Intermittent fasting has been all the rage lately and many people are vouching for its effectiveness but is it really a healthy way to reach your goals?
That depends on the individual; however, fasting has been proven to have health benefits. But, it’s not quite that simple. Now, we know that proper nutrition is essential for the body and mind which makes the idea of not eating can seem counterproductive.
However, there are right and wrong ways to do everything and moderation is key as with all things. Now, with Intermittent Fasting, you can still drink water, coffee, tea etc. as long as there are no calories in your consumption of any substance.
Some forms of IF allow for very few amounts of calories to be consumed (As to not completely deprive you). But for the most part, you’re going to need to decide on what type of fasting suits your lifestyle. Now, some people are not recommended to do any form of fasting and we’ll discuss this further but most healthy individuals can benefit from the awesomeness of not eating for extending periods of time.
Not necessarily all the time though…
But if intermittent fasting can reset blood sugar levels and lower insulin, we’ve discovered an amazing breakthrough for people with related health issues. Oh… and you’re not going to starve to death either because don’t forget that as we developed over time as human beings, food was not as abundant as it is today and people lived!
Like seriously… there’s food at every corner… literally!
Here’s a little secret… fasting actually good for us when done properly. So, put your worries aside unless you have health problems in which case you should always be under the supervision of a physician.
So What is Intermittent Fasting?
It’s basically a process of eating and fasting in cycles. So the most common form of intermittent fasting is called the 16/8 method (You’ve probably heard of it) and it’s where you fast for 16 hours and eat the other 8 hours remaining in a day.
We naturally fast as we sleep but this is nothing new to the body; which is why many people will extend this fast to equal a total of 16 hours. The type of foods you eat is always important because if you’re trying to improve your health and lose body fat simultaneously; you’ll need to watch your diet.
However, there’s not an exact nutritional guide for Intermittent Fasting and the type of food isn’t as significant as the actual time spent fasting and eating (But it is important) as long as your calories are sufficient.
Fasting for weight loss and/or Muscle Gains
Weight loss – If your goal is to lose weight/body fat, consume fewer calories than you need to maintain your current body weight during your allowed period of food consumption.
Muscle gains – For building muscle mass, you’ll need to consume a slight caloric surplus during the window of your eating cycle.
Regardless of your goals, the science behind caloric consumption still remains the same. Eat less to lose weight and eat more to gain weight. But Intermittent Fasting just creates an environment where fat cells can release the stored sugars which causes fat loss due to decreased insulin levels. (1)
How did fasting come about?
So fasting has been used since the beginning of time for many reasons but nowadays the decision to fast can mean something a lot different as our goals and lifestyles have changed drastically. Is your goal to lose weight?… or is to become healthier and stabilize blood sugar, blood pressure, and cholesterol levels?
Maybe it’s neither…
Then why else would you fast?
Well, some religions do it to sacrifice their fleshly urges in order to focus on some spiritual or religious aspect of life. This makes sense since food often becomes a way to seek comfort and is a distraction in many instances. (2)
That’s right, people have been doing it for decades and it turns out that it has many beneficial aspects.
Now, regarding the fitness-minded individuals, fat loss is the biggest reason for incorporating Intermittent Fasting into a daily regimen. The idea is that the longer you go without eating, the more your body will tap into those fat stores for energy, and therefore reduces body fat (Sounds amazing right)?
Yes, it does!
But we’ll go a little further so you can have a complete understanding.
What Are the Benefits?
Well… this can be subjective but studies have actually shown Intermittent Fasting to promote weight loss, lower blood sugar and cholesterol.
These benefits sound amazing for a majority of the population and which is why intermittent fasting has become such a big deal. For bodybuilders, athletes and the fitness-minded; Intermittent Fasting is definitely worth considering.
But, what most people don’t realize about Intermittent Fasting is that we give our digestive system a break from constantly working to process the nutrition we consume (Especially meat and non-plant-based foods).
Let’s dig a little deeper into each benefit of Intermittent Fasting…
So basically, when your body is in a fasting state, your insulin levels drop off which is necessary for fat loss. Fasting lowers levels significantly which is even a benefit for keeping glucose levels in a healthy range. (3)
Blood sugar, cholesterol, blood pressure
Fasting lowers insulin levels, therefore, lowering blood sugar levels. High blood sugar can result from many factors like a lack of insulin, too many unhealthy foods which raise blood sugar, not enough exercise, stress etc. (4)
High cholesterol and blood pressure are a big result of obesity, unhealthy diets and too little exercise which is why people may be able to benefit from periods of fasting. Weight loss is really the goal here to remain in healthy cholesterol and blood pressure ranges.
