Intermittent Fasting was claimed by many to be just another fad diet but it is still widely popular to this day.
“As a fighter, if you were to be a lion would you rather be a lion with a full belly or a hungry lion?” questioned UFC Welterweight champion Georges St Pierre while talking about intermittent fasting. In Fact, he is one of the many Athletes and professionals who swear by this diet and claim to have a more alert lifestyle as a result of it.
Makes one wonder what this magic diet is however we must warn you that it may not be for everyone. In this article we will tell you the meaning of intermittent fasting, it’s benefits, and how you can start following this lifestyle
Our country currently has an obesity rate of 5%. This number may seem rather insignificant but with a population as big as ours it adds up to almost 63 million people. In today’s time when counting and burning calories with a proper diet is a privilege our hectic days don’t allow, it seems losing those extra kilos is a near-impossible task.
Moreover, this additional fat brings along with it diseases like diabetes and heart strokes which have clear links to being overweight. Hence shedding this weight should be a priority and staying healthy a necessity. This is where our diets play an important role.
If you ask any trainer or fitness enthusiast they’ll often say, “Staying fit is 80% diet and 20% exercise”. Most people often ignore the importance of a proper diet and the importance of eating at regular intervals, instead, they opt to have between-meal snacks or binge eat. Now a diet that will help you lose weight without a major change in regulation over what you eat is intermittent fasting. This is a diet plan which encourages people to fast for long periods of time and have food within a specific window.
Intermittent Fasting is popular form of Time-Restricted Eating
Most people who practice intermittent Fasting often fast for up to 15 hours and have an eating window of 9 hours. The amazing thing about the diet is that you can have this 9-hour window whenever it is most comfortable for you. So it doesn’t matter if you work a day job and can have good food only once you reach back home or an athlete training all day, you can adjust it as per your needs.
This form of fasting comes from the belief that our hunter-gatherer ancestors often starved for days as they didn’t have immediate access to food or the ability to store it. Whenever they did hunt they ate heavy and filled up their bellies, preparing them to take on the wild world. This makes restricted eating more natural rather than having 3 meals a day. Now there are various ways you can practice this diet, the most popular ones being:
- 5:2 Diet
- Alternate-day Fasting
- Time-Restricted Eating(TRE)
Under the 5;2 diet, you need to maintain a low calorie consumption on two days of the week and eat normally on the rest.
The 5; 2 has proven to be an effective way to stay healthy. It has an effect on markers of health as it reduces the level of cholesterol and glucose in the blood. Having a low-calorie intake period on consecutive days has been shown to improve insulin sensitivity, a major marker for type 2 Diabetes.
Although this does help with weight loss it’s equivalent to the amount of weight loss on a simple calorie deficit diet. This diet is however a great way to boost your overall health. While the 5:2 is a diet, the Alternate Day Fasting method is more of a lifestyle. As the name suggests, ADF requires you to alternate from unrestricted eating and consuming a low-calorie diet (usually up to 500 calories). ADF helps with considerable weight loss within 8-12 weeks, so if you’re looking to quickly lose a few kilos this is the diet for you.
There is however a small problem with this diet, the rate of weight loss tends to wane off after said 8-12 weeks and the results either remain consistent or keeps decreasing.(As your body loses all the fat it can afford to lose) This means it is very similar to any calorie-restricted diet in terms of weight loss, the only difference being the huge initial boost. And finally the holy grail of intermittent fasting, Time Restricted Eating. This is the diet that a lot of working professionals and athletes adhere to. It involves complete fasting (with the exception of water and black coffee) for long periods of time.
The most practiced version of TRE is the 16:8(A 16 hour fast with an 8-hour eating window). The easiest way to achieve this standard is by pushing breakfast to midday and consuming food until 8 pm. Studies show, skipping breakfast leads to an overall calorie deficit moving forward with the day. There is an adverse effect of practicing TRE nonetheless. Skipping breakfast reduces the ability of insulin to regulate glucose levels hence taking a toll on insulin sensitivity. However, this can be countered by simply starting the eating window at 2 pm.(Though many may find it difficult to fast for that long.)
Now that you know how to practice intermittent fasting, the question arises, what do you eat? “There are no specifications or restrictions about what type or how much food to eat while following intermittent fasting,” says Lauren Harris-Pincus, author of ‘The Protein-Packed Breakfast Club’. However, we can all agree that a diet consisting of cheese burst pizzas and chocolate milkshakes won’t expose one to all the benefits of IF. Dieticians expect one to follow a reasonable diet consisting of essential nutrients and minerals. High protein foods such as meat. Fish, pulses, and sprouts are ideal.
However one can also include a lot of fat in this diet. Contrary to popular belief not all fats are harmful for you, in fact a lot of healthy fats help keep your body is peak condition while helping you to lose weight. YES! FATS HELP YOU LOSE WEIGHT! When you restrict the amount of carbohydrates you take in your body starts to synthesize fat cells in order to obtain energy (As fat cells can produce a whopping 28 ATP while carbohydrates can only be used for instantaneous energy).
Include a lot of water in your diet as water helps release fat in the form of sweat and urine. It is advised that people include a considerable amount of Vegetables and fruits in their diet, however a burger once in a while won’t hurt you much either. Eggs are custom made for this diet as they contain high amounts of protein as well as healthy fats. There you go! Now go ahead and create your own menu.
You may find that in a lot of ways this diet is similar to a lot of religious fasts and they provide ample health benefits. Fasting helps enhance heart health by improving blood pressure and lowering cholesterol levels. A study involving 110 obese adults showed that fasting leads to a lowering of blood pressure, total cholesterol and bad ‘LDL’ cholesterol. Another benefit includes boosting brain function and preventing neurodegenerative disorders.
Although the study on this is quite limited and restricted to animals, a study found that mice who practiced intermittent fasting for 11 months saw better brain functions and a better brain structure. It may also help prevent diseases like Alzheimer’s. One main and commonly known benefit of fasting is the relief it provides to your digestive system giving it time to rest. Multiple tests on mice revealed that mice who fasted showed a delay in aging and a longer life expectancy than the ones who didn’t.
This however doesn’t imply that it does not have its risks. Having an empty stomach proves to be quite irritable and makes one feel giddy. In the first week of fasting, a lot of people fatigue easily, complain of headaches and decreased brain function.
One should always consult a doctor/nutritionist before they make drastic changes in their diet. Specially if you are not used to any forms of previous dieting experience, intermittent fasting may be too much too soon for you.
Though there are a million diets out there not all of them might work and certainly, not all of them are made for you. Know your body, know how much you can handle, and choose your routine accordingly. The road to fitness is tough, but it is worth it. In our world health should be a top priority especially when our planet is degrading at a rate higher than ever before. Go out there and shred away all your illnesses. Stay fast, stay fit!