If you’ve been in the health and fitness circle for some time, you might have heard about the trend of intermittent fasting. Like all diet fads, some argue that intermittent fasting doesn’t work and is dangerous, while others argue it has several health benefits. As an intermittent faster myself (and someone who was skeptical about it at first), I can truly say I have seen a difference in my energy and fitness levels since changing my diet.
Essentially, intermittent fasting is about when you eat and not about what.
Fasting is when you abstain from food (or drink, or both, in some cases) for religious, health, or ethical purposes. The actual practice of fasting has been around for centuries. Some of the first records of fasting date all the way back to ancient Greece, when Hippocrates recommended fasting to individuals suffering from symptoms of certain illnesses.
There are several different methods or types of intermittent fasting. For example, one of the most common schedules is the 16/8, where you fast for 16 hours and then have an eight hour window to eat; this is the schedule I to stick to. So for example, my eating schedule might look like this:
- 8:00 am: Wake up, skip breakfast. Maybe drink a coffee or tea
- 12:30 pm: Start the eight hour eating window. Eat lunch
- 4:00 pm: Eat a snack
- 8:30 pm: Eat dinner. End the eight hour window
- 10:30 pm: Go to sleep
Of course, I drink water throughout the day, and maybe have a noncaloric beverage like coffee or tea for an energy boost if I need it. Other methods are the eat/stop/eat, which involves a 24-hour fast once or twice a week, the 5:2 diet, which involves consuming 500-600 calories two days a week and eating normally during the other five days, and The Warrior Diet, which involves fasting for 20 hours (but you can eat protein and raw fruits and veggies) and then eating a huge meal in the four hour eating window.
In the picture above, it’s clear to see that intermittent fasting offers several health benefits. Obviously, one of the greatest health benefits is fat loss, since you’re lowering your caloric intake. Intermittent fasting also changes your hormone levels, with human growth hormone increasing and insulin decreasing, essentially boosting your metabolism. Blood sugar levels, inflammation, blood pressure, and “bad” cholesterol will lower as well. Certain studies have also shown that intermittent fasting can decrease the risk of cancer, increase life span, and prevent against Alzheimer’s. I have noticed I am more alert, my skin is incredibly clear, and I have less headaches.
While there are brain and body benefits to intermittent fasting, this diet is not for everyone. Since men and women do not have the same body composition, some doctors advise women to be more careful while fasting. For example, instead of a 16/8 split, do a 14/10 split. A lot of people also complain about feeling weaker in the beginning stages of trying the diet. Like any new thing, the body takes time to adjust.
While some people describe intermittent fasting as a diet, it’s more of an eating pattern since an intermittent faster will cycle between periods of fasting and eating. If you’re looking for a way to switch up your eating routine and reap the benefits of lower blood pressure, higher metabolism, and much more, why not try intermittent fasting!
Also published on Medium.