe Battaglia, Antonio Palma, Paulo Gentil, Marco Neri, and Antonio Paoli. “Effects of eight weeks of time-restricted feeding (16/8) on basal metabolism, maximal strength, body composition, inflammation, and cardiovascular risk factors in resistance-trained males.” Journal of translational medicine 14, no. 1 (2016): 290.|
|↑9, ↑10, ↑11||Brown, James E., Michael Mosley, and Sarah Aldred. “Intermittent fasting: a dietary intervention for prevention of diabetes and cardiovascular disease?.” The British Journal of Diabetes & Vascular Disease 13, no. 2 (2013): 68-72.|
|↑12||Mattson, Mark P., Valter D. Longo, and Michelle Harvie. “Impact of intermittent fasting on health and disease processes.” Ageing research reviews 39 (2017): 46-58.|
|↑13||Trepanowski, John F., Cynthia M. Kroeger, Adrienne Barnosky, Monica C. Klempel, Surabhi Bhutani, Kristin K. Hoddy, Kelsey Gabel et al. “Effect of alternate-day fasting on weight loss, weight maintenance, and cardioprotection among metabolically healthy obese adults: a randomized clinical trial.” JAMA internal medicine 177, no. 7 (2017): 930-938.|
|↑16||Hoddy, Kristin K., Cynthia M. Kroeger, John F. Trepanowski, Adrienne Barnosky, Surabhi Bhutani, and Krista A. Varady. “Meal timing during alternate day fasting: Impact on body weight and cardiovascular disease risk in obese adults.” Obesity 22, no. 12 (2014): 2524-2531.|
|↑17||Chambers, Lucy, Keri McCrickerd, and Martin R. Yeomans. “Optimising foods for satiety.” Trends in Food Science & Technology 41, no. 2 (2015): 149-160.|