When you hear the word “Intermittent fasting (IF),” what comes to your mind? You probably think it is a diet plan because it is currently one of the world’s most popular health trends. Besides, you must have seen lots of reviews from people on “how intermittent fasting helps to achieve weight loss and improve health generally.” Yea, sure!
But is it really a diet? Read on to get the real truth!
What is Intermittent Fasting?
Intermittent fasting (IF) is a pattern of eating that involves alternating between periods of eating and fasting.
It’s an approach of scheduling your meal to get the best out of them. But it doesn’t change what you eat. It only specifies when you should eat. Well, that’s not new.
Fasting has been a common practice throughout the evolution of man. Yea, you don’t get to see refrigerators, supermarkets, and food preservatives during the time of ancient hunter-gatherers. In fact, a lot of people couldn’t find food to eat at some point.
So, it is no surprise to see humans today surviving without food for a prolonged period.
Besides, fasting is often done as part of religious rituals among Christians, Muslims, Judaists, and Buddhists.
So intermittent fasting is not a diet in the conventional sense, but an eating pattern.
And you can lose weight with this eating pattern without going on a crazy diet- this is the main reason people try intermittent fasting.
More so, many studies show that this eating pattern has a significant effect on the body and brain and also helps to promote longevity.
Intermittent Fasting Methods
There are different intermittent fasting methods, but they all involve splitting your eating and fasting period with the day or week. Remember, when you fast, you either eat little or nothing at all.
Without much ado, here are the most popular intermittent fasting methods:
- Eat-Stop-Eat: This involves fasting for 1 or 2 days within a week. For example, by not eating lunch from one day until lunch the next day.
- The 16/8 method: This method entails skipping breakfast and eating within 8 hours daily, say, 2-10 pm. Then you fast for the 16 hours left in between your eating hours.
- The 5:2-Diet method: This involves taking only 500-600 calories on two days of the week in no consecutive order, and eating normally for the remaining 5 days.
The 16/8 is the most popular, and a lot of people find it to be the simplest to follow. However, all the methods are effective to help you lose weight, but you have to be careful not to overeat during the eating periods.
What happens in your body when you fast?
You might be wondering, “How does skipping meals help me lose weight or improve my health? Well, several things happen in your body at the molecular and cellular level when you fast.
Here are some important changes:
- Your body adjusts the level of Human Growth Hormone (HGH) to make fat more accessible as a source of energy
- Your level of insulin drops and your insulin sensitivity improves, which also makes stored body fat more accessible.
- Your cells experience changes in genes expression in relation to longevity and immunity.
- Your cells initiate important repair processes, including autophagy, where cells digest and eliminate the mass of dysfunctional proteins inside the cell.
These changes in the hormone, cellular, and gene function experienced during intermittent fasting serves a lot of benefits.
Benefits of Intermittent Fasting
In simple terms, here are the benefits of following this eating pattern:
- It helps to lose weight and belly fat, without a deliberate restriction of your calorie intake.
- It helps to reduce insulin resistance, lowering blood sugar for protection against type-2 diabetes
- It may help to reduce “bad” LDL cholesterol, inflammatory markers, and blood triglycerides, which are all risk factors for heart disease.
- It may prevent cancer
- It increase brain the brain hormone BDNF and may protect against Alzheimer’s disease
- It may help to extend lifespan.
Intermittent fasting is an eating pattern and not a diet, and it gives a lot of health benefits, including weight loss. However, IF is not for everyone. It can be harmful if you are underweight or have a history of eating disorders. More so, if you are pregnant, breastfeeding, or have fertility issues, consider holding off on intermittent fasting for a while. But in general, intermittent fasting is one of the strategies you can use to improve your overall well being.