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Have you ever come across the term “Intermittent fasting”? Have you ever wondered what does that mean? Is it a new diet plan like the ketogenic diet, vegan or as the name suggest, has it something to do with going empty stomach for days? Well, we are absolutely sure with the buzz surrounding IF(Intermittent fasting), you must be really curious to know what it is?
As we all know how bodybuilders, actors and singers swear that intermittent fasting has helped them gain their current amazing physique and health, so is it all really true? Or is it just another short term fad among the diet conscious crowd?
Well, let’s find it out and get to its core.
Do you remember how we were made to believe these statements since our childhood?
- Healthy breakfast in the morning is a very important meal of the day.
- We should eat as soon as we wake up in order to break the fast.
- We should not skip meals,because that will make our body think its starving and our metabolism will become slow.
- In order to keep our metabolism revving, we should eat snacks every once a while.
If this above modern food eating guidelines weren’t true than why were we even following it? And why should we suddenly care to make a change in our diet plan to something such opposing fad? Why did we even eat that way? Didn’t researches and studies told us to eat a healthy breakfast and two meals with snacks in between? Why sudden inclination towards one time, single, heavy meal?
To begin with, let us clear some basic facts. Every human wasn’t made to follow the well balanced modern style three square meals a day diet plan. And as we know, nutrition science is relatively new and is ever evolving, the fact we found to be true yesterday might be overcome by another better fact of tomorrow. Three meals a day plan might be good, but if the new researches point out that our ancestor’s eating habits were healthy, then we must at the least think to make the changes in our dietary schedule.
What is intermittent fasting?
Looking at today’s highly developed and connected technological world with all those smartphones in our hands, large LED TV’s, internet and 24/7 advertisement exposure, we are all constantly bombarded with annoying trends, materials and tricked into thinking that we need certain things to own, even when it’s totally not necessary.
Isn’t it right?
Same goes with the food industry. Every once a while we are made to watch the food advertisements. Buy one pizza get one free, burgers with delicious creamy mozarella cheese, scrumptious rolls with add-ons, muffins with this and that. Our brain and stomach is constantly taunted and teased by such mouth-watering food pictures. And as a result of that, we start craving for that piece of food we just saw. Today, somehow we always end up binge eating, which is later followed by guilt and weight gain.
But hey! It wasn’t always like this. In the old times, our ancestors would spend their entire day hunting, gathering food. Food was something that wasn’t easily available and so after fasting for hours, after chasing their meal miles, at the end of the day, they would graze on their delicious hunted meal. Now wait, the fasting part wasn’t that bad as it seems, because this kind of way of eating had tons of benefits. To be more specific, the broader understanding of “IF” is as below.
Intermittent fasting is a kind of fasting divided in time slots. The first time slot can be of 8 hours where one eats as per their calorific requirement, no restrictions. But in the second time slot of 16 hours, one has to totally kill their cravings for food. One should not eat a single calorie during this period. This is the underlying concept of intermittent fasting.
As in traditional way of fasting, one doesn’t eat for days, but in intermittent fasting one can eat everyday but only during the reserved feasting time. Intermittent fasting is a kind of diet plan where the more you follow it, the better are the results. Eating from morning to evening supplies our body with constant stream of glucose but sometimes the excess of glucose can become damaging. Our digestive system is made to work 24/7 and it is not surprising that our majority of population suffers from different kind of diseases like diabetes, weight gain, allergies etc. So, maybe making some changes to your diet plan can bring you the amazing health benefits that you always wanted.
Is intermittent fasting healthy?
Fasting isn’t new to us, but just that they now come with all sorts of twisted extensions. One day fasting, two days fasting, three days fasting, week fasting, fasting for a month. All these kinds of fasting have been practiced by humans since early times. In the name of religion or tradition, subconsciously or consciously, we all have done fasting for once. Then why should we doubt about its safety now?
