In plain words, the use of Intermittent Fasting provides a method to increase your health conditions by following basic lifestyle rules. The concept relies on the consumption of good foods, structured sleep cycles and exercising but allows for fasting. Intermittent Fasting became popular by many health specialists, dieticians, and fitness trainers.
If you fast, the development of a structured eating schedule becomes key. This option aligns, especially with the historical eating patterns our ancestors followed. It also increases our ability to live more focused. Besides becoming healthier, it also allows us in the aging process. All of us continue to fight against different aging diseases and challenges. If you allow yourself to become more concentrated on your daily eating patterns, you may feel a lot healthier even when you become older. Let us see what the process requires from us.
What is Intermittent Fasting?
Fasting forms part of human cultural practices over many generations and plays a key role in keeping us healthy. Unfortunately, we have lost the ability to fast and prefer to spend our lives eating too much. Intermittent Fasting forces us to revert to a more controlled lifestyle and allow our bodies to rest from eating. The typical fasting hourly time-spans include either 16 or 24 hours over two days a week. As explained later in the article, rather start slow and only fast for a few hours to become used to the pattern.
Our ancestors carried the capability to live without food for many hours and still stay active. Today we continuously feel hungry and feel we need to eat more. We need to focus on our calorie intake, and if we consume too many calories and burn little; we struggle to balance our food intake.
The philosophy of Intermittent Fasting relies on the change of your meal times and not necessarily what you eat. This depends if you already follow a healthy food diet. If you are an individual consuming fast food because of your busy daily schedule, you need to change your food types. Intermittent Fasting relies on the development and ability to follow a strict routine. In our modern lives, we have become used to eating in front of the TV or buy fast food on the way home after work.
Sometimes we just feel lazy and do not enjoy cooking at all. We then revert to the consumption of snacks. These snacks, for example, chips, cookies, and chocolate increase our weight and sugar levels. We also feel depressed struggling to maintain our weight levels.
Researchers studied the relationship between Intermittent Fasting, normal fasting and time-restricted meals. Various tests showed that the use of fasting increases weight loss and an improved metabolic system. These tests also showed that night fasting improves a person’s health status and also creates a positive sleeping pattern (3). Many times, we feel a lot better eating smaller meals at night before bedtime. If we concentrate and find the ability to extend our fasting, it allows for increased positives.
How Intermittent Fasting Works?
It is important to understand your body’s cycle, to gain insight into why Intermittent Fasting works. When we eat, our body normally becomes overloaded with insulin and different sugars. It takes 2-3 hours for our bodies to process the food. After your body processes all the foods it moves into a post-process stage. During this window, your body loses weight quicker except you continue eating. Our modern lifestyle prevents our bodies from moving into the fat burn stage. For this reason, we continue to pick up weight.
If you are a person who hates schedules and formal plans, this option may annoy you. This option requires a person to fast during certain times of the day. For example, remain from eating between 4 am to 8 am, eat again between 8 am to 1 pm, refrain from food from 1 pm to 2 pm, etc. I use smaller cycles as an example just to kick-start the process.
You need to develop a schedule that works for you. This option received popularity after Martin Berkhan, a fitness specialist, marketed the opportunity. One can make it simple or more complex, depending on your lifestyle. The amount of hours you decide on depends on your health status and your ability too fast. Some individuals stop eating at 07h00 pm in the evenings and only eat a meal the next afternoon. Discuss the option with your health practitioner first, because individuals vary and you may experience fatigue initially (1).
If you are a person who manages shorter fasting times, schedule your program accordingly. These shorter fasting schedules allow your body to become used to the process. As your body feels more comfortable, your confidence levels increase and extend your fasting patterns. Remember Intermittent Fasting requires you to manage your eating patterns and not prevent you from eating at all.
What foods do we exclude and include during Intermittent Fasting?
During Intermittent Fasting, individuals drink coffee, water or no-sugar beverages to help with the hunger pains. When you eat again, focus on the use of healthy food. Don’t consume a pizza after your fasting period. It means during your fasting period that you should drink lots of fluids and when entering the eating window focus on good foods.
These fasting windows also prevent you from snacking. One of the main problems humans created for themselves relates to eating too much but also continuously consuming foods. We became used to always looking for something to eat. The Intermittent Fasting attempts to control your eating habits. If followed correctly, your body becomes used to eating when necessary and not only for fun.
What are the typical Intermittent Fasting Cycles?
The Intermittent Fasting cycles vary and depend on you as a starter. The health practitioners group the fasting cycles into different options, for example, whole-day, alternate or time-restricted fasting. An alternate or time-restricted fasting day, you may follow an on and off 3 to 12-week cycle. If you prefer whole-day fasting periods, a person may take part on and off over 24 weeks. The alternate-day fasting seems to allow for a reduction of more than 5kg of body fat and over 20% of cholesterol. Whole day fasting reduces body weight to over 8% (5).
