A Beginner’s Guide to Intermittent Fasting: Everything You Need to Know
You might have noticed more and more people online talking about intermittent fasting. If you have ever wondered what does this mean, and what are the benefits, you are at the right place. Intermittent fasting is a diet plan that switches from fasting to eating on a regular schedule. Studies have shown that intermittent fasting is a way to control your weight and prevent – or even reverse – some diseases, according to the Johns Hopkins website. But how to do it? And is it safe? We will tell you all that and more in this guide! If you want to see if intermittent fasting is something that might benefit you and your health, then this article is for you. Without further ado, let’s get into this beginner’s guide to intermittent fasting:
This is an easy beginner’s guide to intermittent fasting and everything you need to know
In this article
A Complete Guide to Intermittent Fasting
What is intermittent fasting?
Many diets focus on what to eat, but intermittent fasting is all about when to eat. Fasting for a set number of hours each day or eating just one meal a few days a week can help your body burn fat. And scientific evidence points to some health benefits, too. Johns Hopkins University neuroscientist Mark Matson has studied intermittent fasting for 25 years. He says our bodies have evolved to be able to go without food for many hours or even several days or longer. In prehistoric times, before humans learned to farm, they were hunters and gatherers who evolved to survive – and thrive – for long periods without food. Nutritionist Christy Williams of Johns Hopkins University explains that since there were no computers, and TV shows, people stopped eating because they went to bed. Portions were also much smaller. More people were working and playing outside and generally moving around more. Nowadays, television, the Internet and other entertainment are available 24/7. We are staying awake longer to watch our favorite shows, play games and socialize online. We sit and eat all day – and most of the night.Extra calories and less activity can mean a higher risk of obesity, type 2 diabetes, heart disease and other illnesses. Research shows that intermittent fasting can help reverse these possibilities.
Our bodies have evolved to be able to go without food for many hours or even several days or longer
How does intermittent fasting work?
There are several different intermittent fasting methods, but they are all based on choosing periods to eat and periods to abstain from food. For example, you can try eating only during an eight-hour period each day and fasting the rest of the time. Or you might choose to eat only once a day two days a week. There are many different intermittent fasting schedules. After hours without food, the body depletes its sugar stores and begins to burn fat. This is called a metabolic switch. If someone eats three times a day plus snacks and doesn’t exercise, then every time they eat, they are adding calories and not burning their fat stores. Intermittent fasting works by extending the period in which your body burns the calories taken in at your last meal and also begins to burn stored fat.
There are many different intermittent fasting schedules
Intermittent Fasting Plans
Remember that it is important to check with your doctor before starting intermittent fasting. Once you get approval, the actual fasting is quite simple. You can opt for a daily approach where daily eating is limited to one six to eight-hour period each day. Or, you might choose to try the 16/8 fasting method – eating for eight hours and fasting for 16 hours.
This is how the 16:8 hour fasting method looks like
Another fasting approach, known as 5:2, involves eating regularly for five days a week. On the other two days, you limit yourself to one meal of 500–600 calories. An example of this is if you decide to eat normally every day of the week except Monday and Thursday, which would be the one-meal days.
This is how the 5:2 fasting method looks like
Another fasting method is the 12/12 method, where you eat for 12 hours and fast for the other 12 hours. Longer periods without food, such as 24, 36, 48 and 72-hour fasts, are not necessarily better for you and can be dangerous. Going too long without food can encourage your body to start storing more fat in response to hunger. In addition, it can take two to four weeks before the body gets used to intermittent fasting. You may feel hungry or irritable as you get used to the new routine. But people who go through the adaptation period tend to stick with the plan because they notice they feel better.
This is how the 12:12 fasting method looks like
What can I eat during intermittent fasting?
Water and zero-calorie beverages, such as black coffee and tea, are allowed during times when you are not eating. And during periods of eating, “eating normally” doesn’t mean going crazy. You are not likely to lose weight or get healthier if you cram mealtimes with high-calorie junk foods, over-sized fried foods, and treats. But intermittent fasting allows you to eat a variety of foods – and really enjoy them. Be mindful and experience the pleasure of eating good, nutritious food. Moreover, eating with others and sharing the experience during a meal brings satisfaction and promotes good health. Most nutrition experts consider the Mediterranean diet a good model for what to eat, whether you try intermittent fasting or not. You can hardly go wrong if you choose complex, unrefined carbohydrates like whole grains, leafy green vegetables, healthy fats and not too much fatty protein.
Water and zero-calorie beverages, such as black coffee and tea, are allowed during fasting
Also, remember to hydrate when you are fasting
Most nutritionists consider the Mediterranean diet a good model for what to eat
Intermittent fasting allows you to eat a variety of foods and really enjoy them
Benefits of intermittent fasting
Research shows that periods of intermittent fasting don’t just burn fat. When changes occur with this metabolic switch, it affects the body and brain. There is evidence of a number of health benefits associated with this practice. These include a longer life, leaner body and sharper mind. A lot happens during intermittent fasting that can protect the organs from chronic diseases such as type 2 diabetes, heart disease, age-related neurodegenerative disorders, even inflammatory bowel disease and many types of cancer.
There is evidence of a number of health benefits associated with intermittent fasting
Here are some of the benefits of intermittent fasting that research has uncovered so far:
- Thinking and memory – studies have found that intermittent fasting boosts working memory in animals and verbal memory in older adults
- Heart health – intermittent fasting improves blood pressure and resting heart rate, as well as other heart-related measurements
- Physical performance – in young men who fasted for 16 hours, fat loss was observed while muscle mass was preserved
- Type 2 diabetes and obesity –most of the available research shows that intermittent fasting can help people lose weight and lower fasting glucose, fasting insulin, and leptin levels while reducing insulin resistance, lowering leptin levels, and increasing adiponectin levels
- Tissue Health – in animals, intermittent fasting has reduced tissue damage
Intermittent fasting has a lot of health benefits that are hard to ignore
Is intermittent fasting safe?
Some people try fasting for weight management, while others use the method to manage chronic diseases such as irritable bowel syndrome, high cholesterol, or arthritis. But intermittent fasting is not for everyone. Before you try intermittent fasting (or any diet), you should consult a doctor first. Some people should avoid trying intermittent fasting:
- children and teens under the age of 18
- women who are pregnant or breastfeeding
- people with type 1 diabetes who are taking insulin – When people with type I diabetes take insulin, there is concern that the intermittent fasting pattern of eating may lead to dangerous levels of hypoglycemia during fasting.
Consult your doctor to see if intermittent fasting is safe for you
Here is a good guide to intermittent fasting that you can take a look at
This was our beginners guide for intermittent fasting! Remember to be mindful and do your research before starting any new eating regime. And, always consult your doctor first!
Listen to your body to see if intermittent fasting actually works for you!