Intermittent fasting is not another fad diet. It is related to the intervals at which a person eats. It means consuming your meals at particular times so as to make the most out of them. Intermittent fasting focuses more on “when” you eat rather than “what” you eat. It is a technique in which you don’t need to cut down on your calorie intake. You just have to stop and resume eating within a specific time period. You may wonder what the purpose of intermittent fasting is? Well, most people undertake intermittent fasting for achieving fat loss.
Read on to know more on what intermittent fasting is and how you can lose fat by following it.
Beginners Guide to Intermittent Fasting
Would you believe if I tell you that skipping breakfast may not necessarily be harmful to your body? Maybe not. And this is because you have probably been bombarded from all sides the miraculous benefits of breakfast on the body. It is true that having breakfast does improve your health. But not having it certainly does not mean that it will deteriorate your health.
Intermittent fasting can be a great choice for those who have tried all sorts of diets but to futility have got no results. If you are the kind who simply cannot stick to a diet or finds it difficult to make major changes in diet, then intermittent fasting can help you. It helps you to lose weight and also gives you a sense of satisfaction.
It is very important that you practice intermittent fasting under the guidance of an expert. You can either consult a doctor, your fitness trainer or a qualified dietician to guide you through this. If done the correct way it can help you not only to shed off kilos but also improve your overall health.
Given below are a few fasting patterns that you can choose from. You can start with the 16:8 Plan. It is the simplest and most of the people find it effective. You can gradually try and experiment with all of them. Stick to the one you are most comfortable with. The technique that makes you feel healthy and energetic is the one for you.
Different Types of Intermittent Fasting Diet Plans
There are various types of intermittent fasting options available. Experiment with each one and then choose the one that works best for you.
1) 16:8 Plan / Daily Intermittent Fasting
This is known as Leangains diet plan and some people call it the 16:8 Diet Plan. It comprises an 8 hour of eating period followed by a 16-hour fast period. You can choose the time of your eating period and fasting period. You can keep 7 AM to 3 PM as the eating period and the rest as fasting period. This way you get to have breakfast and lunch. Or keep 1 PM to 9 PM as the eating period, in which you get to have lunch and dinner. You can decide the time which suits you. This model was invented by Martin Berkhen.
2) The 5:2 Diet Plan
In this plan, you maintain your normal diet for five days of the week and restrict your diet to 500-600 calories for two days. It is also known as the “fast diet”. On the fast days, it is advised that females consume 500 Kcals and males consume 600 kcals in a day. You can have only two meals of 200-300 kcals on the fast days.
3) Weekly Intermittent Fasting
If you are a beginner and daily intermittent fasting is too much for you to follow then you can follow the weekly intermittent fasting. It involves keeping fast once a week. If once a week also seems like a challenge, then start by keeping a fast once a month. You can gradually increase the number of days that you observe fast. It does not lead to a quick weight loss. But it has other benefits that work well for your body.
This type of fasting is great for those who wish to maintain their weight in the long run. What happens in this kind of fasting is that you get to eat every day, at the same time; followed by fasting for 24 hours. For e.g., if you had a snack at tea time and considered it to be your last meal for the day, then you observe a fast till the next day’s tea time.
24-hour fasting is great after a festival or when you are back from a vacation. The main benefit of this type of fasting is that it helps in getting you started. It is relatively easier to observe this fast and when you successfully complete it, it gives you a sense of accomplishment. You feel more confident about yourself.
4) The Warrior Diet
This plan was made famous by Ori Hofmekler. He is a fitness expert from Israel. He has also authored a book called “The Warrior Diet”. In this plan, you consume only raw fruits and salads during the day and have a good meal at night. This plan also focuses on “what” you eat. Wholesome and unprocessed food should be consumed in your diet when you are following this plan.
5) Alternate Day Intermittent Fasting
Alternate day fasting involves longer periods of fasting. Take an example. If Monday dinner was your last meal, you will observe a fast till Tuesday’s dinner. On Wednesday, you can have your regular meals. On Thursday, you can again observe a fast till dinner, and so on. This way, you get to have at least one meal per day along with consistent long periods of fasting.
This type of fasting is not very commonly practised. It is used by some researchers for study purpose. It helps you in losing weight because your calorie intake reduces. But excessively following this routine can leave you with deficiencies.
6) Spontaneous Meal Skipping
Like the name suggests, in this plan you observe a fast spontaneously. Whenever you don’t feel very hungry or are too tired to cook, you observe a fast. This does not require any planning. Make sure you eat healthy in your feeding periods. This is an ideal plan while travelling or after a vacation.
