Intermittent Fasting, Meaning, Benefits, Side Effects, What to Eat, How to Do It

What is intermittent fasting and why would you need it? IF is a dieting pattern. It is currently one of the most popular health and fitness trend. This method is a great option if you would wish to lose weight, improve your general health or live a healthy lifestyle.

Scientific methods have shown that this option can have a powerful effect on your body and brain. Here is the meaning, reasons why you would opt for this method, how to do it, the benefits and some side- effects that you might encounter.

What is intermittent fasting?

what is intermittent fasting

What is intermittent fasting? This is not a diet but rather a dieting plan or pattern. It involves making a conscious decision to skip meals and only eat on purpose. What this means is that you eat at a specific window of the day and stay without eating at the other times.

The methods cycles between periods of eating and fasting. The plan does not say anything about the type of food you should eat but rather when you are to eat. That is why intermittent fasting is not a diet in the conventional sense but rather an eating pattern.

For those who practice this, the method will involve daily 16-hour fasting or fasting for 24 hours twice every week. James Clear a fitness coach, has been practicing this method for over one your now, he describes his intermittent fasting plans as follows “I skip breakfast each day and eat two meals, the first around 1 pm and the other around 8 pm. I then fast for 16 hours until I start eating again the next day at 1 pm”

James Clear testify that after doing this for some time now:

  • He has increased muscle mass from 205 to 215 pounds
  • Decreased body fat down by 3%
  • Increased explosiveness and
  • Decreased the amount of time spent training

In his own words, after starting intermittent fasting James claims “I’m stronger, leaner and more explosive even though I go to the gym less and eat less”

Types of intermittent fasting

The science of intermittent fasting can be traced back to the 1930s. Back then researchers were exploring the benefits of reducing calories by skipping meals. It is during this research that an American scientist found out that significantly reducing calories helped mice live longer and healthier.

Recent scientific research done on fruit flies, roundworms and monkey have also shown that decreasing the amount of calories consumption by 30% (not considering how the reduction is done) can extend life span by a third or more.

Fasting has been shown to reduce the risk of some diseases and may increase the body’s responsiveness to insulin. Insulin is a body chemical that regulates blood sugar, thus control hunger. Over time, fitness and health coaches have developed different types of intermittent fasting. Different type will yield different results for different people. It is therefore important to try a type of intermittent fasting that will yield the maximum benefits.

intermittent fasting plan

The most popular methods or types of intermittent fasting are the following:

1. 16/8 method

This method was developed by Martain Berkhan, it is a best for dedicated gym-goers whose aim is to lose body fat and build muscle.

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How it works is that women fast for 14 hours whereas men fast for 16 hours each day. You are then required to feed for the remaining 10 to 8 hours. During your fasting period, you are not to consume any calories. You can, however, use black coffee, diet soda, and sugar-free gum.

What and when you eat during your feeding window depend on your workout. Carbs are better than fa on the day you exercise. Maintain a slightly high consumption of protein every day.

2. Eat-Stop-Eat method

This method of intermittent fasting was started by Brad Pilon. It is the best method for healthy eaters looking for an extra boost.

How the method work is that you fast for 24 hours once or twice a week. During the fasting period (24 breaks from eating) no food is consumed. Calories beverages are however allowed. After the fasting, you can then go back to eating normally.

This method reduces the general intake of calories. The good thing with this type of intermittent fasting is that it does so without limiting what you eat.

If weight loss or improving body compositing are your goals, then it important to know that importing regular workouts, especially resistance training is key to succeeding on this plan.

Some con with this method is that some people may find it difficult to go for 24 hours without calories. This is common especially when you are just getting started. You may experiences symptoms such as headaches, fatigue or feeling cranky.

3. 5:2 diet plan

Also called the warrior diet, this method was developed by Ori Hofmekler. It is a good plan for people who like following rules, the devoted.

With this method, you are expected to fast for about 20 hours every day and then eat one large meal every night. Ori proposes that what you eat or when you eat within the large meal is key to this method. The philosophy in this type of intermittent fasting is feeding the body the nutrients it needs in sync with circadian rhythms.

The method is more about under eating. During the fasting period, you can eat raw fruits or vegetables. This will help maximize the sympathetic nervous system response which is intended to promote alertness, boost energy and stimulate fat burning.

4. Spontaneous meal skipping

This type involves skipping meal only when convenient. Here you do not have to follow a structured intermittent fasting plan to reap the benefits of IF.

You can do this by skipping meals when you are not feeling hunger or when busy. It is true that a human body is equipped to handle long periods of famine, so it won’t hurt to skip meals from time to time.

Though the four are the most commonly used types of intermittent fasting, there are other variations you can adapt depending on your goals, target or your general health status.

