To achieve optimal health and wellbeing, it’s crucial to build a lifestyle or approach that is sustainable over the long term. After all, unleashing the extraordinary inside you is not a one-off activity.
Most battles with weight management ultimately boil down to control over what, when and how you eat.
Dieting is one of the most popular ways of altering eating habits to lose weight. This usually involves cutting out or restricting certain types of food or macro-nutrients.
And while restrictive dieting can be effective in the short term and for specific instances, unfortunately, many diets are unsustainable. Some even have negative health consequences.
That’s what sets intermittent fasting apart from traditional diets. Instead of restricting what you eat, you limit when you eat.
Read on for a 101 course on how to do intermittent fasting, why it works and how to make it work for you.
What Is Intermittent Fasting?
Intermittent fasting is a popular lifestyle involving fasting and eating cycles, typically altered throughout a 24-hour period. It’s not a diet in the traditional sense that you restrict food intake in terms of calories of food types. Instead, you can think of it as more of a dietary schedule in which you only eat during certain hours of the day. In addition, certain beverages are allowed to be consumed during a traditional intermittent fast.
Technically, intermittent fasting allows you to eat whatever you desire but only during the “eating window.” The intermittent nature of the program can be manipulated to include a variety of time periods; However, most followers of an intermittent fasting plan will eat during 4-8 hours each day and then fast for the remainder of the day.
For example, you might allow yourself to consume food from 12:00 noon to 6:00 pm and then fast from 6:00 pm to 12:00 noon the following day. A popular interval is known as the 16-8 diet, where you eat during 8 hours and fast for 16.
Extending the fasting period by fasting for longer can be done and may help the body to use fat and ketones as its primary fuel source. While a longer fast window is likely best, it does not need to be as short as 4-6 hours, as followed by some. However, it is recommended that you fast for at least 12 hours.
This style of fasting mimics the dietary style of early humans when food was less consistently available for consumption, and there were more extended periods between meals. Since the beginning of recorded history, fasting has been a critical part of many cultures and religions. Intermittent fasting is a way of tapping into those practices and deriving physical, mental and spiritual benefits.
Benefits of Intermittent Fasting
The practice of intermittent fasting has been shown to have many health benefits, such as:
- Weight loss
- Decreased blood pressure
- Improved exercise performance
- Non-medical treatment for type 2 diabetes
- Cholesterol reduction
- Improved overall brain health, neuroplasticity and resistance to disease
It is important to note here that while the practice of fasting is eons old, the modern scientific understanding of it is still young. While studies have shown positive results, the field still has room for further and more comprehensive research. Especially if you have specific health conditions, including type 2 diabetes and insulin resistance, it’s advisable to speak with a physician before making significant diet changes. Women should also pay close attention to how intermittent fasting affects hormones, particularly during their cycles.
Intermittent Fasting Schedules
As alluded to above, there are many different intermittent fasting schedules, and they all involve periods of fasting followed by periods of eating.
The most common fasting methods are:
- The 5:2 Diet: Eat your regular diet for five days a week, and then restrict your calories on two non-consecutive days (e.g., follow a traditional eating schedule on Monday, Wednesday, Friday, Saturday and Sunday; fast on Tuesday and Thursday).
- Time-restricted eating: This is where you consume your daily calories within a window of time and fast for the remainder. The most common intermittent fasting schedule is the 16:8 plan, which involves 16 hours without food followed by an 8-hour window where you can eat whatever you want (within reason). The 20:4 plan is another popular option (e.g., 20 hours of fasting and 4 hours of eating).
- Fast once a week: The eat-stop-eat diet involves fasting for 24 hours at least once a week (e.g., from dinner one day to dinner the next day).
One thing to remember, especially with time-restricted eating, is that the timing of when you consume food matters. Although there is more room for research into fine-tuning this process, we know that the human circadian rhythm can affect the absorption and processing of food. Therefore, a practical application is to avoid eating late at night, understanding that insulin sensitivity is lower than early in the day; hence the processing of carbohydrates may be compromised.
The length of time you need to fast before seeing results depends on various factors, including the type of intermittent fasting, your weight, your age, your lifestyle and the amount of exercise you do.
Choosing a fasting schedule
So far, there hasn’t been one version of intermittent fasting that has shown to be significantly more effective than the rest regarding health benefits. However, if you are looking to address a specific ailment, you should talk to your physician (or a healthcare provider who fully understands intermittent fasting) to see which schedule may work best.
For example, some people find it easier to fast on weekends or certain weekdays when they have fewer obligations. Others prefer to do it every day for a more consistent routine.
Try several methods at the start to see which fits your schedule best and has the fewest adverse side effects. Remember that regardless of which plan you choose, there will be a period of discomfort when you begin intermittent fasting as your body and metabolism adjust.
Don’t Let Your Diet Control You
Taking control of your eating habits is the first step toward getting healthy.
Intermittent fasting is a great way to control your eating habits without feeling deprived. As you begin fatsing for longer, you may enter into ketosis and notice that you naturally have less of an appetite for unhealthy snacks. As a result, you can eat what you love, lose weight and improve your overall well-being.
Optimize your Physical and Mental Potential with Ketone Hydration