Intermittent Fasting: What Is It?
What is intermittent fasting?
Intermittent fasting (IF) refers to a type of eating pattern where you eat very little or no food for periods of time during the day. You may fast from one meal through another, or you may do it all at once. Some people call it “starvation mode.” Others say it’s not really fasting because they don’t go completely without food.
The main reason why some people choose IF is to lose weight. They believe that if they restrict their caloric intake, then they will have less energy to burn throughout the rest of the day. There are many different types of IF, but most of them involve restricting your daily calorie intake for a period of time, usually between 24 hours and 7 days. People often use foods such as eggs, cheese, nuts and fruit as ways to make up for lost calories.
Some people also try to eat only when they feel hungry rather than being full. This way, they believe that they won’t overeat and gain too much weight.
Is Intermittent Fasting Safe?
Yes! IF is safe for everyone—even pregnant women and children. It’s been used successfully by athletes for years now, so there’s good evidence that it works.
That said, you probably should talk to your primary care physician before attempting any kind of diet or weight loss plan. There’s also a long-held belief that fasting (whether short-term or long-term) is bad for your health. While this was something that used to be taught, medical professionals have since changed their tune.
Most of the initial fear about fasting was due to the fact that some people do it for religious reasons. It was assumed that these people might be doing it for spiritual reasons. While this can be a positive experience, it can also lead to nutrient deficiencies if done irresponsibly.
You don’t have to worry about that with the IF approach because most people do it for only short periods of time and eat sensibly during non-fasting periods.
IF has become a hot topic in nutrition science. One reason for this is because it can help with weight loss goals if you’re looking to shed some pounds. Most people who try IF find that it gives them more energy and makes them feel much better in general. That’s because during the fasting periods the body shifts its attention from digestion to other bodily processes.
However, many people are concerned that it may actually be harmful to the body. There is some research that seems to indicate this may be true, but much of it is still inconclusive. Since the human body was not designed to regularly fast for extended periods of time, it would make sense that there would be repercussions.
Another concern with IF is that most people don’t do it properly. There are so many different IF regimens, and most of them don’t work as well as they should. This is probably due to a lot of different factors, but the main one is probably lack of adherence. Most people can’t stick to a restrictive diet for any length of time, and even an IF regimen can be restrictive if done improperly.
That’s not to say that IF is useless. It has been shown to promote weight loss and general health, but only under certain circumstances. For the average person who is not obese and just wants to be healthier, IF can help you get there. It’s also great for athletes and people in professions that require long periods of focus.
How Intermittent Fasting Can Help You
There’s nothing magical about how IF works—any kind of weight loss comes down to taking in fewer calories than you expend.
So how does IF help you lose weight?
Well, first of all, when you fast, you’re taking in fewer calories. The fasting itself will cause you to burn off a few calories since your body is working to break down your fat stores. That’s the reason most people cite for weight loss when they first start intermittent fasting.
But there’s more to it than that.
Most people live on autopilot, not paying attention to their thoughts and emotions. They just go through the motions of life, following the herd. Intermittent fasting can make you more self-aware. When you realize that you haven’t eaten anything all day, you think about why you aren’t eating.
It makes you consider your habits and change them—at least for a while.
This increased awareness has numerous benefits. People who fast regularly tend to eat healthier. It’s impossible to binge on chips and ice cream when you haven’t eaten anything all day! This heightened self-awareness also helps people who fast to avoid emotional eating.
Fasting can break bad habits and help create good ones. It’s not a magic trick that will solve all your problems, but it can help.
Finally, there’s the fact that intermittent fasting makes you less likely to eat for emotional reasons. Emotional eating is one of the biggest pitfalls for people who are trying to lose weight, and fasts make you less likely to do it. This is another reason why most people who fast regularly report that they eat healthier—they’re not eating out of emotional hunger.
Of course, like everything else in life, intermittent fasting isn’t perfect. There are some cons that go along with the pros.
Cons of Intermittent Fasting
Intermittent fasting won’t work for everyone. Some people are so used to eating on a set schedule that their minds and bodies rebel against changing their habits.
Intermittent fasting can also wreak havoc on your social life. It’s very hard to stick to an eating schedule when you have meals and parties to attend. Most social events center around food, and if you don’t eat then you’re not really part of the group. This isn’t a huge con for most people, but if you like to eat out or go to cocktail parties then IF is not for you.
Finally, intermittent fasting can be hard on your body. Your digestive system may not like skipping meals, and you may feel tired and lethargic. You also run the risk of developing gallstones since the gallbladder doesn’t empty as often when you fast. If you have problems with these conditions, then IF isn’t for you.
Intermittent Fasting for Women
Intermittent fasting can be hard on women for a few reasons.
The first issue is that women need to eat more than men. They have faster metabolisms, and they also have to carry around babies, which is a pretty expensive process in terms of energy. If a woman fasts, she’s going to be hungrier than the average male, and that increases the chances that she’ll binge later.
The second issue is fertility. Most doctors don’t recommend that women who are fertile fast. There isn’t a lot of research on the subject, but it’s possible that fasting can have a negative effect on female fertility. For this reason, women who want to have children should avoid intermittent fasting.
Should You Try Intermittent Fasting?
Intermittent fasting can be a good way to lose weight and improve your health, but it’s not for everyone. You need to experiment and see if it’s right for you. Here’s what to do.
Start by eating normally for a few days so that you know what your “normal” eating habits are.
Then, try skipping breakfast one day. Eat the rest of your meals as normal.
The following day, skip lunch. Eat like normal in the evening. Keep this up for a few days.
If you don’t suffer any negative side effects during this phase, then it’s safe to assume that intermittent fasting is right for you. If you do suffer from negative side effects, then you’ll need to either fast less often, eat more on your non-fasting days or not fast at all.
Remember that IF is just one of many different ways to lose weight. If it doesn’t work for you, don’t worry: there are lots of other options. Good luck!
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Sources & references used in this article:
Therapeutic use of intermittent fasting for people with type 2 diabetes as an alternative to insulin by S Furmli, R Elmasry, M Ramos, J Fung – Case Reports, 2018 – casereports.bmj.com
Investigating physical and nutritional changes during prolonged intermittent fasting in hemodialysis patients: a prospective cohort study by NIH Adanan, MSM Ali, JH Lim, NF Zakaria… – Journal of Renal …, 2020 – Elsevier
Intermittent fasting interventions for treatment of overweight and obesity in adults: a systematic review and meta-analysis by L Harris, S Hamilton, LB Azevedo… – JBI database of …, 2018 – journals.lww.com