What are the Health Benefits of Intermittent Fasting?
Intermittent fasting is a pattern of eating that embraces regular periods of fasting as a way to cut calories, burn fat and boost health. Not quite the same as a diet plan, intermittent fasting instructs followers on when to eat (and when not) as opposed to giving dietary advice. For many of us, the concept of fasting for extended periods throughout the day goes against the three-meals-a-day pattern of eating that we’re taught.
Although intermittent fasting seems to flip traditional nutrition on its head, proposed health benefits like reduced insulin resistance and cancer prevention have made intermittent fasting an incredibly popular health trend. With so much popularity, experts and amateurs alike have flooded publications with alleged risks and benefits. To help you sort fact from fiction, we’ve broken down the basics of intermittent fasting and the real impacts this lifestyle choice can have on your health.
Do You Have to Intermittent Fast Every Day?
Depending on the approach you take with intermittent fasting, you don’t have to fast every day. While some benefit from the consistency of daily fasting, longer periods of fasting with less frequency can also result in weight loss and improved health. The most important factor in ensuring success is making sure you aren’t consuming more calories or unhealthy meals than you would otherwise. Although intermittent fasting can aid in weight loss and boost health, it isn’t a substitute for a nutritious diet.
What Are the Methods of Intermittent Fasting?
The concept of intermittent fasting is quite simple: regular intervals of fasting followed by periods of eating. When it comes to adopting this concept in real life, however, consistently fitting fasting into our everyday schedules is quite a difficult task. There are several popular approaches to intermittent fasting that make the lifestyle change more manageable and can increase your chances of success.
Daily Fasting (16:8 Method)
The daily method of intermittent fasting requires you fasting every day for 12-16 hours with an eating window for the remaining 8-10 hours.
Pro tip: The benefits of the 16:8 method are decreased inflammation, improved cellular repair and decreased risk of heart disease.
This method is highly favorable amongst beginners, as a bulk of the fasting period is done in your sleep. Simply skipping breakfast and opting for a late lunch makes it easy to fit this approach into your everyday life. The benefits of this type of daily fasting include decreased inflammation, improved cellular repair and decreased risk of heart disease.
The 5:2 fasting method involves eating normally for five days and restricting caloric intake to 500-600 calories on the remaining two days of the week.
Pro tip: Many people who practice 5:2 fasting restrict their calories on Mondays and Thursdays to split the week up fairly evenly.
Unlike daily fasting or the 5:2 Method, the Eat-Stop-Eat Diet encourages you to incorporate one or two 24-hour periods of fasting into your regular eating schedule.
This method is best suited for those already living a relatively healthy lifestyle as it allows calorie restrictions without change to your everyday eating practices. This approach also allows for more flexibility as you’re able to move your fasting periods around as your weekly schedule permits.
Alternate-day fasting is a simple approach to intermittent fasting that requires you to fast every other day. Each day of regularly scheduled meals is followed by a full day of fasting. On fasting days, you’re allowed small portions of nutritious foods, but you must stay under 500 calories for the day. This method is best for those looking to target weight loss as it allows you to consistently and dramatically reduce your calorie intake.
The most extreme method on our list, the Warrior Diet is a strict approach to intermittent fasting. This method requires fasting for 20 hours and consuming one large meal each day. The eating period known as “overeating” is a 4-hour eating window where you can eat as much as you desire. Unlike other methods of intermittent fasting, the warrior diet allows you to consume small portions of nutritious foods like eggs, raw fruits and vegetables, a period referred to as “undereating.” Because of its intensity, the warrior diet is best for those who are disciplined and following a regular fitness schedule.
Conclusion: When it comes to choosing a method of intermittent fasting for yourself, opt for the approach that best suits your lifestyle and allows you to consistently restrict calories.
What Are the Benefits of Intermittent Fasting?
Based on the basic notion of calorie restriction, intermittent fasting can make it easier to consume fewer calories. With long periods of fasting followed by short periods of eating, you may find it easier to eat fewer calories when you’ve scheduled fewer meals throughout the day. Daily fasting also increases your metabolic rate, helping you burn more fat1.
Improved Brain Function
Intermittent fasting aids in reducing inflammation and blood pressure, which is ultimately good for brain health. Research also shows that intermittent fasting can increase the production of brain hormones that affect depression and other anxieties.2
Reduced Insulin Resistance
Intermittent fasting methods like alternate-day fasting encourage insulin and blood sugar levels to drop significantly. Consistently experiencing this change not only aids in reducing body fat, but helps your body reduce its resistance to insulin. Reducing your body’s insulin resistance is one of the best ways to protect yourself against Type 2 diabetes.3
Improved Cellular Repair
Fasting triggers a cellular process known as autophagy. While in this state, the body experiences an increased level of cell turnover. Damaged, pathogenic cells are broken down and recycled in the body. Increased autophagy can lead to improvement in a number of the body’s processes including brain and skin functions.4
Increased Human Growth Hormone (HGH)
If you’re familiar with health and fitness, then it’s likely you’re aware of the power of HGH. It’s the hormone responsible for muscle gains and fat loss. If you’re looking to get the most out of your fitness efforts, increasing your levels of HGH should be one of your goals. Intermittent fasting is a highly effective way to dramatically increase the amount of HGH in your body5.
Does Intermittent Fasting Actually Work?
While there are a lot of false claims made about intermittent fasting, the research-based benefits that occur on a hormonal and cellular level can’t be denied. Coupled with the benefits of calorie restriction, it’s easy to see why intermittent fasting has become so popular. Although this lifestyle choice isn’t for everyone, intermittent fasting does work when done properly and consistently.
Intermittent Fasting Tips for Beginners
Visit our blog post about how to begin an intermittent fasting routine for even more inspiration.
1. Stay Hydrated
One of the most important tips for beginners is to stay hydrated. Because you’re likely still active during your fasting period, it’s important that you drink enough water to prevent your body from experiencing dehydration.
2. Take Advantage of Your Sleep Schedule
When planning your fasting periods, take advantage of the 7-10 hours you spend asleep. This approach isn’t cheating you out of your progress, and it makes lasting to your next eating window easier.
3. Curb Your Hunger With Coffee or Tea
While intermittent fasting doesn’t allow too many snacks, drinking coffee or tea is an excellent way to suppress your appetite and give you a much needed caffeine boost.
4. Opt for Nutritious Meals
While intermittent fasting does take a lot of the pressure off your caloric intake, you should still be aware of the foods you’re consuming. Regularly consuming processed, unhealthy foods can still negatively impact your health no matter how often you fast.
At the end of the day, just like any weight-loss method, intermittent fasting appeals to some, but not to others. If you’re curious about adopting an intermittent fasting practice of your own, begin with a test period and adjust your plan according to your abilities.