Daily, some popular hourly fasting windows include the following times:
- The 16/8 approach excludes you from eating breakfast, implementing an eating period over 8 hours, and then fasting for 16 hours.
- The 5:2 eating pattern allows for a 600-calorie intake over two non-consecutive days but following a normal food consumption over five days.
- Eat window/No food window that requires fasting of 24 hours one to two times a week. This involves a restriction of food intake from dinner until dinner the next day.
Are there any benefits for health and weight loss?
The question remains if we lose weight in the event of Intermittent Fasting. If we focus on the snacking component only, we stop overeating high-energy snacks. Why do we need to halt these food practices? Snacks normally contain high sugar levels, and mostly our bodies struggle to process all these glucose and carbohydrates. The energies or kilojoules our systems cannot process our bodies store as fat. If we want to decrease our fat levels, we need to eat and snack less (2). Using Intermittent Fasting especially allows your body to increase its metabolism levels.
The medical industry continues to determine the positive effects of Intermittent Fasting and the manner our bodies react. As we get older, our bodies struggle with diverse diseases and sicknesses. Some of these negativities we face include cancer, heart diseases, diabetes, Alzheimer’s and many more. Researchers aim to find if a link exists between these illnesses and the use of Intermittent Fasting. Positively it seemed if individuals follow a fasting program it may reduce experiences of weight increase, insulin resistance, and cardiovascular diseases. It also helps with constant cell and DNA repairs (4).
Some key day-to-day benefits we experience during Intermittent Fasting include:
- Our days seem simpler because we eat during set times and no need to consume additional food.
- One feels significantly healthier because our bodies receive a chance to rest after the eating and burning process.
- We become more focused and dedicated to eating healthy meals.
- Psychologically, we feel a lot better and proud of ourselves.
- We prevent our bodies from carrying additional sugar levels that lead to diabetes and obesity.
- We live longer because our bodies receive a chance to get rid of all the bad toxins.
- It remains an easier method than following a complicated diet that requires expensive meal ingredients.
Tips for Beginners
Intermittent Fasting sounds easy, but a slight warning in practice requires a lot of concentration and determination. Mentally, you need to convince yourself you take part in fasting for a specific reason. It helps to set a goal and compete against yourself. Show your true self you can make it or ask a friend to join you. Many times we find a group supports each other, but also you do not want to lose against the others. Again, set a goal and make a note of your objectives.
Make the Intermittent Fasting an easy process and abstain from developing complicated eating schedules. Using a fasting method may include no overnight eating or prevention from eating in the mornings. Start slow and easy. Do not overindulge in fasting that allows you to feel sick. Cut eating certain hours of the day and in time your body becomes used to it.
As much as we think fasting seems extreme, many researchers have shown the positive side of this. Also, our bodies seem to want us to give them a break sometimes. The whole idea of fasting forms part of our mental thinking. The psychological aspect forms part of who we are and if practiced correctly increases our ability to lose weight (2).
Other key steps beginners need to look out for include:
- During your eating window consumes fruits, vegetables, whole grains, lentils, and healthy fats.
- Avoid intake of any sugars and bad fats.
- Start simple and fast, for example, between 8 am to 2 pm initially and then extend your time from 10 am to 7 pm in the evenings.
- No snacking allowed during window periods. It remains critical to withhold from buying any snacks that may attract your attention. Stock up your fridge with healthy foods and do not tempt yourself with the purchasing of fattening products.
- Make the Intermittent Fasting a challenge and fun. Draw a colorful schedule and place it in your kitchen where you can see it. Also, make a note of your weight loss and place it somewhere as a reminder. As said, fasting requires a lot of strength, and if you notice the results, you feel a lot better and motivated.
In conclusion, should beginners follow Intermittent Fasting? I recommend this to any person who aims to lose weight. Intermittent Fasting allows you to revert to a balanced meal by using a simple method. If you focus and follow the guidelines, you increase the ability to feel better and more confident in yourself. It also offers different cycles, easily adaptable to different daily patterns. You need to find a cycle that suits your needs. You need to align your existing treatments with the fasting requirements. If you struggle with fatigue or low blood pressure, discuss it with your health specialist.
Beginners interested in Intermittent Fasting allow for an opportunity to follow a controlled food intake plan. Follow the Beginner’s Guide to Intermittent Fasting, and you may surprise yourself.
- Patterson R.E. and Sears D.D., 2017. Metabolic Effects of Intermittent Fasting. Annual Review of Nutrition, Vol. 21 (37), pp. 371-393. 10.1146/annurev-nutr-071816-064634.
- Mattson M.P. et al., 2017. Impact of intermittent fasting on health and disease processes. Ageing Research Reviews, Vol. 39, pp. 46-58. 10.1016/j.arr.2016.10.005.
- Tinsley G.M. and La Bounty P.M., 2015. Effects of intermittent fasting on body composition and clinical health markers in humans. Nutrition Reviews, Vol. 73 (10), pp. 661-674. 10.1093/nutrit/nuv041.