What exactly is Intermittent fasting?
Unlike most diets that tell you what to eat, Intermittent fasting guides you on how often you should eat and at what time. This comes accompanied by periodic fasting periods that need you to abstain from food.
During the fast, the only thing you’re to take are fluids such as water, coffee, apple cider vinegar, and different types of tea e.g. lemon tea. And no, diet soda does not fall under that category.
So why is this becoming so popular? Is it a superior weight loss regime compared to the others? Let’s find out.
What’s the Buzz about it?
Intermittent fasting was first introduced to the masses back in 2012. This was done by a journalist from the BBC called Dr. Michael Mosley. He released a documentary entitled Eat Fast, Live Longer. The documentary generated a buzz and everyone was quite curious to know what exactly this is and how it works.
Ever since then, Intermittent fasting has been welcomed whole-heartedly with over a million copies of books about it being sold in the United Kingdom and the United States.
The approach has further been propelled into the limelight by celebrities. We’ve all seen drastic changes in artists such as Adele who publicly revealed that their weight-loss secret was exercise and intermittent fasting.
Promising right? So we’ve seen that it actually works, how exactly does it work though?
The Science Behind Intermittent Fasting.
Mark Mattson a Ph.D. student from John Hopkins studied IF for about 20 years. This is what he found out.
Our bodies are well capable of going without food for several hours and days ever since the prehistoric periods. Man used to get his livelihood through hunting and gathering. As we know, there were periods when food was scarce and hard to find. During these periods, man’s body began to adapt to these changes and burn the stored fat instead.
Mattson went ahead to explain that the food we eat is broken into sugar that gives energy to our cells and body. If there is an excess left, this then is stored as fat.
This is how Intermittent Fasting works. During the fasting period, the insulin levels of the pancreas are lowered, enabling the fat cells of the body to release the sugar they were holding and convert it into energy. Over time this leads to weight loss as the fat is being burned internally.
It also goes ahead to suppress and decrease appetite so the urge of snacking every two hours becomes non-existent.
Approaches to Intermittent Fasting.
There are three main approaches to IF.
This knowledge and scientific research are among the reasons many people have trusted and embraced it.
A. 5:2 Approach.
In this approach, you eat the three normal meals five days a week and for the remaining two, you only take one meal a day. The two special days don’t have to follow each other. You could do Tuesdays and Fridays, Mondays and Sundays, etc. It’s all up to you.
B. 16:8 Approach
In this approach, you only eat within a specific eight-hour period of a day and fast for the rest 16 hours of the day.
It is best to eat during the earlier parts of the day such as between 8 am and 4 pm or between 10 am and 6 pm. These are the hours that most people are at their prime.
C. Alternate-day approach
In this approach, you eat normally (three meals) for one day and fast completely the next day. If this is too extreme you can opt for having one small meal the following day. Afterward, keep alternating until the end of the week.
What should you eat during the fast?
Truth be told, it might be tempting to ‘reward’ yourself with junk after breaking the fast but refrain from this. The junk will do nothing to aid weight loss and will only be wasting your effort. Instead, pack on nutritious foods rich in vitamins needed by the body.
Take in a lot of whole grains, fruits, and vegetables. Add some good carbs and lean protein. This will be sure to give you the full stomach feeling hence you won’t feel like you’re missing out on snacking.
Can you exercise while doing the fast?
The correct answer for this is, it depends.
If you’re doing the 5:2 approach, leave the exercise for the days that you are eating normally.
If you’re doing the 16:8 Fast, it’s best to do the exercises before or after the fast, not during the window period of the fast.
However, this is purely optional and most people opt out of exercising while doing the fast.
If you choose to do the exercises, avoid High impact workouts such as running and HIIT. Instead, stick with low-impact workouts such as Yoga and Walking.
Disclaimer(Things to Know before Beginning the fast)
Intermittent fasting does not equate to starving yourself. Don’t take this overboard and starve. It’s very unhealthy to deny your body food for long periods such as 48 and 72 hours.
Instead of getting the results, you’re seeking, your body will simply refuse to burn the fat. This is because it has been forced to go into survival mode. It noticed that no food is incoming so as a defense it holds tightly to the fat stores.
One more thing, the results will not be instantaneous results. They will come in slowly and steadily as they stretch out over a period of time.
Your body is different from anyone else’s and will therefore give off results at a different time. For most, the most noticeable thing is weight maintenance.
Be patient with yourself and have health as the main goal of undertaking this fast. Doing it for your health will put your mind and heart at ease.
Over time you’ll notice an improvement in your gut health, you’ll be smarter and think quicker and your focus will be improved tremendously.
Other benefits include:
- Reduced chances of Obesity and Diabetes as it lowers insulin levels of the body.
- Improved Tissue Health
- Clears the toxins from our bodies hence reducing the chances of getting cancer
- Improved heart health,
- Lowering chances of heart attacks, cardiac arrest, and heart failure
Nonetheless, just like there are two sides to a coin, the fast has some negative side effects. These include hunger pangs, nausea, and headaches.
This is very common especially when starting out. Don’t let it discourage you though, be consistent and let your body adjust to it one day at a time
Groups of people to avoid the fast.
There are certain groups of people who should refrain from doing the fast
- Breastfeeding and pregnant mothers
- People below the age of 18
- Diabetic people
- People with a history of eating disorders. This is because the fast may act as a trigger for them.
All in all, the good outweighs the bad and this is definitely worth giving a try. With endurance and a focused mind, there’s nothing you cannot achieve. Cheers!
Intermittent fasting: Surprising update Monique Tello, MD, MPH. Harvard Health Publishing, March 2020.
What To Drink While Intermittent Fasting Jessica Ederer, JD, CPT, FNS, RYT. August 2020.
Is It Safe to Work Out While Intermittent Fasting? Health Experts Explain Tiffany Ayuda. November 2019.