Common Symptoms Experienced When You Start Intermittent Fasting
When you start with intermittent fasting, there are a few changes that you may see in your body. This is because your body needs some time to adjust to the new pattern of eating. In the beginning, you may feel some discomfort, but you can manage the symptoms. Given below are a few symptoms that you may experience:
Hunger Pangs: Ghrelin, the hunger hormone, gets released at regular intervals. This is because your eating pattern has conditioned it to do so. When you fast, ghrelin gets released and makes you hungry. But you must learn to have a control over your hunger. Slowly you will notice a reduction in the production of ghrelin. At first, it may be difficult, but all you need is a strong willpower.
Weakness: Some people may experience fatigue and lethargy when they first start fasting. In the initial days, it may be normal to experience this. It is because your body is getting lesser calories than before. But this should subside within a week. If you continue to feel tired, then you may be doing it wrong. Start slow. Always remember, you should feel energized and not tired.
Cravings: When you are told not to eat, you tend to feel hungrier. You may get strong cravings that may be difficult to control. You may crave for sweets or carbohydrate-rich foods. This is because the body needs the glucose. But again, if you control it for a few initial days, it will get easier for you in the future.
Irritability: When you restrict food, the blood sugar levels drop. This affects the mood. You may feel irritable and restless. You can deal with this by relaxing and calming down. Distract yourself in such situations.
Headache: Not having food can dehydrate your body. Always remember, when you fast it is very important that you drink plenty of water. This will prevent headaches.
Acidity and Bloating: When you fast, the acid production will still continue to secrete normally, for the first few days. You may experience heartburn and bloat. Avoid consuming spicy foods in your feeding phase. Drink lots of water. If you feel bloated, you can drink warm water.
Constipation: Due to calorie restriction you may experience constipation. Remember that in this case, you need to add more whole grains and fibre-rich foods in your diet and drink plenty of water.
Increased Urination: Since you are compensating the food with water, you may experience increased urination. You do not need to worry about it as your body will flush out toxins and gradually will get used to it.
All of the above symptoms are common and normal when you first start with intermittent fasting. But remember, that these are only to be experienced temporarily. Your body takes about a week to get adjusted to the new pattern of eating that you have adopted. But, if you are experiencing it for more than a week then you need to stop the fast. It is a sign that you are not doing it the right way. Consult an expert and switch to that method of intermittent fasting which is ideal for your body.
Intermittent Fasting Benefits
1) Maintains Muscle Mass
Intermittent fasting keeps your muscle mass intact while you continue to lose weight. It requires a slight change in your food consumption pattern due to which most individuals are comfortable sticking to the plan. It works well by keeping the good weight and eliminating the bad weight.
2) Makes Life Simple
Since you are consuming fewer meals, it saves you a lot of time and money. Deciding what to prepare for breakfast/lunch/dinner can be a tedious task. All this hassle can be avoided to an extent with intermittent fasting.
3) Longer Lifespan
Studies have proved that starvation leads to a longer lifespan. The body activates several mechanisms that extend your life. But most people like food too much to sacrifice it just to live a few years extra. Intermittent fasting gives you the best of both. You fast for a few hours and also provide the necessary fuel to the body during the feeding phase. The body utilizes this fuel very efficiently and hence gives you a long life.
4) Reduces Risk of Cancer
A few studies have shown a positive correlation between cancer and fasting. Fasting before chemotherapy sessions brings down the intensity of the associated side effects. Fasting between chemotherapy helps in better recovery. However, not enough studies have been conducted in this area.
5) Easier to Follow
Following a particular diet requires more efforts. It requires a certain discipline and a sense of control. Not everybody has it in them to stick to a diet for long. Intermittent fasting is comparatively easier to follow and stick to. A study proves that obese adults find it easier to comply with intermittent fasting.
Intermittent Fasting for Women
According to some studies conducted, intermittent fasting may not be as beneficial to women as it is for men. One study revealed that blood sugar control got worsened in women after 3 weeks of intermittent fasting.
Due to this reason, women should approach a modified way of intermittent fasting, which is – shorter fasting periods and fewer fasting days. If followed in a right way, it can have several benefits for women such as –
- Reduces Waistline (weight loss)
- Improves Heart Health
- Lowers Risk of Diabetes
- Reduces Inflammation
- Improves Psychological Well-being
How Can You Achieve Weight Loss With Intermittent Fasting?