For those with prediabetes, Intermittent Fasting has proven to be a potentially effective approach to lowering blood sugar levels. (5)
It’s a simple approach to weight loss
Everyone likes the idea of keeping things simple (Especially life in general) and Intermittent Fasting does just that.
Now, why does it make life easier?
- You don’t have to worry about preparing meals for a good part of your day.
- You have more time to do other things besides eat.
With our busy schedules, we just don’t always have time to worry about eating and sometimes being able to accomplish more tasks throughout the say is worth the sacrifice.
Many People Do it Effectively
That’s right… it plain works! Now, some people may say that the weight comes back on afterward but that really depends on whether you make it a lifestyle or just try it for a trial period.
Stick with it and you be the judge of whether or not it’s sustainable!
Different Methods of Intermittent Fasting
Something to keep in mind about the following methods is that they are alternative ways to do Intermittent Fasting. The reasoning for choosing to fast in a certain way is entirely individual based.
So we mentioned the 16/8 method where you refrain from consuming any calories for 16 hours and then eat without restriction (Ideally healthy choices with) for the 8 hours.
A sample schedule would be the following:
Follow this schedule of eating and fasting cycles every day of the week, for example, Sunday – Saturday.
- Fast: 7 P.M. to 11 A.M.
- Eat: 11 A.M. to 7 P.M.
It’s a very simple concept to understand.
The 5:2 Diet
The 5:2 diet involves eating normally for five days out of the week and fasting for two days. But here’s the catch… women can eat 500 calories and men can eat 600 per the two fasting days. It’s important to allow one non-fasting day to be in between the two fasting days.
5:2 fasting sample schedule:
- Eat normally Wednesday, Thursday, Friday, Sunday and Tuesday.
- Fast Saturday and Monday.
Since you can consume 500/600 on your fasting days, it’s best to split your meals into two or three during the day.
So with an alternating style fasting regimen, you can eat like you normally would one day and then fast the next day.
But for people who are not used to fasting, you can generally consume 500/600 calories per fasting day. If you’re more advanced it’s your choice as to whether or not you want to eat at all during the days you’re fasting.
- Monday (Eat normally)
- Tuesday (Fast)
- Wednesday (Eat normally)
- Thursday (Fast)
- Repeat for the rest of the week.
So with a 24-hour fast, you will basically fast for 24 hours once or twice a week. So if you finish a meal at 3 P.M. one day, then you’ll fast all the way to 3 P.M. the next day.
It’s simple but may be difficult for those who cannot bear the hunger pangs from going so long without eating. So start slow and build your way up. Maybe try 12 hours first and gradually increase by a couple of hours each time until you reach 24 hours.
Who Should Do Intermittent Fasting?
The short answer is that it’s definitely not for everyone (All the time) but here’s a small list of who should not think about Intermittent Fasting…
- People who are ill
- Pregnant women
- People with eating disorders
Each individual is different and making sudden dietary changes can be dangerous. Now, the average healthy person should be fine to practice some form of fasting and should even be ok with slowing incorporating intermittent fasting. But individuals who need a Doctor’s supervision due to health concerns should be very cautious and should definitely consult with their provider.
Some people may need to take medications with foods and waiting until later in the day is just not an option.
Another group of individuals who may not benefit from Intermittent Fasting is children and young adults who are still developing. We know that nutrition plays a big role in a child’s growth stages and fasting may simply just not be worth the risk.
Now is there conclusive evidence to prove this? Not necessarily but based on the fact that nutrients are vital to development, depriving a young person for extended periods of time is not recommended. (6)(7)
This goes for women who are pregnant as well because a baby’s development in the womb is highly dependent on the mother’s nutritional habits. (8)
If you suffer from an eating disorder then Intermittent Fasting is not for you. Being malnourished is a serious health condition not to be taken lightly. At this point, any form of calorie restriction is highly discouraged.
But What About Getting Lightheaded and Hungry?
Drink lots of water… it’s very important to stay hydrated at all times and especially in the beginning stages of fasting.
Now, the reason for being really hungry and maybe even a little lightheaded is because we’re used to eating during a regular schedule (Some of us too much). But, this is just a cultural thing and is not necessarily something you have to do.
You see, we’ve been conditioned to believe that we need 3, 4, 5… or even 6 meals a day but our ancestors didn’t really always have access to an abundance of nutrition. Don’t get us wrong though, having food is great and was important for our development over the years but we’ve become a food-obsessed world if we’re being completely honest.
