Intermittent Fasting

Dhanalakshmi MSc, MPhil

Founder, Care Through Nutrition

Facts about Intermittent Fasting

Intermittent fasting is an eating style where you eat within a specific time period, and fast the rest of the time.Fasting isn’t a new concept. For centuries, people have temporarily restricted their food intake for religious reasons. Every religion in India has its own form of intermittent fasting, be it Ramadan for Muslims, Paryushana for Jains or Ekadasi every month and Navratri for Hindus.Time and tradition has proved the multiple benefits of fasting, be it , weight loss, detoxification or enhancing vital organ function and many more. It is not a diet plan but a complete lifestyle change.

Starting from 16 hours of fast intermittent fasting last more than 36 hours too.

It is not necessary to follow a particular method of fasting. Listen to your body, eat when you are hungry and don’t eat when you are not. That  sounds so simple right? Yes and it’s that simple but the benefits are many.

HOW IT WORKS:

Glucose and fat are the body’s main sources of energy. Glucose is the most easily accessible fuel source for the body. However, if glucose is not available, the body can adjust by switching to fat metabolism, without any detrimental health effects.

Types of intermittent fasting:

1.16/ 8 method:

The 16/8 Method involves fasting every day for 14-16 hours, and restricting your daily eating window to 8-10 hours.Within the eating window, you can fit in 2 or 3 meals.Preferably have a low carb meal. It was popularized by fitness expert Martin Berkhan.

If you finish your last meal at 8 pm and then don’t eat until 12 noon the next day, then you are actually fasting for 16 hours between meals. You can drink water, black or green tea without sugar, but care should be taken with people who’s acidic levels are on the higher side and such people can avoid having caffeinated drinks on empty stomach.

2. The 5:2 method:

This involves eating normally 5 days of the week, while restricting calories to 500-600 on the rest of the two days. It was popularized by British journalist and doctor Michael Mosley.

3. Eat-Stop-Eat:

Eat-Stop-Eat involves a 24-hour fast, either once or twice per week.

For example, if you finish dinner on Monday at 7 pm, and don’t eat until dinner the next day at 7 pm, then you’ve just done a full 24-hour fast.You can also fast from breakfast to breakfast, or lunch to lunch. The end result is the same.

4. Alternate day fasting:

Alternate-Day fasting means fasting every other day and having few hundred calories not more than 500 on the day of fasting.A full fast every other day seems rather extreme, so I do not recommend this for beginners.With this method, you will be going to bed very hungry several times per week, which is not very pleasant and probably unsustainable in the long-term.

5. The warrior diet:

Basically you fast for the whole day and feast at the night within a four hour eating window. It involves eating small amounts of raw fruits and vegetables during the day.

6. Spontaneous meal skipping:

Another more natural way to do intermittent fasting is to simply skip 1 or 2 meals when you don’t feel hungry that’s just like listening to your body.

There are a lot of people getting great results with some of these methods.

BENEFITS OF INTERMITTENT FASTING:

  1. CHANGES IN THE HORMONES
  • Insulin levels: Blood levels of insulin drop significantly, which facilitates fat burning.
  • Human growth hormone: The blood levels of growth hormone may increase as much as 5-fold. Higher levels of this hormone facilitate fat burning and muscle gain, and other benefits.
  • Cellular repair: The body induces important cellular repair processes, such as removing waste material from cells.

2. HELPS YOU LOSE WEIGHT AND BELLY FAT

Intermittent fasting works on both sides of the calorie equation. It boosts your metabolic rate (increases calories out) and reduces the amount of food you eat (reduces calories in).Lower insulin levels, higher growth hormone levels and increased amounts of norepinephrine (noradrenaline) all increase the breakdown of body fat and facilitate its use for energy.

3. REDUCE INSULIN RESISTANCE AND LOWERS THE RISK OF TYPE 2 DIABETES.

Intermittent fasting has been shown to have major benefits for insulin resistance and lead to an impressive reduction in blood sugar levels .In human studies on intermittent fasting, fasting blood sugar has been reduced by 3-6%, while fasting insulin has been reduced by 20-31%  1).

4. REDUCES OXIDATIVE STRESS AND INFLAMMATION IN THE BODY

Several studies show that intermittent fasting may enhance the body’s resistance to oxidative stress (2). Additionally, studies show that intermittent fasting can help fight inflammation, another key driver of all sorts of common diseases (3).

5. BENEFICIAL FOR HEART HEALTH

Intermittent fasting has been shown to improve numerous different risk factors, including blood pressure, total and LDL cholesterol, blood triglycerides, inflammatory markers and blood sugar levels ( 4,  5).

6. INDUCES CELLULAR REPAIR PROCESS

When we fast, the cells in the body initiate a cellular “waste removal” process called autophagy. This involves the cells breaking down and metabolizing broken and dysfunctional proteins that build up inside cells over time. Increased autophagy may provide protection against several diseases, including cancer and Alzheimer’s disease.

7. REDUCES THE RISK OF CANCER

Fasting has been shown to have several beneficial effects on metabolism that may lead to reduced risk of cancer.

Although human studies are needed, evidence from animal studies indicates that intermittent fasting may help prevent cancer (6).

There is also some evidence on human cancer patients, showing that fasting reduced various side effects of chemotherapy

Who should NOT fast?

You should not do intermittent fasting if you are:

  • Underweight (BMI < 18.5) or have an eating disorder like anorexia.
  • Pregnant – you need extra nutrients for your child.
  • Breastfeeding – you need extra nutrients for your child.
  • A child under 18 – you need extra nutrients to grow.

You can probably fast, but may need medical supervision, under these conditions:

  • If you have diabetes mellitus – type 1 or type 2
  • If you take prescription medication.
  • If you have gout or high uric acid.
  • If you have any serious medical conditions, such as liver disease, kidney disease, or heart disease.

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