There seems to be a new fad diet every year that promises fast and easy weight loss.
But dieting shouldn’t just be about weight loss.
It should be about adopting eating habits that benefit your body and wellbeing, as a whole. And your diet should be something you’ll follow for the rest of your life.
Intermittent fasting is the best example of a diet that is easy to follow and carries many health benefits, in addition to weight loss.
But what is intermittent fasting and what are these health benefits? Keep reading to find out!
What Is Intermittent Fasting?
Intermittent fasting (IF) is a type of diet or eating pattern where you eat for a set amount of time and fast until the next eating period. Fasting periods can vary in time, generally ranging from 16 to 24 hours.
During fasting periods, you can’t eat any food or drink any beverage other than water. Some forms of intermittent fasting allow for a small amount of caloric intake during fasting periods, usually less than 300 calories.
People choose to start an IF diet for a number of reasons from weight loss to other scientifically-proven health benefits.
The Benefits of Intermittent Fasting
Intermittent fasting is a lifestyle that many people turn to in hopes of losing weight, particularly hard-to-burn fat. But IF has many more benefits than just weight loss. Let’s take a look!
Helps You Lose Weight
As mentioned above, IF is great for losing weight. And it’s easy to understand why. When you eat for a shorter amount of time each day, you will eat fewer calories than when you don’t have a set eating schedule.
Think about it: if you have a strict eating period from noon-8 P.M., you’ll be cutting out an entire meal (breakfast) and prevent yourself from having those late-night snacks. That can cut 500 or more calories per day or 3,500 calories per week, which is one pound of fat.
Increase in Energy
When many people hear the word “fasting”, they think of starving themselves and having low energy. But this simply isn’t the case.
Once your body adjusts to your new eating patterns and it knows how often it will get food, your body will learn how to use that food as fuel so that you have more energy.
Because you won’t be eating as much or as often, your body won’t be spending as much energy processing food. This means you’ll have more energy to expend throughout the day.
Changes Your Cells and Hormones
When you begin intermittent fasting, your body will go through several changes that will facilitate weight loss.
IF will actually change the cells in your body. Your body goes through a cellular repair process while fasting. This means your cells will let go of waste and toxins that they’d otherwise be carrying.
Intermittent fasting can reduce insulin levels, which also facilitates fat burning and reduces your chances of developing type 2 diabetes. It also affects human growth hormones which help with fat burning, muscle gain, and other benefits.
Improves Brain Health
As we discussed above, IF can help decrease your insulin levels, blood sugar, and inflammation, which is helpful to your brain. In addition, IF can also reduce oxidative stress.
Intermittent fasting has been shown to increase brain-derived neurotrophic factor, which is a brain hormone that can cause depression and other brain problems if levels are low.
IF may also decrease your chances of developing Alzheimer’s disease due to its ability to protect brain functions.
Protects Your Heart
Did you know that heart disease is the leading killer among both men and women?
Well, intermittent fasting may help prevent heart disease.
This is because IF can fight against many common risk factors of heart disease including high cholesterol, blood sugar levels, inflammation, and blood pressure.
May Extend Your Lifespan
According to the article “The Ultimate Anti-Aging Diet: Intermittent Fasting”, keeping your eating within a certain window of time decreases inflammation, which helps to slow down the aging process. Here are some diets that can be beneficial in extending your lifespan:
- Meditteranean diet
- Antioxidant-rich diet
- Low carb diet
While there are still studies that need to be done on humans, studies on rats have shown that intermittent fast really is the best diet for extending the lifespan.
One study showed that rats that fasted every other day lived 83% longer than rats that didn’t fast.
Many of the previous benefits of IF, such as improved heart health and weight loss, are big factors in living a longer, healthier life.
How to Start Intermittent Fasting
Now that we’ve laid out the benefits of intermittent fasting, how do you actually do it? Well, you have options. Here are some of the most popular intermittent fasting schedules.
16 Hours/8 Hours
The 16 hours fasting, 8 hours eating fasting schedule is a popular one, especially among people who are just getting started with IF. This is because it’s easy to get into and you won’t experience intense hunger.
For example, you could start eating each day at noon and finish eating at 8 P.M. That means the majority of your fasting will occur while you’re sleeping, and the only meal you’ll miss is breakfast.
You can do this schedule every day or every other day.
The 24-hour fasting schedule means you will stop eating after dinner on day one and fast until dinner on day two. This means, while you won’t eat for 24 hours, you’ll still eat each day.
This fasting schedule should only be done two days a week. For example, you could do the following fasting schedule:
- Monday: Fast
- Tuesday: Eat
- Wednesday Eat
- Thursday: Fast
- Friday: Eat
- Saturday: Eat
- Sunday: Eat
By fasting two days per week, you’ll be cutting out as much as 4,000 calories per week, which is more than one pound of fat.
One Meal Per Day
The one meal per day meal plan, otherwise known as the “Warrior Diet” means that you will only eat one big meal per day. The Warrior Diet calls for that meal to be dinner, but you can make it lunch as well.
During your meal, you can eat as much as you want. The idea of this fasting schedule is to prevent you from unnecessary snacking and overeating throughout the day.
While you can eat as much as you want during your meal, you likely won’t eat nearly as much as you would during three or four meals spread throughout your day.
Is Intermittent Fasting Right for You?
Now that we’ve answered the question “what is intermittent fasting?”, and discussed the many benefits, it’s time to ask yourself if IF is right for you. While there are many benefits to IF, it isn’t right for everyone.
If it doesn’t work well with you, it’s best to look into other options instead of continuing on the IF path.
Looking for more health-related content? Be sure to check out the rest of our health blog page!