Reports suggest that an estimate of 160 million Americans suffer from obesity or are overweight (1). Maybe it's because of the abundance of unhealthy food options or that improper eating habits underlie the foundation of the American home. We can't exactly provide an answer, but we can do our best to help you take back control of your life by harnessing your health.
Weight loss is one of the most prominent and difficult fitness goals many US citizens use to fuel their workouts. But between scientists creating new diets and personal trainers posting Hemsworth brothers' chest workouts every other day, it is cumbersome trying to find something that's going to work for you. Alas, if you are wanting to shed some pounds and shave off belly fat then we have an answer for you: intermittent fasting. But, what is intermittent fasting? Continue reading to find out all you need to know about this mind-blowingly healthy, fasting technique.
What Is Intermittent Fasting?
In its essence, intermittent fasting is an eating cycle/pattern whereby specific periods of time indicate when you can and cannot consume food. What's great about this weight loss method is that it does not revolve around what you can eat. Therefore, you can seemingly incorporate cheat days into your fasting while still receiving maximum results. The fact that it does not limit you to particular foods is why it is not exactly considered a diet. And also, likely the reason that it has become so popular over the last decade.
The eating pattern receives a lot of praise with regards to its weight loss potential and it is one of the few fitness trends that has stood the test of time. In fact, the act of fasting has been practiced throughout history. Various cultures and groups of people have used fasting for thousands of years because of its ability to heal the body and mind (2).
There is a range of intermittent fasting methods, however, the most common practice is the 16/8 method. This process involves a cycle of 16 hours in which you do not consume anything, besides water, followed by 8 hours whereby you eat your daily meals.
Is it sounding a little too challenging? Well, the different types of this diet cater to different fasting capabilities.
Intermittent fasting is an extremely popular eating pattern that has been around for decades. In fact, its purpose aligns with fasting practices initiated thousands of years ago. The diet, which includes several types, involves restricting your food consumption to specific time frames rather than limiting what you can eat.
The Different Types Of Intermittent Fasting
There are several different intermittent fasting methods that offer exceptional weight loss potential. The different types cater to varying individual needs and capabilities. As a result, this eating pattern is tailored to suit just about anyone. Below we outline a few of the main types:
- 16/8 Method: This is also known as the Leangains protocol. This involves consuming all food within 8 hours and it usually requires you to skip breakfast. For example, between 10 am and 6 pm. Then, you should fast for 16 hours, consuming nothing but water. For more advanced fasters, no water is advised.
- Eat-Stop-Eat: In this method, you should fast for an entire 24 hours, one or two days per week. For example, not eating from dinner one day to dinner the next day.
- The 5:2 Diet: The method requires you to consume no more than 600 calories on two days of the week. You may eat normally the other five days (3).
The primary role of intermittent fasting is to significantly reduce your calorie intake. As a result, it works towards significantly decreasing your weight much like the ways in which a low-carb diet reduces body fat.
Now that you understand the range of ways in which you can conduct an intermittent fasting lifestyle, we will outline the specific ways it benefits your body.
There are three common types of intermittent fasting, each with varying fasting time frames. The different methods cater to different individual needs, however, they all work towards the same goal. That is, decreasing body weight by reducing calorie intake.
What Are The Benefits?
As we have already mentioned, intermittent fasting aims to decrease body weight by reducing calorie consumption. The eating pattern has powerful fat burning potential, but, it also serves the body in other ways. Below you will find a few of its main benefits:
- Weight Loss: Intermittent fasting naturally helps you reduce your calorie intake without being completely conscious of it. Furthermore, it increases the release of norepinephrine (4) - the fat burning hormone. This hormone can also help reduce anxiety and stress.
- Insulin Regulation: Studies suggest that it combats insulin resistance (5). This reduces your risk of type 2 diabetes.
- Brain Support: It improves and increases the development of the brain hormone BDNF (6). It stimulates the growth of healthy new cells. In doing so, it supports brain health and protects it from Alzheimer's disease. Brain health is vitally important, especially with age. There are many effective brain boosters to combine with this eating pattern.
The benefits of intermittent fasting are not limited to the three above. It offers many other significantly healthy bodily effects (7).
Weight loss, insulin regulation, and brain support are not the only benefits. However, they are an indication of the health potential of this eating pattern.
The Possible Side Effects
As with any irregular eating pattern, there are certain concerns to look out for. While the hunger bug is likely to set in during a fast, there are other side effects to bring your attention to. Firstly, you may feel weak in the early stages of fasting. Secondly, the release of specific hormones can alter the chemical composition of the body. For most people, it should be beneficial. However, some people may experience mild illness.
The following individuals should consult a health practitioner:
- Suffering from diabetes
- Suffering from irregular blood sugar regulation
- Have low blood pressure
- Women trying to conceive
- Pregnant or breastfeeding women
- Those that are underweight
As with any eating pattern, intermittent fasting is not void of side effects. Be aware that hunger will set in early on and you may feel weak. Also, it may alter certain chemical compositions. Although mostly beneficial, some individuals should take precaution.
Our Take Away On Intermittent Fasting
Intermittent fasting, an eating pattern whereby you consume food within specific time frames, offers an array of health benefits. The popular method has become a lasting trend and thousands of individuals reap its benefits. As with any eating pattern, exercise caution. However, if you are wanting to lose weight quickly then this might be the optimal eating pattern for you!