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Benefits of intermittent fasting

A majority of scientific studies done on intermittent fasting in both humans and animal shows that this process can have powerful benefits on weight control and the general health of your body and brain. Other benefits of intermittent fasting will include the following:

  1. It is a good and efficient method of weight loss. With this method, one can easily cut weight and belly fat without going through the hustle of restricting your calories consumption.
  2. Research shows that this method can increase can reduce insulin resistance, lowering blood sugar up to 6 percent. This can thus protect against type 2 diabetes.
  3. Though not conclusive, intermittent fasting can help prevent cancer.
  4. It can reduce inflammation a key driver of many chronic diseases. This occurs due to the reduction of the makers of inflammation through intermittent fasting.
  5. The method can also reduce LDL cholesterol, blood triglycerides, thus improving your general health of your heart.
  6. It increases a brain hormone known as BDNF and also aids the growth of new nerve cells, and protect against Alzheimer’s disease all this improves your brain health
  7. It changes the function of cells, genes, and hormones. Fasting gives your body time to initiate important cellular repair process. It also changes hormones level to make stored body fat more accessible.
  8. Intermittent fasting may extend your lifespan, helping you live longer. Studies in rats have shown that intermittent fasting extends lifespan in a similar way as continuous calories restriction.

Intermittent fasting for women

Intermittent is not everyone. Anybody diagnosed with eating disorder or is underweight should not try this method without fast consulting your health care provider. Doing it can have unwanted side effects.

There some evidence that women should not do this process. Generally, intermittent fasting may not be as beneficially to women as it for men. One such study showed that intermittent fasting improved insulin sensitivity in men but worsened blood sugar control in women.

Though there are not enough studies done on humans, those carried out on rats’ shows that intermittent fasting can make female rats emaciated, masculinized, infertile and cause to miss cycles.

There are reports from women who become amenorrheic (stopped having their periods) when they started doing intermittent fasting then went to normal when they stopped.

Women should thus avoid doing this. If you have to do it, then ease into it and if you notice any of the said side effects stop doing it completely.

Intermittent fasting diet

What to eat when fasting will vary depending on your goals. Remember, with intermittent fasting is not mostly about what you eat but when you eat. So you can eat what you want on days when you don’t fast.

According to WebMD, if your goal is to lose weight and getting the nutrients you need, you should stick to a health food. You will need to limit treats like dessert and other processed foods. Eat very little or no food at all on the fasting day.

Regardless of the diet, you are on, you are to eat not more than 500 calories during each of your fasting days. This is regardless of the type of intermittent fasting you are using.

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How to do intermittent fasting

Intermittent fasting can have great benefits on your general health and lifestyle. As said, this method does not change what you eat but rather when you eat. For that reason, it is a great way to get lean without going on a diet or cutting your calories’ down to nothing. You also get to keep muscle mass on while getting lean.

There different types and variations you can use for this method. How you intermittent fast will vary for person to the other depending on your needs, and goals. That is do you wish to gain weight, lose weight, become lean or simply live a healthy life?

Intermittent fasting is not more of what you eat but rather when you eat. So depending on what you eat, you can choose one of the types above that better suits your needs. If you wish to get started this method, you will need to keep the following tips in mind:

  • Drink plenty of water and fluid to keep your body hydrated. Staying hydrated will make it easy for you when fasting.
  • It’s easier to fast overnight, with this kind of a plan, a good number hours of your fasting time will be spent sleeping
  • You will need to commit to type of intermittent fasting you choose for better results
  • Depending on what goals you have, pairing the fasting with consistent exercise will yield an even better outcome.

Intermittent fasting side effects

Like other health and fitness plans, intermittent fasting does have some side effects, especially in women. IF does, however, have an outstanding safety profile. There is nothing wrong about not eating. This is for those who are health and overall nourished.

Generally, hunger is the main side effect of this process. Other would include:

  • Feeling weak and your brain not performing at optimal levels. This is often temporary but it can take time before your body adapts to it
  • Worsen blood sugar control especially in women
  • Women may become emaciated, and masculinized
  • Some women may become amenorrheic, that is they may stop having their period this can make them become infertile

This is not a method for people who are underweight, pregnant women, or those on medication. Make sure to consult your health care provider before trying this process if you are one of the following people:

  • You are on medication
  • You’re an underlying medical condition such as diabetes, blood pressure, or have a history of any eating disorder
  • You are pregnant, breastfeeding or are trying to conceive

References:

  1. Intermittent fasting 101- the ultimate beginner’s guide: http://www.healthline.com/nutrition/intermittent-fasting-guide
  2. What s intermittent fasting and why you will do it: http://jamesclear.com/the-beginners-guide-to-intermittent-fasting
  3. The beginner’s guide to intermittent fasting: http://jamesclear.com/the-beginners-guide-to-intermittent-fasting
  4. The right intermittent fasting method for you: http://dailyburn.com/life/health/intermittent-fasting-methods/
  5. Intermittent fasting: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Intermittent_fasting
  6. 10 Evidence base based health benefit of intermittent fasting: http://www.healthline.com/nutrition/10-health-benefits-of-intermittent-fasting#section1

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