Intermittent fasting (IF) is currently one of the world’s most popular fitness trends to lose weight, improve health practices and simplify lifestyles that is like a buzz you can hear all around.
What Is Intermittent Fasting (IF)?
Intermittent fasting (IF) is an eating pattern cycled between periods of fasting and eating where common methods involve daily 16-hour fasts or 24 hours of fasting, twice in a week. Remember, staying in an empty stomach from time to time is more natural than always eating 3–4 (or more) meals per day.
Intermittent Fasting Methods
There are different ways of doing intermittent fasting which involve splitting the day or week into eating and fasting periods. But during fasting, one should eat either very little or nothing at all.
Some of the most popular methods include:
• 16/8 method: Also called the Leangains protocol, it involves skipping breakfast and restricting daily eating period up to 8 hours, followed by a fast for 16 hours in between.
• Eat-Stop-Eat: It involves fasting for 24 hours, once or twice a week.
• 5:2 diet: One should consume only 500–600 calories on two non-consecutive days of the week, eating normally in the rest of the days.
One can lose weight by all these means without significant compensation of calorie intake during the eating periods where the first method seems to be the simplest, sustainable and easiest one to follow in the long run.
Impact of Intermittent Fasting on Cells and Hormonal Reactions
During fasting, body adjusts hormone levels to make stored body fat more accessible, while cells initiate important repair processes to change genetic expressions.
• Human Growth Hormone (HGH): The levels of growth hormone shoots up, increasing 5-fold, resulting in fat loss and muscle gain benefits.
• Insulin: Insulin sensitivity improves, followed by drop in insulin levels thus making stored body fat more accessible.
• Cellular repair: Autophagy include digestion and removal of old, dysfunctional proteins from cells.
• Gene expression: Function of genes undergoes changes related to longevity and resistance against diseases.
It may even help you live longer throughout!
Benefits and Side Effects of Intermittent Fasting
Primary health benefits of Intermittent Fasting
• As a Compelling Weight Loss Tool: It increases fat release burning hormone norepinephrine, where short-term fasting increases metabolic rate by 3.6–14% decreasing belly fat.
• Insulin resistance: Intermittent fasting can reduce insulin resistance, lowering blood sugar by 3–6% and fasting insulin levels by 20–31%, that protects against type 2 diabetes.
• Inflammation: It reduces inflammation as a key driver of many chronic diseases.
• Heart health: Reduces “bad” LDL cholesterol, blood triglycerides, inflammatory markers, blood sugar and insulin resistance being a safeguard against heart diseases.
• Cancer: Animal studies have shown that it might as well prevent risks associated with cancer.
• Brain health: Increases the brain hormone BDNF aiding the growth of new nerve cells, which can also protect against Alzheimer’s.
However, the ongoing research is still in its nascent stages which has been primarily tested on animals in short-term. To come up with final reports, many questions are yet to be answered in case of human structures.
Those who are underweight or deal with eating disorders, should not fast without consulting with a health professional by any chance.
Recommendations for Women
One study has shown that it might worsen blood sugar control in women besides a number of anecdotal reports, stating menstrual period can be disrupted in the process while resuming normal eating patterns. Those suffering from amenorrhea should stop immediately abiding by a different set of principles. Others with fertility issues who are trying to conceive, pregnant or breastfeeding should hold off intermittent fasting for the time.
Side Effects of Intermittent Fasting
Hunger is the main side effect of intermittent fasting resulting in weakness and hinders brain performance at times. But it might be temporary to adapt to the new meal schedule.
People with medical preconditions should consult with a doctor before trying intermittent fasting like-
• Blood sugar regulation
• Low blood pressure