Intermittent fasting is completely a healthy practise. It dates back to our ancestors. Since the science behind this hunger game too dates back to our past, it is totally safe with added benefits. Our ancestors lived by this diet plan, and they had no problems. Perhaps they were stronger and healthier than we will ever be. Even the newly conducted research provides the information that supports this fact. But though, intermittent fasting is safe, it still might not be suitable for certain people. People who eat nothing or are constantly low on energy should probably consult the nutritionists first before making such major diet plan changes.
Benefits of Intermittent Fasting
Intermittent fasting is a kind of eating habit where you switch between periods of prolonged fasting and feasting. Many studies have been conducted to research about its health benefits and not surprisingly, they all found out that intermittent fasting really has some powerful positive effects on human’s brain and body. Based totally on evidences, below are some of the major health benefits of intermittent fasting.
- Cellular level benefits:
Intermittent Fasting has tremendous good effects at sub cellular level. When we don’t eat for a certain period of time, our body undergoes several good changes. An excellent example of this would be the way our body starts repairing mechanism of cells. Not just cells but it affects the levels of harmones so that the previously stored fats are brought into use.
Following are the listed micro level changes that occur in our body during intermittent fasting:
- Level of Insulin: There is a sudden drop in insulin levels in our blood stream, which in turn initiates fat burning mechanism.
- HGH (Human growth harmone): The levels of human growth harmones increases by 5 times in our body. HGH is necessary for healthy development of human body. Due to the increase in HGH, excess of bad fats are burned which leaves the body with good lean muscles.
- Damage repair of cells: Intermittent fasting initiates damage repair of cells. New cells are constantly created whereas wastes are removed from old cells.
- Effects on genes:Alot of changes are made in the very nature of our genes, which in turn increases the immunity of our body with added protection from foreign disease.
- Intermittent fasting helps to fight against the cancer
As we all know what a monstrous disease Cancer is, Intermittent Fasting provides protection against out of control cell growth. “I-F” studies have shown us some promising results regarding the metabolism that directly leads to decreased Cancer risks. Though studies of effects on human being are yet to be recorded, but intermittent fasting has given some solid proofs when subjected to animal studies.
In animals, risk of Cancer was significantly reduced. Moreover, there are some studies made on Cancer patients that confirms about the lower after effects of chemotherapy when they followed intermittent fasting lifestyle.
- Intermittent Fasting helps our brain
That what is beneficial for the body is beneficial for our brain too.Improvement in our metabolic functions directly helps our brain become healthy. Healthy functioning of brain is the most important requirement for living a good long life. Intermittent fasting helps to reduce our overall mental stress. Also by reduction in inflammation, it protects us from all sorts of inflammatory disease. Intermittent fasting has benefits similar to anti-inflamatory compounds.
It also helps with reducing sugar levels and insulin resistance. A group of researches have found that intermittent fasting accelerates the development of new cells in mice.
Intermittent fasting also helps to alleviate depression, anxiety and other mental health problems. All this became possible because of the resulted increased production of a beneficial harmone known as BDNF (brain derived neutrophic factor).
Studies based on animals have some evidences showing that intermittent fasting prevents the brain damage during cardiovascular strokes.
- Intermittent Fasting helps in improving longevity.
The best benefit of switching to intermittent fasting lifestyle is in the way it helps us live longer, fuller and happy life. Recent researches conducted on mice suggest that intermittent fasting increases our life span just as it happens with chronic calorific restriction. The most worth mentioning case report was the one in which the mice were made to follow intermittent fasting, had their life expectancy increased by 8 times than the other mice. Though, it is yet to be proved in human beings, at some extent intermittent fasting really helps with anti-aging and longevity.
- Intermittent Fasting can help fight against neuro-degenerative Disease.
There are some few un-curable progressive degenerative diseases like ALS, Alzheimer and Parkinson’s disease. Since there is no cure for it yet, it is very necessary to make sure we are taking the necessary steps to prevent it.A research in mice had led the scientists believe that the early onset and seriousness of alzhiemer’s disease can be prevented by intermittent fasting.
