Intermittent fasting (IF) is one of the most popular health and fitness trends in the world right now.
It is being used by people to lose weight, enhance their health, and simplify their lives.
Many studies have shown that it can have a significant impact on your body and brain, and that it may even help you live longer.
This is the greatest introduction to intermittent fasting for beginners.
Intermittent fasting (IF) is a type of eating that alternates between fasting and eating intervals.
It doesn’t tell you which meals to eat, but rather when you should eat them.
In this way, it’s more correctly described as an eating habit than a diet in the traditional sense.
Daily 16-hour fasts or fasting for 24 hours twice a week are two common intermittent fasting regimens.
Fasting has been practiced by humans from the beginning of time. Supermarkets, refrigerators, and year-round food were not available to ancient hunter-gatherers. They couldn’t always find something to eat.
As a result, humans have developed to be able to function for long periods of time without eating.
Fasting is, in fact, more natural than eating 3–4 (or more) meals each day on a regular basis.
Fasting is also practiced in Islam, Christianity, Judaism, and Buddhism for religious or spiritual reasons.
Methods of Intermittent Fasting
Intermittent fasting can be done in a variety of ways, but they all entail dividing the day or week into eating and fasting times.
You eat extremely little or nothing at all during fasting times.
The following are the most widely used methods:
- The Leangains technique, often known as the 16/8 method, entails missing breakfast and limiting your daily eating period to 8 hours, such as 1–9 p.m. After that, you fast for 16 hours.
- Eat-Stop-Eat: This entails fasting for 24 hours once or twice a week, such as not eating from dinner one day to supper the following.
- The 5:2 diet entails eating five times as much as you eat. You consume only 500–600 calories on two nonconsecutive days of the week with this strategy, but eat normally on the other five days
- All of these approaches should help you lose weight by lowering your calorie intake, as long as you don’t compensate by eating a lot more during the meal intervals.
Many individuals find the 16/8 technique to be the most straightforward, long-term, and simple to follow. It’s also the most widely used.
How Does It Affect Your Hormones and Cells?
Several things happen in your body on a cellular and molecular level while you fast.
To make stored body fat more accessible, your body alters hormone levels, for example.
Important repair mechanisms and gene expression changes are also initiated by your cells.
When you fast, your body undergoes the following changes:
- Human Growth Hormone (HGH): Growth hormone levels surge, perhaps by as much as 5-fold. This provides a number of advantages, including fat loss and muscle building.
- Insulin sensitivity improves, and insulin levels drop considerably. Insulin levels that are lower make stored body fat more accessible.
- Cellular repair: When you fast, your cells begin to repair themselves. Autophagy is a process in which cells consume and eliminate old and defective proteins that have accumulated inside them.
- Gene expression: Changes in the function of genes linked to longevity and illness resistance have been observed.
Intermittent fasting’s health benefits are due to changes in hormone levels, cell function, and gene expression.
The most common reason for people to try intermittent fasting is to lose weight (13Trusted Source).
Intermittent fasting can automatically reduce calorie intake by forcing you to consume fewer meals.
Intermittent fasting also alters hormone levels, which aids weight loss.
It promotes the release of the fat-burning hormone norepinephrine in addition to reducing insulin and increasing growth hormone levels (noradrenaline).
Short-term fasting may improve your metabolic rate by 3.6–14 percent as a result of these hormonal changes.
Intermittent fasting affects weight reduction by altering both sides of the calorie equation by assisting you in eating fewer and burning more calories.
Intermittent fasting has been shown in studies to be a very effective weight loss method.
This eating pattern can result in 3–8% weight loss over 3–24 weeks, according to a 2014 review research, which is a large amount when compared to most weight loss trials (1).
People also dropped 4–7% of their waist circumference, indicating a considerable loss of dangerous belly fat that builds up around your organs and causes sickness, according to the same study (1).
In another study, intermittent fasting was found to induce less muscle loss than the more common strategy of continuous calorie restriction (16Trusted Source).
Keep in mind, however, that the main reason for its popularity is that intermittent fasting allows you to consume fewer calories overall. You may not lose any weight if you binge and eat excessively during your eating intervals.
Intermittent fasting has been studied extensively in both animals and humans.
These studies have demonstrated that it can help with weight loss as well as overall body and brain wellness. It may even assist you in living a longer life.
The following are the primary health advantages of intermittent fasting:
- Weight loss: Intermittent fasting, as previously noted, can help you reduce weight and belly fat without having to restrict calories actively.
- Insulin resistance: Intermittent fasting can reduce insulin resistance by 3–6% and fasting insulin levels by 20–31%, respectively, which should protect against type 2 diabetes.
- Inflammation: Some studies demonstrate a decrease in inflammation markers, which are a critical cause of many chronic diseases.
- Intermittent fasting has been shown to lower “bad” LDL cholesterol, blood triglycerides, inflammatory markers, blood sugar, and insulin resistance, all of which are risk factors for heart disease.
Intermittent fasting has been shown in animal experiments to reduce the risk of cancer.
- Intermittent fasting boosts the brain hormone BDNF, which may aid in the formation of new nerve cells. It may also help to prevent Alzheimer’s.
- Intermittent fasting has been shown to enhance the lifespan of rats. Fasted rats lived 36–83 percent longer, according to studies.
- It’s important to remember that research is still in its infancy. The majority of the research was tiny, short-term, or animal-based. Many questions remain unanswered in higher-quality human research.
Healthy eating is simple, but it can be difficult to maintain.
One of the most significant barriers is the amount of time and effort required to plan and prepare healthy meals.
Intermittent fasting can make things easier because you don’t have to plan, cook, or clean up as many meals as you would otherwise.
Intermittent fasting is therefore quite popular among the life-hacking crowd, as it improves your health while also simplifying your life.
It’s clear that intermittent fasting isn’t for everyone.
If you’re underweight or have a history of eating disorders, you should contact with a doctor before going on a fast.
It can be downright dangerous in certain situations.
Is it appropriate for women to fast?
Intermittent fasting may not be as advantageous for women as it is for males, according to some data.
One study found that it enhanced insulin sensitivity in men but harmed women’s blood sugar management (33Trusted Source).
Despite the lack of human studies on the subject, studies in rats have indicated that intermittent fasting can lead female rats to become emaciated, masculinized, infertile, and miss cycles (34Trusted Source, 35Trusted Source).
Women’s menstrual periods halted when they started performing IF and returned to normal when they resumed their old eating pattern, according to anecdotal reports.
Intermittent fasting should be avoided by women for these reasons.
They should follow their own set of rules, such as gradually introducing the practise and terminating promptly if they have any issues, such as amenorrhea (absence of menstruation).
Consider delaying intermittent fasting for the time being if you have fertility concerns or are attempting to conceive. If you’re pregnant or breastfeeding, this eating pattern is probably not a good option.
The most common side effect of intermittent fasting is hunger.
You may also feel tired and your brain may not function as well as it once did.
This may only be brief, since your body will need time to adjust to the new food plan.
Before attempting intermittent fasting, ask your doctor if you have a medical issue.
This is especially crucial if you:
- I’m diabetic.
- Blood sugar management is an issue for you.
- Low blood pressure is a problem.
- Take your meds as prescribed.
- You’re overweight.
- Have an eating disorder history.
- Are you a woman who is trying to get pregnant?
- Are you a woman who has experienced amenorrhea in the past?
- Are you pregnant or nursing a child?
All things considered, intermittent fasting has an excellent safety record. If you’re healthy and well-nourished overall, going without food for a period isn’t risky.