Next to the keto diet, intermittent fasting is the diet trend that all your friends and officemates are talking about. Just coffee for them right now, thanks, they’re waiting for lunch to break their fast, or they’re currently trying the 5:2, or maybe the 6/8 but they want to see if they can handle 20/4, that kind of thing. It seems like they’re speaking a totally different dialect, but here’s where we do some decoding.
Intermittent fasting, commonly abbreviated to IF, has a lot of fans because it supposedly aids in speedy but sustained weight loss. IF will regulate your hormones, curb your cravings, and normalize your eating habits, but will it work for you?
HOW DOES INTERMITTENT FASTING WORK?
IF doesn’t put any restrictions on what you eat. Rather, IF simply controls when you eat. IF comes in two phases, the feasting phase and the fasting phase. During your fasting phase, you forego your regular meals, or simply eat significantly less than normal. This allows your body to achieve the calorie deficit needed to lose weight. You reward yourself for the effort and discipline of your fasting phase by eating during your feasting phase. These timed feasts allow you to have more flexibility when it comes to your food.
IS INTERMITTENT FASTING SAFE?
Let’s get this out there right off the bat: IF should NOT be done if you are pregnant, diabetic, or recovering from surgery or illness. IF can also backfire for some people, leading them to extremes like bingeing and other disordered eating patterns. Consider your physical and mental condition, and your current lifestyle before you try intermittent fasting. Consult a healthcare professional if you feel the need to.
Other than that, there are no set restrictions on who can practice IF. There is little evidence that says IF is unsafe for healthy adults with a bit of weight to lose, so feel free to educate yourself with the available resources in order to make an informed decision.
Fasting, in general, is safe. Historically speaking, our bodies are designed to deal with fasting effectively. Our ancestors did not have readily available meals at every hour of each day, so our bodies evolved to optimize energy accordingly. When we fast, our insulin levels drop; this allows the cells of our body to release stored fast and use it as an energy source instead of food. This is not only an effective use of energy, but also a sure way to lose weight.
Fasting also stimulates an internal process called autophagy. When the body isn’t processing food, our cells use this digestion downtime to remove any damaged or wrongly folded proteins. Whether you’re on IF or calorie restriction, not eating for a few hours enables the body to fulfill this housekeeping task.
HOW DO YOU PRACTICE INTERMITTENT FASTING
Typically, there are three ways to practice IF:
1. Alternate Day Fasting. This is also known as eat-stop-eat plan. This form of IF involves fasting for 3-4 non-consecutive days a week. A 24-hour fasting phase is followed by a 24-hour feast day where you can eat whatever you like.
2. Modified Fasting. This is also called the 5:2 plan. This means that you eat only 20-25% of your body’s calorie needs for two non-consecutive days a week. On your five feasting days, you eat as you normally do.
3. Time-Restricted Eating. This is the most popular form of intermittent fasting because it’s very simple to follow and keep track of. This form of IF is usually known by its timeframes, 16/8 and 20/4 being the most common ones. These numbers refer to the feasting and fasting windows. This IF plan allows for a daily feasting window of 4-8 hours where you can eat freely, followed by a fast of 16-20 hours. The fast can be scheduled overnight, during sleep, making this plan a little easier to maintain.
During your fasting periods, you are encouraged to hydrate well and hydrate often. You can take black coffee or tea as well.
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IS INTERMITTENT FASTING EFFECTIVE FOR WEIGHT LOSS?
Yes, IF is effective. Think about it: your typical calorie-restricted weight loss plan encourages a daily deficit of 250-1000 calories, depending on how much weight you need to lose and how fast you want to lose it. This may seem like a lot on its own, but IF in itself allows you slash hundreds calories just by virtue of limiting your eating hours. You don’t need to suffer from cravings and withdrawals because you’ll be able to satisfy them after your fast. It’s no wonder that IF is a popular choice for those who can’t live without their favorite food items. Those who practice IF also find it effective for the curbing of emotional eating and mindless snacking. IF is more about discipline than self-denial, making it a good option for those who can’t do calorie or food restrictions.
IS INTERMITTENT FASTING RIGHT FOR ME?
IF’s effectiveness and longevity for you largely depends on well, you. This goes for any form of diet, actually. Whether you go for IF or a form or calorie restriction, examine your lifestyle, personal preferences, and individual biology. We come from a culture that conditions us to think of breakfast as the most important meal of day, so for some of us, starting the day without a hearty spread seems unthinkable. Some people can skip dinner, no problem, others get irrationally “hangry” after missing their afternoon coffee and merienda. We’ve been told to eat three meals a day with snacks in between, but does that really work for you, personally?
Some people find calorie restrictions easier to follow because they don’t want to shift their body clocks or eating habits, and are willing to go through the incremental changes instead. Others find IF more appealing because they don’t like feeling like they’re denying themselves, or they like the idea of “multiple cheat days,” making the discipline of fasting seem more manageable.
Listen to your body. Go with whatever works for you. Regardless of what you choose, remember that calorie quality matters. Don’t just stuff yourself with empty calories and waste all your effort and discipline for nothing. Nourish your body with nutritious, satisfying foods like fruits, vegetables, whole grains, lean proteins, and healthy fats.
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Your goal with whatever you do is to reach a point where a diet doesn’t feel like a diet, it’s really just the way you eat. So, eat well and eat like you love yourself.
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