Here’s the thing about intermittent fasting: it’s been around for a while. Many different cultures and faith groups turn to fasting as a form of cleansing and a way to become more connected with the spiritual self.
Today, we’ve realized that the benefits of fasting don’t stop there. Research has shown that there are great reasons to get on board with fasting and to reap the benefits of the practice.
Intermittent fasting is not a diet in any traditional sense. It is not about what you eat but when you eat. Intermittent fasting means cycling between periods of eating and fasting. Different types of fasting may be more or less extreme but some that have become popular in recent times.
What is Intermittent Fasting?
A famous example is the 5:2 diet. The 5:2 diet involves eating a normal diet for five days of the week and then reducing calories to 25% of your normal intake for the remaining two days. For most adults this would mean about 2000 calories for five days, then 500-600 for two days.
Another popular variation of intermittent fasting is a daily fast of approximately 16 hours, followed by an eight-hour period in which food is consumed. This is sometimes known as time-restricted feeding or TRF.
It doesn’t matter when you eat and when you fast under this model. Many people typically choose sociable eating hours, such as 1-8pm, meaning they skip breakfast and eat their first meal of the day in the early afternoon.
Time-restricted feeding is actually quite similar to the fast that Muslims observe during Ramadan, particularly in the Northern hemisphere where a summer fast might involve 16 hours of daylight or more. Many Muslims would agree that there are health benefits in Ramadan as well as improved spiritual well-being.
Intermittent fasting has a number of health benefits. In particular, fasting helps you lose weight and burn fat. By eating less often, the body burns existing fat for energy.
One of the other main benefits is the time gained by fasting. By skipping breakfast, some people note the extra clarity and concentration they have in the morning hours. Squeezing eating into a carefully managed routine can free up the rest of the day for other activities.
After a few days of fasting, the body releases more endorphins into the bloodstream. This results in increased alertness and an overall feeling of wellbeing.
Another benefit is that fasting is easier to stick to than other types of diet. One major theory about the effectiveness of fasting is that it leads to an overall reduction in calorie intake. For people with weight issues, can help achieve and maintain a healthy body.
How does it work?
There are several theories as to why intermittent fasting can lead to health gains. One suggests that during long periods without food the body turns to fat reserves for energy, thereby burning fat.
Other theories suggest that the increased stress that fasting puts on cells basically causes the body to up its game and fight harder. This appears to enhance the body’s immune responses and helps fight diseases.
One of the main theories of the effectiveness of fasting is that it leads to an overall reduction in calorie intake. It doesn’t matter when we eat, provided we eat a balanced diet and don’t consume more calories than necessary. Intermittent fasting can create a healthy, balanced routine.
Are there risks?
As with any form of dieting, you should always consult with a doctor first, particularly if you have any pre-existing health conditions. Children, teenagers, pregnant women, underweight people and the elderly should all be cautious about fasting. There is not enough scientific evidence to suggest that benefits are universal.
People make bold claims about the benefits of fasting and it’s always important to check your sources and find good quality information.
Make sure you eat a balanced diet, rich in nutrients, fresh food, fiber, and protein. Protein supplements can be a good way to ensure you get enough of what you need during a period of fasting.