Also in a recent report, a group of patients who were suffering from Alzheimer’s disease were made to follow an eating pattern with short period fasts for everyday and as a result of which, 90% of the patients had some great improvement in their conditions. Even animal study reports support the same fact that intermittent fasting helps to prevent Neuro-degenerative diseases and delays the progressive death of neurons at sub cellular level. But just to let you know, some more extensive research is required.
- Intermittent Fasting May help prevent Cardiovascular disease.
Cardiovascular disease is the number one killing disease in the world. Thousands of people die everyday because of heart strokes.
But since Intermittent fasting kind of lowers the amount of fats in body, it directly contributes in reducing triglycerides and cholesterol(bad for us). Also the reduced amount of fats decreases the extra taxation of kidneys. Blood pressure(BP) is lowered with increased levels of GH. These both factors help in better functioning of heart. Butsince most of the facts are based upon studies made on animals, more research is to be made to know the overall effects of intermittent fasting on humans.
- Intermittent fasting helps in weight loss
So now we are here, we know how important this benefit is to you. Well, Intermittent Fasting is amazingly effective in the process of losing weight. Since the level of growth harmones are increased, the body is made to use the adipose tissue with a side result of fat burning. One might think that fasting for prolonged period would instantly result in more burning of fats with faster weight loss but that may not be true. There’s a risk that you might become weak and feel low on energy to even carry out small day to day work. But since intermittent fasting is different, you can’t go wrong with this. Besides, it is very easy to go without eating for 16 hours than 48 hours.
Intermittent fasting is like planting the fasting period around our sleep. It is just like a piece of cake. One can stay lean, fit and healthy devoid of any work out just because of intermittent fasting. When we talk about fat loss and obesity, amazing after results can be obtained with zero calorie in-take during fasting period and by eating healthy food while feasting.
- Intermittent Fasting helps to improve Stress levels and has anti – inflammatory effects on the Body.
Today, mental chronic stress is one of the most ignored conditions. Host of diseases start to bud from regular stress. Few of the effects of stress on human body are aging, strokes and fatique. Free radicals are the main damaging molecules. They tend to react with our DNA and other important molecules at cellular level, thus, damaging them.Numerous conducted researches have data that conveys about the improved resistance to stress after switching to intermittent fasting.
- Intermittent Fasting reduces blood sugar level, helps in fighting type 2 diabetes.
Diabetes is a very common problem in humans.The most important characteristic of type 2 diabetes is the high levels of blood sugar. Whatever helps in reducing the blood sugar levels will reduce the resistance to insulin, thus providing protection from diabetes of type 2. It is worth to mention that Intermittent Fasting has shown some promising benefits in terms of reducing insulin resistance with significant decrease in blood sugar levels.
In the studies conducted on human being, it has been brought to attention that people who followed intermittent fasting lifestyle had 3 to 6% reduction in blood sugar levels while insulin was reduced by 20 to 31%. Another important aspect to take into consideration is the damage to kidneys that happens in diabetic patients.
In one of the studies conducted on mice, intermittent fasting prevented the kidney damage. This suggests us that people who suffer from type 2 Diabetes are highly benefited from intermittent fasting. But still the effects of intermittent fasting are different depending upon the gender. One case report on women showed that blood sugar levels actually increased after intermittent fasting for 23 days.
- Intermittent Fasting initiates repairing mechanism at cellular levels.
Intermittent fasting initiates a process called autophagy. During autophagy, waste is removed from the cell. The cells are broken down and all of the non functional proteins from cells are removed over a period of time. Protection from degenerative diseases becomes possible because of increased rate of autophagy.
So these were the advantages of intermittent fasting. From prevention of Cancer to cutting off risks of Neuro-degenerative diseases, intermittent fasting helps in adding years to our lives.
