Intermittent Fasting: How Alternating Between Eating and Fasting Can Help You Shed Pounds and Improve Your Health
Want to drop a few pounds but the keto diet seems too extreme for you? Intermittent fasting is an eating pattern that involves cycling between periods of fasting and non-fasting so you can shred the weight. It’s also good for your body and healing various health ailments, particularly those caused by inflammation.
But How Does It Work?
When we eat, our body releases insulin to help cells turn glucose from our food into energy. If the glucose isn’t used immediately, it gets pushed to our fat cells. When we’re fasting, the body breaks down those fat cells for energy, which may lead to weight loss.
Sounds Great. How Do I Get Started?
There’s no right way to do it. Based on your medical history and current health, you should research a few methods to find the one your body responds best to. Check out these techniques below, try them out, and see what works for you.
The 12:12 Method: This one is simple. Eat for 12 hours, fast for 12 hours, observe the results. A good strategy for 12:12 is to stop eating after dinner and then eat breakfast again 12 hours later.
The 16:8 Method: This is the most popular method that often yields the fastest results. Build up to 16 hours of fasting each day with an eight-hour window to eat. Work a 9 to 5? Align your eating schedule with your workday to help keep your routine consistent.
The 5:2 Method: For this method, dieters consume their standard amount of food five days a week while significantly cutting back on calories for two days a week. During the two fasting days, men generally consume 600 calories while women consume 500.
The 24-hour Method: This method involves one total fast, all day for one day a week. For this method, people often fast from breakfast to breakfast or lunch to lunch. Test out both techniques and stick with one.
Will It Improve My Health?
In addition to weight loss, intermittent fasting can have numerous positive effects on the body. Research shows that intermittent fasting can:
- Improve brain health
- Kickstart important cell repair processes
- Lower your risk of Type 2 diabetes
- Possibly protect against Alzheimer’s disease
- Possibly prevent cancer
- Reduce inflammation, which protects against aging and disease
- Reduce the risk factor for heart disease
What Should I Eat?
While there are no strict rules around eating while (not) fasting, some foods will help you see results faster. Eat meals with fiber and whole grains, like fresh fruit and oatmeal to keep your blood sugar in check and your insulin levels low. Eating high-fiber, high-protein meals will help keep you full longer. Drinking plenty of water and unsweetened, caffeinated beverages such as plain green tea or black coffee can also help suppress cravings during your fasting window.
Are There Any Downsides?
Since you’re not eating, you’ve likely cut down on drinking, so intermittent fasters may struggle with dehydration. Make sure you drink plenty of water throughout the day, even during your fasting periods, and other fluids once you’ve broken your fast. Intermittent fasting can also lead to constipation so load up on high-fiber snacks or meals such as fruits or fiber-rich cereals to aid your digestion.
Is Intermittent Fasting for Everyone?
Not quite. Intermittent fasting can be risky for people with certain medical conditions. People with Type 2 Diabetes, who are pregnant, people attempting to conceive, and those who are lactating shouldn’t fast for extended periods of time.
Those who are at risk of becoming dizzy or faint (the elderly, people with low blood pressure) should proceed with caution. Children should never be put on a fasting regimen. In addition, people who struggle with an eating disorder, whether that is anorexia, bulimia, or binge eating, should avoid all methods of the diet.
If you take prescription medications, fasting can also make it harder to comply with your prescription or interfere with how certain medications work, so make sure to check with your doctor first.
As long as you proceed with caution and ensure you are an appropriate candidate for the diet, you could expect fast and favorable results. No matter what kind of eating plan you decide on, you’ll get better results if you also stick to an exercise routine. If you’re looking for fitness ideas that don’t require a gym, try any one of these outdoor activities that are so much fun, you won’t even realize you’re exercising!