Sometimes we just have to dig deep and pull out our mental strength to get through the times we want to give in and stuff ourselves with foods which make our taste buds go crazy!
Fasting like most other things in life requires some mental toughness because our urges will control us if we don’t push through the pain.
But, because we’re accustomed to eating so frequently, we must start slow and gradually progress to longer fasting periods.
Should You Do it Forever?!
Hold your horses there… no one said you had to do it forever but you can schedule a weekly or monthly fasting schedule. Heck, even fasting every other day can be effective. There are many ways to do Intermittent Fasting and if you so choose to implement this lifestyle daily, then choose a method which will be sustainable for you.
Only you can understand how your body works and it’s not the same for everyone!
It’s entirely your call and if you want to experience the short term benefits then give it a try. After all, you have nothing to lose… well, except maybe a few pounds.
Are There Any Benefits Over Traditional Dieting?
To be frankly honest, this question has yielded many mixed answers. Several studies find Intermittent Fasting to be effective for weight loss and health benefits. But, in contrast, there seems to be a lot of people who feel it provides no significant advantages over a normal, healthy diet.
However, the results speak for themselves and studies prove Intermittent Fasting to be very effective for weight loss and those with minor blood sugar issues. (5)
Plus, the convenience factor makes Intermittent Fasting much more attractive than conventional dieting since you’re not always preoccupied with eating.
Does Intermittent Fasting Interfere with Gains?
Nope… not at all! The whole eating six meals a day thing for muscle growth is nonsense. As long as you get in enough calories and sufficient macronutrients, you’ll build muscle.
Don’t pay attention to the myth of needing to spread out your meals (Although it’s definitely not a bad thing).
There are plenty of examples of people who go for hours without eating and are completely jacked! So as long your calories are sufficient during the eating cycles of fasting you’ll be just fine.
We knew you were worried about the gains and wanted to give you some peace of mind.
What About Intermittent Fasting and… Keto?
Hmm, we might as well push our luck a little bit and dabble in the idea of Intermittent Fasting and a keto diet. Two hot health trends which could possibly work together for even better results?
So will it really work?
Heck yeah, it will! Ketogenic diets are great and should work effectively in combination with Intermittent Fasting. Now, you might be wondering what Keto is and we’ll explain…
The Ketogenic Diet
Keto diets are high fat and low carb with moderate protein. During ketosis, the body uses fat stores for energy and preserves the protein for muscle building. Carbs are eventually lowered to less than 50 grams per day which creates even more ketones from fats to be used as the main fuel source. (9)
Intermittent Fasting and Keto combined can accelerate ketosis and potentially cause more fat loss since fat stores are always being used as the main energy source. This is especially good for people who usually do a keto diet on its own. (10)
Just make sure you’re completely healthy before attempting to combine both IF and Keto.
Does Intermittent Fasting Affect Men and Women Differently?
This is an important factor to consider when considering Intermittent Fasting. Unfortunately, there are studies showing IF to be less effective and possibly detrimental for some women while men don’t experience the same issues. In fact, a study actually showed women to have less blood sugar control than men over three weeks of Intermittent Fasting. (11)
Women in general experience negative effects on lower calorie diets. During fasting, the brain is affected and reproductive hormones LH and FSH are affected by prolonged fasting which causes adverse health effects like infertility, abnormal periods and many other issues. (12)
This means that women should take many precautions before even thinking about implementing an Intermittent Fasting routine. It’s simply not worth your health and you can still get results without extending periods without consuming calories.
But, if you do decide to fast make sure you do it for shorter periods of time.
Intermittent Fasting Is Safe and Effective
We hope you took something away from all this great information and maybe now you’d like to try Intermittent Fasting to see how your body responds to it. Well, as you know people have fasted for centuries and it does have some pretty obvious benefits from weight loss to insulin reduction.
However, more studies need to be conducted to come to a conclusion on the entire spectrum of potential benefits Intermittent Fasting could offer people.
If you decide to implement Intermittent Fasting into your life, make sure you are healthy and have a goal in mind. Whether it be weight loss, muscle building or just overall better health, it’s a good idea to approach Intermittent Fasting with a strategy.
You don’t have to jump into a full-blown Intermittent Fasting regimen right away which will allow you to ease yourself into it. If we said it wasn’t difficult to fast for extended periods of time we’d be lying but the proof is still there for the potential benefits (As long as you do it properly).