Intermittent fasting is insanely popular. Not only because it has a lot of benefits, but also because it’s easy.
What is Intermittent Fasting?
Fasting is a period of time without eating. Intermittent means something happens non-continuously.
Intermittent Fasting is when you cycle between fasting and eating.
Intermittent Fasting has nothing to do with what you’re eating. It’s only concerned with when you’re eating.
Intermittent Fasting is not a diet, it’s a pattern of eating. It’s commonly combined with other popular diets.
How does Intermittent Fasting work?
Think of intermittent fasting as a type of training. You’re training your body to use it’s fuel more efficiently.
You may have heard the term “starvation mode” before. It takes a VERY LONG PERIOD OF TIME for your body to go into starvation mode. You must consume significantly fewer calories than your body needs regularly for a long period of time (we’re talking months) for your body to go into the so-called “starvation mode.”
Intermittent fasting isn’t starvation. You are still going to eat enough calories for your body to function. If you’re looking to lose weight, you may consume a deficit of calories. This is no different than if you dieting and not doing intermittent fasting.
What are the Benefits of Intermittent Fasting?
Research on intermittent fasting is still in its infancy. A lot of studies have only been conducted with animals or were very small and short-term.
However, the potential benefits are promising.
Intermittent Fasting Benefits #1: Weight Loss
Let’s be real here, this is the number one reason people are looking at intermittent fasting. People want to lose weight and people want shortcuts to do it.
You can lose weight with intermittent fasting BUT it’s going to be combined with a healthy diet (and exercise will help). Seriously. You won’t lose weight if you eat the exact same foods you’re already eating just in a shorter period of time.
Intermittent Fasting Benefits #2: Anti-Aging
We’re all getting older. Every. Single. Day. It sucks, I know. But just because we’re getting older doesn’t mean we want to look or act older.
Anti-aging applies to more than just your appearance. Sure, I’d like to look like a 20-year-old forever again. But I’d also like to feel like a 20-year-old again. Come on, you know what I mean. Those little aches that start appearing in your mid-late twenties, I wish I could get rid of them. Instead, every year I seem to get more. I’m only in my early thirties so it’s not like I’m hobbling around, but still.
Intermittent Fasting Benefits #3: Brain Health
One of my grandparents suffered from severe dementia. It was hard to watch but I imagine it would be harder to experience. I’d like to avoid the same fate.
But a healthy brain is about more than just future dementia. Brain health affects your entire life and body. Your brain controls you both physically and mentally.
Intermittent Fasting Benefits #4: Heart Health
A healthy heart is a healthy you.
There are many types of heart problems, including blood pressure, heart rate, cholesterol and more. Intermittent fasting can help to improve all markers of heart health.
Intermittent Fasting Benefits #5: Cancer
Cancer is a frighteningly common terrible disease. More studies are needed (especially in humans) but early studies of animals show that intermittent fasting could help prevent cancer.
Very limited, but promising, studies suggest that fasting can help reduce side effects of chemotherapy in cancer patients.
Intermittent Fasting Benefits #6: Reduced Insulin Resistance
What is insulin resistance? It’s when your body doesn’t handle insulin properly. This is the leading cause of Type 2 Diabetes.
Do you want to develop Type 2 Diabetes? No.
Intermittent Fasting could significantly decrease blood sugar and insulin, in men. There’s one study of women that shows worsened blood sugar. It was a small and short study, but, women should be aware that you may not share this benefit.
What are the Disadvantages of Intermittent Fasting?
There are two disadvantages to intermittent fasting.
The first one is temporary: starting. It’s hard to get started. You’ll get hungry – at first. But eventually, you’ll adjust and it becomes easy.
Truly. You eat less often and less food which means less time thinking about what to eat and where and how. It means you’re spending less time preparing food.
If you can get over the initial hurdle of being hungry, it goes away. You stop feeling hungry all the time.
The second one is dependent on what you’re eating. Intermittent fasting can cause unstable blood sugar levels. If you’ve been fasting for several hours and eat a large meal, heavy in carbs, your blood sugar will spike way up. It will slowly go down as you fast.
Eating a low carb diet can significantly reduce (or eliminate) this disadvantage. If you’re not eating a low carb diet then make sure you’re eating balanced meals. Don’t gorge on carbs all at once and you’ll mitigate a lot of the risk.
Who Shouldn’t Try Intermittent Fasting?
Everyone should check with a healthcare professional before beginning intermittent fasting. However, it’s especially important for the following people:
- Pregnant Women
- Anyone with a history of eating disorders
- People with diabetes
- Someone new to healthy eating & exercise
- Potentially women.
Should Women Fast?
Maybe. But maybe not. Women may have reason to be more careful than men.
Studies on the effects of intermittent fasting on women are extremely limited. There might be issues with intermittent fasting causing worse blood sugar, infertility, and amenorrhea (no menstruation) in some women.
How to choose your fasting hours/method?
Not every method of fasting will work for you.
There are several popular methods of intermittent fasting:
- The 16/8 Method (aka Leangains): Fast for 16 hours & eat for 8 hours, every day.
- Eat-stop-eat Method: 24-hour fasts once or twice a week
- The 5:2 diet (aka the Fast Diet): Eat normally for 5 days, “fast” (eat about 500 calories) 2 days
- Crescendo Method: 12-16 hours of fasting, 2-3 days a week
For more detailed information about the most popular methods, check out Intermittent Fasting Methods.
Intermittent Fasting and Other Diets
Intermittent fasting isn’t a diet, it’s an eating pattern. Therefore, it makes sense to combine intermittent fasting with the diet (or lifestyle) that suits your needs.
Check out Intermittent Fasting Diet Plan.
Getting Started with Intermittent Fasting
Seriously. It really is that simple. Start by skipping a meal (most people choose breakfast or dinner).
Choose a fast style that suits your needs and lifestyle.
Stay Hydrated while Intermittent Fasting
It’s important that you stay hydrated while fasting. Drink water!
But, there are a couple of other options of zero-calorie, no sugar (real or artificial) added beverages you can enjoy.
- Water: Yes, I said it already but it’s the best. You should be drinking primarily water.
- Tea: You can drink hot or cold tea. NO SUGAR.
- Coffee: Black. NO SUGAR.
You really shouldn’t be having milk or cream while fasting. It will have a small impact on your fast. However, if you just MUST use the smallest amount you can and try to slowly wean yourself off of it.
Isn’t breakfast the most important meal of the day?
Spread the Wealth
If you’re doing intermittent fasting, you’re actively choosing to skip meals to lose weight or improve your health. But, there are millions of people all over the world who don’t have access to enough food to meet their bare minimum daily nutritional requirements.
Consider donating (healthy food or money) to your local food bank or one of these charities. It doesn’t have to be a lot, but every little bit helps.
What Are You Going to do?
Intermittent fasting doesn’t have to be hard. With proper planning and an already healthy diet, you can easily adjust to intermittent fasting.
Give it a try. If it isn’t right for you, you can always stop. And remember: Don’t eat if you’re not hungry. Ever.
Ready for more? Choose an Intermittent Fasting Method next.
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