Intermittent fasting has quickly become one of the most popular fitness and lifestyle trends, with people all over the world using it as a natural way to cut down their weight, improve their health and simplify their lifestyle.
With the promise of better health through natural means, a lot of people may be looking to try intermittent fasting. However, as with any weight-loss method, there’s a proper way of approaching intermittent fasting — and it isn’t just a matter of skipping meals every now and then.
What is intermittent fasting?
Intermittent fasting works by having the a person cycle between periods of eating and fasting. There are actually many ways to approach this, some of which may be easier to do than others. However before anyone starts intermittent fasting, they should first understand what fasting entails.
What does fasting entail?
Fasting is a period when a person either reduces the number of calories they consume or totally stops taking them in. That being said, going on a fast does not mean that people cannot take anything at all — in fact, there are actually a number of things that people can and should take while fasting. Consuming these items is actually recommended, not only because they help first-timers get through their fast, but also because they actually provide their own health benefits.
Keep drinking water
During these fasts, people can and are encouraged to drink water. While water does not have any calories, it is still needed by the body. Additionally, those who want a bit of flavor can also add a bit of lemon or lime into their water.
However, people who are fasting should not drink artificially sweetened water. Even if these do not contain sugar, the sweeteners used in them can still interfere with a fast, while also causing other issues.
Other non-caloric drinks are fine, too
In addition to water, both black coffee and tea are also non-caloric drinks that can be enjoyed during a fasting window. However, these must be consumed with no milk or sweeteners.
Finally, people going on a fast can continue to drink apple cider vinegar. Not only does apple cider vinegar not contain much in the way of calories, it also comes with a number of other health benefits.
Popular methods of intermittent fasting
Of the numerous methods of intermittent fasting, three are seen as the most popular: the 16/8 method, the Eat-Stop-Eat method, and the 5:2 Diet. Of these, it is only the first two that will actually require people to stop eating. The last one only asks that practitioners lessen the amount of calories they take in during certain periods.
The 16/8 Method
Also known as the Leangains protocol, the 16/8 Method involves fasting every day for 16-hours with an eight hour window for eating in between. The most common variant has the eating window between 12:00 pm and 8:00 pm with 16 hours in between spent fasting. For women however, it’s sometimes recommended that they only fast for 14-15 hours. This is because women seem to do better with shorter periods of fasting.
Going down this route is easy since it can be as simple as skipping breakfast and not eating after dinner. However, anyone doing this method should also take care not to overeat during the eating window.
The Eat-Stop-Eat extends the time a person is fasting to a whole day. However, these 24 hour fasting periods will only take place twice a week. For the rest of the week, people following this method are free to eat.
The usual method involves starting the fast after a certain meal and then ending it after the time that the same meal would have taken place the next day. For example, someone who stops eating after dinner at 7:00 pm can start eating again after the same time the next day.
The 5:2 Diet
The easiest of all the popular intermittent fasting methods to follow is the 5:2 Diet. Instead of completely foregoing eating, this method has practitioners simply lower the amount of food they eat for two non-consecutive days, while eating normally for the rest of the week.
The usual recommendation is that men should limit their intake to 600 calories while women should limit theirs to 500 calories during their fasting days. Take note, however, that the precise calorie counting involved may make this harder for some.
The benefits of intermittent fasting
The primary benefit of intermittent fasting is weight loss, since the periods of fasting are meant to make the body start burning its own reserves. When paired with regular exercise, it becomes a great way for people to quickly increase their level of fitness.
The decreased caloric intake from fasting also provides other benefits. This includes the improvement of health markers as a result of reducing the consumption of excess food, including those for cardiovascular and cognitive health. Researchers have also demonstrated how fasting can help fight diabetes, by lowering insulin resistance associated with obesity. In addition to this, further research hints that intermittent fasting can help increase a person’s lifespan.
With all of these benefits it provides, fasting is a safe, natural method towards achieving a healthier lifestyle. Hopefully, with this guide, those who are interested in it can start on their journey to a healthier life.