Intermittent fasting (IF) has become a hot topic amongst the global health and wellness community, with many claiming that this type of eating pattern has helped them break plateaus and lose additional weight. But what exactly is IF, how does it work, and is it right for you? Here, Goodness investigates the global health trend.
What is Intermittent Fasting?
There are several methods of IF, which we’ll break down for you below, but the first thing you should know is that this is not a diet. IF will tell you when to eat, not what to eat – the latter is up to you. However, it only works well if you combine this practice with a healthy diet.
In basic terms, IF is a period of fasting that can last anywhere from eight to 24 hours, depending on your preference. Anyone who has fasted during Ramadan or simply skipped breakfast is familiar with what an eight- to 12-hour fast feels like. These periods don’t feel super good at first, but the body adjusts quickly and it becomes much easier once you are acclimated to a new pattern of eating.
How Does Intermittent Fasting Work?
Experts recommend that you ease into IF, starting with eight- to 12-hour fasts, and working your way up. Consider this: simply by not eating after 8 p.m. and skipping breakfast, you are already engaging in a fasting period. Furthermore, you do not have to fast every day to see results. In fact, many practitioners believe that the best results are achieved when you alternate days of fasting with days of eating.
This idea is backed up with extensive research conducted by a nutritional scientist named Krista Varady at the University of Illinois, who went on to publish the Every Other Day Diet, which outlines her in-depth and clinically proven approach to IF. Typically, the human body depletes its store of glucose in roughly ten hours. After the glucose in your liver has burned off, your tissue turns to fat for fuel. When you deprive your body of food resources for longer than ten hours, your body enters a post-absorptive state in which your insulin levels decrease and your hormone levels increase. This makes it much easier for your body to burn fat.
Varady’s “Every Other Day Diet” recommends eating only 500 calories on fasting days, with on/off deprivation that results in losing over 90 percent of the weight from your fat storage. This is a full 15 percent more fat loss than the average diet can offer. She also found that IF was incredibly effective for maintaining weight loss.
The Science of Intermittent Fasting
A study published in Translation Research found that calorie restriction was more effective than IF for decreasing body weight. IF, however, was comparably apt at reducing visceral-fat mass, fasting insulin, and insulin resistance. Therefore, researchers concluded that IF was a solid alternative to caloric restriction as a way to lose weight.
Another study found in Research in Endocrinology noted that IF not only was a proven way to lose weight, but that it also “favorably influenced” cardio-metabolic health by improving stress resistance, increasing metabolism, and boosting whole-body insulin sensitivity. For people suffering from diabetes, PCOS, hypothyroidism, and other endocrine-related disorders that negatively impact metabolism and insulin sensitivity, this is very good news.
Furthermore, a scientific study in Cell Metabolism found that IF was beneficial for reducing “oxidative damage and inflammation” and “bolster[ing] cellular protection”. Translation: Periodic fasting can help delay aging and sharpen brain function while preventing and treating diseases like diabetes and neurodegeneration.
Is Intermittent Fasting Right for Me?
IF is clearly a very beneficial health and weight-loss tool, but it is not for everyone. People with blood pressure issues or who are prone to hypoglycemia are not candidates for this approach. Intermittent fasting is also discouraged for women who suffer from adrenal, autoimmune, and certain thyroid issues.
However, if you do not suffer from those, IF looks to be one of the most powerful ways to bolster mental clarity, reduce insulin resistance, prevent disease and aging, and lose weight.
Promo Photo: Courtesy of @NoreenWasti