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Intermittent fasting: Everything you need to know

What it is and what it isn’t. 

Intermittent Fasting isn’t a diet in the traditional sense of the word – because it doesn’t specify what you should and shouldn’t eat. Instead, it specifies when you should and shouldn’t eat. What you choose to eat, during those periods that you can, depends on what you’re hoping to accomplish, and is left to your good sense. 

The backstory 

The concept of fasting has existed in some form or the other since the beginning of time. Early man hunted for his food, which meant that he also went for periods of time without eating. Many religions around the world perpetuate the idea of fasting, even today. But the idea of intermittent fasting really took off after BBC journalist Dr. Michael Mosley’s TV documentary, ‘Eat Fast, Live Longer’, and book, ‘The Fast Diet’ came out. Since then, the practice has gained popularity among those wanting to lose weight (and keep it off), improve health and generally adopt a better lifestyle. 

What does  Intermittent Fasting do for you?

When done right, intermittent fasting has a number of benefits: weight loss, improved metabolism, reduced insulin resistance, reduced inflammation, better heart and brain health, possibly even a longer life! 

Studies have revealed that fasting has a significant impact on the body – right down to a cellular level, which makes it a great tool if you’re trying to lose weight and be healthier. Here’s a roundup of the major benefits of Intermittent Fasting:

 Increased Human Growth Hormone Levels: Fasting intermittently increases your human growth hormone levels, which helps both weight loss and muscle gain. 

Cell repair: It facilitates cell repair, which includes a process where the cells remove old and dysfunctional proteins that can buildup inside the cells. 

Decreased insulin levels: It improves insulin sensitivity, which reduces insulin levels, and makes that stubborn body fat less stubborn.

Hormone release: It increases the release of the fat burning hormone, norepinephrine, (noradrenaline), and also increases your metabolic rate. 

Gene expression: It also changes how your genes that help to protect you against disease work. 

Now the money question: how do you go about Intermittent Fasting?

There are different ways in which you can fast intermittently – the idea being that you have periods of time when you eat, and periods of time when you don’t. 

  1. The 16/8 method is the most popular, and involves restricting your eating to an 8 hour window in the day. 
  2. The 5:2 diet subscribes to eating normally for 5 days in the week, and restricting your calories to a set number (between 500 and 600) for two days in the week. 
  3. The Eat-Stop-Eat method recommends fasting for a 24-hour period, once or twice in the week. 
  4. As the name suggests, with the Alternate Day fasting method, you fast or limit your caloric intake every other day. 
  5. The Warrior Diet allows you to snack on small portions of fruits and veggies during the day, and have one solid meal at night within a 4-hour window. 
  6. Spontaneous Meal Skipping, as the name suggests, involves skipping meals if you’re not hungry.

Some final words. 

Intermittent Fasting tells you when to eat, rather than what to eat. But it won’t work if you binge or overindulge during those periods when you’re supposed to eat. So, it stands to reason that you do need to ensure that you’re eating a balanced diet. Binging and overdoing processed foods and snacks during your eating periods will not give you the results you want, whether it is weight loss or muscle building. It’s important to eat nutritious food and sleep properly. Therefore, before you start, you might want to consult a dietician and calculate how many calories you need to remain healthy. You could also eat smarter and/or replace or supplement your meals with a low calorie, high protein shake or the like –the market offers many options that can help you do this with ease, such as Origin Nutrition’s vegan protein powders that you can smoothie, bake or add to your everyday cooking. Ready to get started? 

References:

https://www.health.harvard.edu/blog/intermittent-fasting-surprising-update-2018062914156

https://www.hopkinsmedicine.org/health/wellness-and-prevention/intermittent-fasting-what-is-it-and-how-does-it-work

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4516560/

https://www.healthline.com/nutrition/intermittent-fasting-guide#what-it-is

https://www.healthline.com/nutrition/6-ways-to-do-intermittent-fasting#TOC_TITLE_HDR_2