After you have a meal, for the next 3-4 hours the digestion and absorption process is active. The insulin levels are high and there is hardly any fat burning process happening. After 4 hours if you again consume something, then again the same process takes place. But, in case you don’t have the next meal, the body enters the post-absorptive state. It simply means that your body is not digesting or absorbing any meal. If this state continues for 8-12 hours then the body enters the fasted state. The insulin levels go down. Your body can now efficiently burn fat.
Our body doesn’t go very often in the fasted state. Only at night does the body go in this state. Therefore, this kind of fat burning too occurs rarely in our body. This is the reason why people are practising intermittent fasting to lose weight without sacrificing much on their diet.
Can You Follow Intermittent Fasting When On a Ketogenic Diet?
The ketogenic diet is very popular these days. It is a kind of diet which is low in carbs and high in fat. This diet makes your body go into ketosis, a condition in which the body burns fat for energy. This happens because of the low sugar levels.
Individuals on a ketogenic diet, restrict their intake of carbohydrates to 25-30 grams per day. They increase the amount of fat and add a moderate amount of protein to the diet.
Following a ketogenic diet along with intermittent fasting can put a strain on your body. But there are ways in which you can manage both and use them to improve your health. It can improve insulin sensitivity; regulate blood sugars and growth hormones. You can achieve ketosis faster when you are fasting. Also, you will experience fewer cravings and hunger pangs. Intermittent fasting increases your metabolism and helps in breaking down fat.
But remember, in this case, the guidance of an expert is very essential.
Side Effects of Intermittent Fasting
1) Risk of Developing an Eating Disorder
If you wish to start with intermittent fasting, then it is important that you first consult a qualified dietician. If you do not follow intermittent fasting under the supervision of a dietician, there is a risk of you developing an eating disorder. Some people are more prone to developing an eating disorder. If such people start fasting, it may further increase their chances of developing an eating disorder.
2) Discomfort After Eating
Sometimes the hunger can make you binge in your feeding periods. This may cause discomfort after eating. You may consume much more than you normally eat. It can affect your sleep and may also lead to bloating.
Some people may get overly obsessed with the fasting and feeding periods. They may keep over obsessing regarding their eating timings.
Intermittent fasting may lead to addictions. People may consume coffee, tea or other drinks to satiate themselves and avoid hunger pangs. Such addictions can have bad results on your overall health.
5) Not Good for Athletes
Those who are training for sports should avoid intermittent fasting. This is because they indulge in intense workouts. Fasting may exhaust them and not allow them to give their best performance. Sports individuals require extra energy. This is the reason why they should not practice intermittent fasting.
6) Not Good For Pregnant Women
Do not practice intermittent fasting when you are pregnant. It may not be good for you and the fetus. When you are hungry make sure you eat good and healthy food.
Intermittent Fasting Success Stories
There are a number of people who have benefitted from the intermittent fasting technique. Celebrities have gone on record and shared their success stories related to intermittent fasting. Hugh Jackman followed the Leangains fasting plan and got a lean figure. He also reported that he slept better while he was following this pattern. Jennifer Metcalfe, a British soap opera celebrity, practised intermittent fasting and reported improved energy levels.
It was reported by Today.com in their recent article that a doctor followed intermittent fasting and lost up to 56 kg in 18 months. Kevin Gendreau is a resident doctor from Massachusetts. His sister passed away due to ovarian cancer and that’s what triggered him to take some action regarding his own health. He weighed 150 kg and is 5 feet 9 inches tall. He dealt with metabolic diseases like high blood pressure, high blood cholesterol, and diabetes. In August 2016, he started his journey towards good health. He eliminated all the junk from his diet and lost a few kilos. But then, he reached a plateau. A few more efforts resulted in a little more weight loss. But he needed to lose more. And that’s when he started intermittent fasting. He followed the 16:8 Plan.
It helped him lose around 30 kilos and achieve his healthy body weight. He was impressed by the results. He works out daily and eats healthy. This has helped him restore good health and go off all medications. Being a doctor he ensures that if done correctly this method is safe and beneficial for your health.
Now that you know the different kinds of fasting schedules that you can follow, all you have to do is – experiment. Start slow and gradually explore what works best for your body. It is very important that you carry out the fasting carefully. Do not be very strict with yourself. If you cannot control your hunger, then do not do so forcibly. Break the fast and try again. If you experience any kind of weakness then go back to your normal way of eating. Let your body adjust to the new pattern. Always remember, you should be experiencing the benefits of fasting and not its adverse effects.