Intermittent fasting has gained a significant amount of popularity in recent years, but what is it and why has it become a trend? Let’s take a closer look…
Some people would have you believe that Intermittent fasting was a miracle new dietary plan, others will insist it is nothing more than a gimmick. The truth, as always, lies somewhere between these two extremes.
Is Intermittent Fasting New?
Intermittent fasting, in its current form, has the appearance of a fad – something that gets a whole heap of attention for a specific period of time before being forgotten about and barely mentioned again.
However, when you break it down, fasting is the way people have always eaten. Unless you are eating food 24 hours a day, then you are fasting in between meals – or intermittently. Of course, we do not think of ourselves as fasting, but technically we are.
So what new ideas are people bringing to this thing that we all do already anyway?
What is Intermittent Fasting?
First of all, Intermittent fasting (IF) is not a diet. Diets deal with the kind of foods you eat and the calories you intake etc – IF doesn’t require you to do that.
IF is a pattern of eating based on time. It is about scheduling your meals so that the nourishment you receive is spread out through the day more efficiently. It’s about changing the times in which you eat.
Why Do It?
- It is easy to do
- It’s proven to help people lose weight
- It is proven to help with overall health
The overwhelming reason people have for undertaking an IF regime is to lose weight. This is why IF is frequently mistaken as a diet.
It is a good way to drop bad weight and maintain a healthy weight, fats can be lost while muscle will remain, this makes it popular with many athletically inclined people as well as people just trying to trim down.
On another level, IF appeals to people because it doesn’t require a major shift in behavior. They don’t have to buy different foods, cook differently, go to different restaurants, they just have to eat on a schedule.
Types of Intermittent Fasting
Due to the simplicity at the heart of IF, there are many ways you can go about doing it. Sticking to a rigid system works well for some whereas developing a system of your own works for others. Here are some of the most popular IF plans that are in use today:
Alternate Day Fasting
This is a one day on, one day off fast. So, after eating on a Monday you would fast on a Tuesday, then continue alternating from one day to the next. Because 24 hours is such a long time to fast some proponents of alternate-day fasting allow as much as 500 calories on the fasting day.
Skip a meal whenever you feel like you can. Take advantage of your natural lack of hunger by not eating at that moment. This is hard to measure but as long as you do it regularly you will see results.
This version of IF requires you to eat all your daily intake within an 8-hour window. For the other 16 hours should be fasting. The most popular way to do it is to skip breakfast – if you finished your previous night’s evening meal at 8 pm and skipped breakfast, your 8-hour eating window would open again at lunchtime.
If you love breakfast than you could skip your evening meal and create a 4 pm to 8 am fasting window. Giving your body this 16-hour window to metabolize is important, however, it is equally important that you don’t go extreme in your 8-hour eating window. It is counterproductive to overeat unhealthy foods even with a 16-hour gap in between.
Popularized by wrestling legend, The Ultimate Warrior, this fast involves minimal eating of fruit and vegetable during the day and a 4-hour feasting window in the evening.
Technically it is not a fast in the sense that you can eat throughout the day, however, if you manage the fruit and vegetable portions well it is a productive regime for weight loss.
2 Days a Week Fasting
For 2 days out of 7, you should not eat for the full 24 hours. The days don’t matter specifically, although you shouldn’t do them back to back (that would be 48-hours).
A popular way to do the fast is by going dinner to dinner without eating. So after finishing your evening meal at 8 pm, you do not eat until the next day at 8 pm. This is also known as 5:2 fast, as you have 5 eating days and 2 fasting days.
Intermittent fasting is not new, it is the way we live naturally – we always take breaks in between our meals. That is the power of IF for people who want to lose weight: you are not being asked to do anything your body does not already do. However, you are being asked to extend the amount of fasting you do.
The benefits are proven and many people have reported great results which is not a surprise. IF is simplicity at its most simple – just don’t eat as much. If you allow your body to metabolize all the excess nutrients you have, you will become leaner.
Simple does not mean easy. There is nothing easy about fasting on a regular basis because it takes will power, discipline, and concentration – all of which can be draining.
However, you have a helping hand in the fact that you sleep. We generally sleep for 8 hours a day, that is an 8 hour fast – hence the term break-fast. If you work with that natural 8 hours and extend it a little bit further either side then IF might be a little less difficult than it seems.
Always talk to your doctor before engaging in a change such as this. Each person has a different medical history so it is important to see what a professional thinks of your fasting.