What Is Intermittent Fasting And How Does It Work?

6 min read
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Jan 19, 2024
What Is Intermittent Fasting And How Does It Work?
An eating strategy known as intermittent fasting alternates between regular meals and periods of fasting. According to research, you may control your weight and possibly even reverse some types of sickness by observing intermittent fasting. But what is your method? Is it secure as well?

Intermittent fasting: what is it?

While many diets emphasize what you should eat, intermittent fasting is all about when you should eat.
You only eat at designated times when you practice intermittent fasting. According to research, eating only one meal a few days a week or fasting for a set amount of hours each day may be beneficial to your health.
Mark Mattson, a neuroscientist at Johns Hopkins, has spent 25 years researching intermittent fasting.
According to him, our bodies have evolved to be capable of going for extended periods of time—hours, days, or even weeks—without eating.
Before learning to farm, early humans were hunters and gatherers who had adapted to go extended periods of time without food. They were forced to because it took a lot of time and energy to hunt game and harvest berries and nuts.
Experts point out that maintaining a healthy weight in the US was simpler even fifty years ago. TV shows ended at 11:00 p.m., laptops were off limits, and people stopped eating to get ready for bed.
The portions were considerably smaller. More people worked outside, played outside, and exercised overall.
Due to the availability of the internet, television, and other forms of entertainment around-the-clock, a lot of people and kids stay up later to watch TV, browse social media, play games, and communicate online. This can mean lounging and eating through the remainder of the evening.
Reduced exercise and excess calories can increase the risk of heart disease, type 2 diabetes, obesity, and other diseases. According to scientific research, fasting on and off might be able to buck these trends.

How does intermittent fasting work?

Intermittent fasting can be done in a variety of methods, but they are all focused on selecting consistent times for eating and fasting. For example, you could try eating for eight hours a day and fasting the other eight.
As an alternative, you may choose to consume just one meal per day for two days a week. Schedules for intermittent fasting vary widely.
After going several hours without food, the body depletes all of its sugar reserves and starts burning fat, claims Mattson. This is what he calls "metabolic switching."
By postponing the time at which your body begins burning fat after burning off the calories from your most recent meal, intermittent fasting works.

Intermittent Fasting Plans

It's crucial to see your physician before beginning an intermittent fasting regime. After you receive their approval, the actual procedure is straightforward.
One option is the daily method, which limits daily meals to a single six- to eight-hour window each day. For example, try 16/8 fasting, which involves eating for eight hours and fasting for sixteen.
Limiting your daily eating window does not prevent weight gain over time or produce noticeable weight loss results, despite the fact that some people find it easy to maintain this pattern over the long run.
This conclusion was drawn from a study that wasn't intended to look specifically at an intermittent fasting pattern. The findings of the study suggested that eating more small meals or fewer large ones may help prevent weight gain or possibly lead to weight loss over time.
Eating regularly five days a week is part of the 5:2 strategy, another intermittent fasting plan. You restrict yourself to one 500–600 calorie meal on the remaining two days.
As an illustration, let's say you decide to eat regularly every day of the week with the exception of Mondays and Thursdays, when you would only have one meal each.
Extended fasting durations, like 24-, 36-, 48-, and 72-hour fasts, may pose health risks and are not always beneficial. As a result of fasting, your body may actually start to accumulate more fat if you go too long without eating.
According to Mattson's studies, the body may need two to four weeks to adjust to intermittent fasting. As you adjust to the new regimen, you may experience feelings of hunger or irritability.
However, he notes that once they get over the adjustment phase, research participants usually remain with the diet because they start to feel better.

What can I eat while intermittent fasting?

When you're not eating, you can have water and calorie-free beverages like tea and black coffee.
"Eating normally" does not imply going insane when it comes to your eating intervals. According to research, if you stuff yourself with snacks, large fried foods, and high-calorie junk food at feeding times, you won't likely lose weight or improve your health.
Some professionals do recognize, nonetheless, that intermittent fasting allows for the consumption and enjoyment of a wide range of foods. Eating wholesome meals with others and taking pleasure in the mealtime ritual enhances happiness and promotes health.
Whether you choose to practice intermittent fasting or not, the majority of nutritionists consider the Mediterranean diet to be a healthy guide for eating habits.
You simply can't go wrong when selecting leafy greens, lean protein, healthy fats, and complex, unprocessed carbohydrates like whole grains.

Benefits of Intermittent Fasting

It turns out that the times of intermittent fasting accomplish more than just burning fat. According to Mattson, "The body and brain are affected when changes occur with this metabolic switch."
Data from one of Mattson's investigations, which was published in the New England Journal of Medicine, showed that the practice has several health benefits. Longevity, physical fitness, and mental acuity are a few of these.

Intermittent fasting has several effects that can shield organs from long-term illnesses like heart disease, type 2 diabetes, age-related neurodegenerative diseases, inflammatory bowel disease, and some malignancies. - he says

The following are some advantages of intermittent fasting that current research has shown:
  • Thinking and memory: Research has shown that intermittent fasting improves adult adults' verbal memory and working memory in animals.
  • Heart health: Blood pressure, resting heart rate, and other heart-related metrics were all improved by intermittent fasting.
  • Physical performance: A 16-hour fast resulted in fat loss without compromising muscular mass in young men. When fed on different days, mice exhibited greater running endurance.
  • Type 2 diabetes and obesity: Intermittent fasting prevented obesity in animal trials. Additionally, six quick trials showed that intermittent fasting helped obese adults lose weight.
People who have type 2 diabetes may benefit from: Most of the studies to date suggests that intermittent fasting can help people lose weight while also lowering their levels of leptin, glucose, and insulin, as well as reducing insulin resistance and raising adiponectin and insulin resistance.
According to certain research, some individuals were able to stop needing insulin medication by engaging in intermittent fasting under the guidance of their physicians.
  • Tissue health: Intermittent fasting improved surgical outcomes and decreased tissue damage in rats.

Is intermittent fasting safe?

Some individuals experiment with intermittent fasting to help them manage their weight, while others use it to treat long-term health issues including irritable bowel syndrome, high cholesterol, or arthritis. However, not everyone is suited for intermittent fasting.
Consult your primary care physician prior to attempting intermittent fasting or any other diet. There are certain folks you should not try intermittent fasting:
  • Children and teenagers under the age of 18.
  • ladies who are nursing or expecting.
  • Those with type 1 diabetes who use insulin. Despite the increasing number of clinical trials showing the safety of intermittent fasting in people with type 2 diabetes, no study has been done on people with type I diabetes.

There is a concern that an intermittent fasting eating pattern may result in unsafe levels of hypoglycemia during the fasting period, because those with type I diabetes take insulin. - says Mattson

  • Those who've experienced eating issues in the past.
Those who are able to properly practice intermittent fasting but do not fit into these categories can stick with the regimen indefinitely. It can involve a shift in lifestyle, but there are advantages.
Keep in mind that various people's reactions to intermittent fasting may vary. If, after beginning intermittent fasting, you get unexpected headaches, nausea, anxiety, or other symptoms, consult your doctor.