What is Intermittent Fasting?
When most people think of the word “fasting”, they think of long periods of time without eating. In Intermittent fasting (IF), it’s usually only hours between eating.
Intermittent, or irregular fasting, is when you don’t do it all of the time. For most people, fasting is done on a specific schedule. For intermittent fasting, it’s done periodically for a variety of reasons.
A good example of IF is the person who skips breakfast and maybe eats brunch and then a late dinner. The person fasted during breakfast and then ate a meal later on.
This is a typical form of fasting for many. They may eat only bread and water during fasting hours and then eat regular meals later on.
The person would then fast from after their late dinner meal until their next meal which would be brunch the following morning.
This form of fasting is usually one that is done more by athletes than by religious persons.
It’s done to increase muscle mass and decrease fat in the body. It’s a form of training that isn’t often recommended, however, for some people, it does seem to work well.
First and foremost, it’s important to recognize that fasting isn’t a diet. It’s not done to lose weight and it’s not always about what you’re eating. It’s more about when you eat.
Fasting can be done for religious reasons. A good example would be Ramadan. During Ramadan, Muslims fast from sunrise to sunset. After sunset, they may eat. During the fasting time, they are supposed to be in deep contemplative prayer.
Other reasons for fasting may be for medical procedures that require the body to fast to run specific tests. These are typically done first thing in the morning and the person may eat after the tests are run.
For athletes, IF is done to go lean without having to go on a specific dietary plan. This form of fasting forces the body to rely on its stores and thus helps the person to burn fat and their body naturally become leaner. It also helps to improve muscle mass.
How Does Intermittent Fasting Work?
In the fed state, the human body digests and absorbs the foods that we eat. This fed state lasts from a few short hours to up to five hours after we’ve eaten. During this time, the body isn’t burning fat. It’s simply digesting foods that have been eaten.
During the fasting state, which begins when a meal is skipped, the body is relying upon the stored fats that it has accumulated. It’s not digesting any foods. This state will last from 8 hours to 12 hours after the last meal has been eaten.
Now, the insulin levels are dropping and the person is beginning to rely on the fats that their body has stored up. Now, the person is entering the fasted state.
Without going on a diet, without changing what they are eating, the person is now beginning to see changes in their body. These changes will help the body to slim down as long as it’s done the right way.
Fasting shouldn’t be relied on as the only means of slimming down. It should be used to get a jump start for athletes or even dieters who wish to get going on some fat loss.
For those who are in observance of religious holiday’s or events, it’s simply a part of their experience and will be beneficial in helping them to lose some fat. Since it’s only short term with religious observance it won’t really have any huge long-term effects on their body.
Other than fat loss, intermittent fasting also helps a person to change a bad habit, slow down and contemplate life and learn new behaviors. It reduces stress and helps a person to appreciate what they do have in life such as good food and friends.
IF shouldn’t be done long term and it shouldn’t be the sole focus of life. It should be done short term for very personal reasons and once those reasons are realized the person can then go back and adjust their eating to appropriate means.
According to research, fasting can also help to lengthen life by forcing the body to rely on itself.
What Can You Eat or Drink When Fasting?
When you’re in the middle of a fast, eating is pretty much out of the equation. If you’re feeling like you need something, sometimes chewing come or eating a sugar-free mint can help.
The good news is you can drink water during your fasting window, and you should. Drinking plenty of water will keep you hydrated, but will also help to fight off hunger pains while you’re trying to make through your fasting window.
In addition to water, you can also drink black coffee or tea, and things live sugar-free soda or carbonated water are OK too, although diet soda isn’t typically recommended.
Hunger Pains Should Go Away As You Get Used to Fasting
If you’re worried about feeling too hungry during your fasting times, I have some good news to report on this front as well.
The more you intermittent fast, the more your body will adjust to this new way of eating and drinking. As a result, those huge hunger pains you might be used to getting, should gradually go way down as intermittent fasting becomes your new normal.
Different Types of Intermittent Fasting
If you decide that you want to give IF a try, there are a couple of routes you can go. One isn’t necessarily better than the other, just pick a eating and fasting schedule that works for you to get started.
If you decide the one you’re trying isn’t working, you can always try a new one, so don’t get discouraged if it takes you a couple of trys to find the right IF schedule for you.
With that in mind, here are just a few of the more popular IF schedules:
- 16/8 Fasting Method: Fast for 16 Hours Each Day – 8 Hour Eating Window
- Eat-Stop-Eat: Fast for 24 hours a couple of times per week, eat normally on the other days.
- Alternate-Day Fasting: Fast every other day.
- 5:2 Diet: Fast for 2 Days per Week, Eat Normally the Rest
Intermittent fasting is a great way to improve your health, lose weight, and just feel better. It can also cut down on your grocery bill, which is another nice bonus!
There are number of different routes you can take when starting IF, so use the tips above, pick a fasting method (16/8 is my favorite), and get started!
More info 16/8 here.