Intermittent fasting is currently one of the world’s most popular health and fitness trends, and considered the silver bullet to fat loss and muscle gains. This diet program involves alternate cycles of fasting with either no food or significant calorie reduction, and periods of unrestricted eating. It can promote weight loss, improve metabolism, protect against disease, and even help longevity. Researchers found that intermittent fasting or periodic fasting, without a reduction in calorie intake, can be a preventative and therapeutic approach against obesity and metabolic disorders (www.medicalnewstoday.com).
Intermittent fasting – cycling in and out periods of fasting and eating – can provide many benefits for your body and brain. It’s not a diet, but a timed approach to eating. Unlike a dietary plan, this fasting technique doesn’t specify what foods a person should eat or avoid. The principle behind intermittent fasting is simple – when our insulin levels go down far enough and for long enough, as they do during a fasting period, we’re able to burn off fat.
There are seven different ways to do intermittent fasting:
- Fast 12 hours a day: This rules of this method are simple – the person (can also a beginner) needs to decide on and stick on to a 12-hour fasting window every day. You can follow this simple diet plan by including your sleeping hours in it. As the fasting window is relatively small, much of the fasting occurs during sleep, and the person can consume the same number of calories each day. According to the study that Medical News Today reported on, fasting for 10-16 hours can cause the body to turn its fat stores into energy, which releases ketones into the bloodstream, which should encourage weight loss.
- Fasting for 16 hours – the Leangains diet: This diet plan involves fasting for 16 hours a day and leaving an eating window of 8 hours (it is also called the 16:8 method). Men and women follow different hours in this diet plan – men fast for 16 hours each day and women fast for 14 hours. This type of intermittent fast may be helpful for someone who has already tried the 12-hour fast but did not see any benefits. With this method, people usually finish their dinner by 8 p.m. and then skip breakfast the next day, not eating again until noon.
- Fasting for 2 days a week – the Fast diet (5:2 diet): This fasting plan involves people eating standard amounts of healthful food for 5 days and reducing their calorie intake on the other 2 days. During the 2 fasting days, men generally consume 600 calories and women 500 calories. There should be at least 1 non-fasting day between fasting days. However, there is limited research on the 5:2 diet, which is also known as the Fast diet. A study involving 107 overweight or obese women found that both restricting calories twice weekly and continuous calorie restriction led to similar weight loss. It also found that this diet reduced insulin levels and improved insulin sensitivity among participants (www.medicalnewstoday.com).
- Alternate day fasting: An extreme form of intermittent fasting, this method involves fasting every other day. Some people completely avoid solid foods on fasting days, while other people allow up to 500 calories. This method generally leads to indulging in more food on feeding days, which might be difficult to maintain the fast in the long term. One study reported that alternate day fasting is effective for weight loss and heart health in both healthy and overweight adults. The researchers found that the 32 participants lost an average of 5.2 kilograms (kg), or just over 11 pounds (lb), over a 12-week period.
- Eat-Stop-Eat diet – the weekly 24-hour fast: This method involves eating no food for 24 hours at a time or fasting completely for 1 or 2 days a week. Many people fast from breakfast to breakfast or lunch to lunch. Those on this diet can have water, tea, and other calorie-free drinks during the fasting period. People should return to normal eating patterns on the non-fasting days.
This fast can be challenging and may cause fatigue, headaches, or irritability. However, many people find that these effects become less intense over time as the body adjusts to this new pattern of eating.
- Meal skipping: This approach involves occasionally skipping meals and may be good for beginners. According to one’s level of hunger or time restraints, the person can decide which meals to skip. Skipping 1 or 2 meals when you feel so inclined is basically a spontaneous intermittent fast.
Make sure to eat healthy foods at the other meals. This approach is likely to be most successful when individuals track and respond to their body’s hunger signals. People who follow this type of intermittent fasting will eat when they are hungry and skip meals when they are not. This may feel more natural than the other fasting methods.
- The Warrior Diet: This diet is relatively extreme form of intermittent fasting. It entails eating a whole day’s worth of food in short time. The Warrior Diet involves eating very little, usually just a few servings of raw fruits, vegetables, proteins, healthful fats, and some carbohydrates during a 20-hour fasting window, then eating one large meal at night. The eating window is usually only around 4 hours.
Consult your physician before you try intermittent fasting or any other kind of weight loss method.