Intermittent fasting is more than just a fad diet or a period of starvation. In fact, many participants and experts declare that intermittent fasting is a lifestyle.
Preparation, planning, commitment and discipline are key components to intermittent fasting; which requires daily practice.
What is Intermittent Fasting?
Simply put, intermittent fasting is a period of time where you don't consume any food.
This period of fasting can vary in length of time and frequency.
This fasting is done in alternating intervals with periods of time when you can eat.
How Does it Work?
Intermittent fasting is great for burning fat, losing weight or weight management. The period of caloric restriction (fasting) requires the body to use stored body fat for fuel instead of the food that you just consumed.
This allows for an increased level of fat burning, which is great for those who are trying to lose weight and/or reduce their overall body fat percentage.
Intermittent fasting requires that you plan your meals accordingly.
For example, if you are planning to not eat from Friday night at 8pm until Saturday evening at 4pm, then you must plan your meals to provide maximum nutrient intake and to meet caloric requirements during the intervals of eating.
Intermittent Fasting Schedule
Most experts and practitioners believe that the period of fasting must be for at least 16 hours; with some proponents believing that the benefits of fasting not truly beginning until after 18 hours.
Within the world of intermittent fasting, there are many commercialized programs on the market. However, the majority of these programs are based on one of the following ratios:
- 16 -to-8: This ratio is often recommended for beginners because it's the least amount of time for fasting. 16 hours of fasting with a window of 8 hours for eating.
- 18-to-6: This ratio is often considered more of a moderate level of intermittent fasting with 18 hours of fasting and only 6 hours for eating.
- 20-to-4: This ratio is typically more for the advanced intermittent fasters as it requires longer periods of fasting and less time to eat.
Days Per Week
Determining how many days per week that someone should fast is really based on each person.
There are many factors that can impact how often one should fast. Some of these factors include: health conditions, work schedule, workout schedule and practicality.
The two most common options for frequency of fasting per week are:
- 1-to-2 times: Many beginners and most of the popular commercialized programs subscribe to the idea of 1 to 2 times per week. This allows most fasters to properly plan and prepare meals for throughout the week and on the days of fasting.
- Daily: Some experts claim that you can fast daily, meaning that you extend the length of fasting between meals. Or, you can push your first meal of the day until after lunchtime and make sure you stop eating around dinner time. This would give a window of about 16 to 18 hours for fasting each day.
Ultimately, intermittent fasting is about determining what works best for each individual. Since no two bodies are the same, no intermittent fasting program can be universal.
It's best to begin on the lower ratio of fasting intervals just a few times per week, as this allows the following:
- Acclimation to fasting
- More time to make lifestyle adjustments
- Easier to plan meals and prepare
As experience and acclimation to fasting increases, individuals may extend the duration and frequency of fasting to achieve the desired results.
Over the last few years, scientific research has discovered many great benefits to fasting. The following is a list of some of these benefits:
- Reduces cravings for sugary, junk food
- Regulates your ghrelin levels, which directly impacts your feelings of hunger
- Improves memory function
- According to a study in 2007, fasting reduced inflammation and improved oxidative stress.
- Increases human growth hormone (HGH) in both men and women. This increase in HGH can also improve or increase lean muscle mass, increase metabolism, reduce body fat and decrease weight.
- A 2011 study published in the International Journal of Obesity discovered that fasting lowered LDL cholesterol levels, triglycerides and blood pressure. The study would also go on to say that fasting can better regulate insulin levels and insulin resistance.
- Increase Lifespan - According to a study done by Mark Mattson of the National Institute on Aging, fasting can increase lifespan by as much as 30 percent.
With any diet, there are some risks. The following is a list of the most common risks associated with intermittent fasting:
- An increase in binge eating on the days that individuals don't fast.
- Many studies have been done on animals and that doesn't mean that these studies will translate to human subjects with the same rate of success.
- Some experts believe that intermittent fasting is not a viable long-term option; which means that the progress one makes during intermittent fasting may not last for the longer term.
- Intermittent fasting requires that individuals be even more meticulous in what they consumer during the days and intervals of eating.
- Many beginners run the risk of being malnourished due to not properly understanding how to get the necessary nutrients during the intervals of eating.
Exercise and Fasting
Exercising during periods of fasting can have tremendous benefits in the areas of losing weight and burning fat. One method of exercise that's highly compatible with fasting is High Intensity Interval Training (HIIT).
This method of exercising involves intervals of cardio sessions that are near maximum effort with intervals of moderate intensity. HIIT increases fat loss and weight loss. It also increases HGH production.
With any diet, you should consult your doctor on whether or not intermittent fasting is safe for you. The following is a list of people who should not fast:
- Pregnant women
- Cortisol Irregularities
Always monitor how your body responds to durations of fasting. If you experience headaches, tremors, increased irritability, or weakness when fasting, then stop fasting and seek medical advice from your physician.