Intermittent Fasting For Women
With all the different sorts of eating lifestyle, you might be wondering which lifestyle you should follow for becoming slim and lean. Especially, those women who are always in search of easy diet plan for losing weight around their lower abs. That is the only thing they want to know badly, isn’t it?
Because they are too tired to try any new diet plan that won’t deliver any promised results. So why should they care about intermittent fasting lifestyle? Why are more and more women opting for it? What is so appealing about it? There’s not a single doubt that more people are switching their diet to intermittent fasting everyday, what is drawing them to intermittent fasting? Well, we will give you a total inside information of why intermittent fasting is great for women who want to become slim and fit.
- Intermittent fasting assists with burning stored body fats.
Are you familiar with the pictures of women pinching their belly fat? Well, the first and the foremost reason that women should switch to intermittent fasting is the way intermittent fasting helps them deal with those stubborn belly fats. Most of the women tend to be bothered by their belly fats, so if they want to get rid of it, they need to try intermittent fasting.
The real hard truth is that no matter how much women try to avoid it from hearing, they have to face it – Women have a higher tendency of storing body fats as compared to men. No matter how much they try to get lean, their body will always resist it. The most important reason behind this is that female body needs the essential body fats for giving birth. Due to this reason, it is really hard for women to lose weight and body fats and gain lean muscles.
A women’s fight against stored body fats is a long continous journey whereas men don’t face such problems. Also, the women will never get leaner like a man easily. Since the dawn of humans, women are cursed with the stores of stubborn body fats around the belly, bum and the area under their arms.
Nevermind, if for the last few years you have been trying very hard to lose those stubborn body fats and you haven’t gotten rid of it yet, then it might as well be an impossible task for you. Accept that, because it is most likely that you never will.
But hey, let us deliver you the best news, Intermittent Fasting lifestyle can help you in tons of ways from getting rid of those stored body fats. The science behind this is that fasting increases the rate of burning of stored fats. Fatty acids that are accumulated in cells are released, thus, leaving your body with lean muscles.
And just to do something extraordinary than just sitting around during fasting period, you can go take a walk in a Garden and that will lead you to intense fat burning. You will turn yourself into a fat burning machine and in no time all those Fatty acids will burn off. The more you do cardio while fasting period, the greater will be the improvement in results. Thus, Intermittent fasting method is very beneficial for all the women.
- Intermittent fasting provides more free time.
Another benefit of intermittent fasting for women is that they will get more free time to do what they love to do. Because in the fasting and feasting window time, the feasting time is small as compared to fasting time so women can have more time to rest. Since, most of the women have a huge list of chores to-do, it becomes very difficult for them to have some free time.
A single day isn’t enough for women to get done with their work load. Washing things, taking care of house, kids, everything consumes time and as a result of that, they face from fatigue and stress. If you are the kind of women who has to constantly spend time in preparing meals and eating throughout the day to be fit, then we are absolutely sure that you don’t get enough time.
But with the approach of intermittent fasting, all those issues of time are totally eliminated. You can work for whole day, you can complete all your tasks during the fasting period without wasting anytime on meals and finally when you are done with your to-do list, you can just relax and start grazing on the meal till your belly feels full. Moreover, you can schedule your meal so that you get to eat with all of your family members.
This time saving factor provided by intermittent fasting is really worth in itself to opt for intermittent fasting lifestyle.
- Meal sizes are large in intermittent fasting.
Moving further, another major benefit of intermittent fasting is that the women can eat larger meals, thus, keeping them full for longer times. Females usually have low daily calorie requirements opposing to males. This is because female are small in size as compared to males and thus, have low basal metabolism. Having low basal metabolism means they don’t burn fat easily. The daily calorie requirement of adult female is 1800 calories. Now if you are the kind of women who divides the meal into 5-6 small parts throughout the day, then each time you eatyour small portion of total calorie requirement, it won’t make you feel full. And eventually, you will crave for food more. You will wonder where your rest of the meal is, and thus, somehow end up eating more than your calorie requirement with some serious weight gain.
But let us say, instead of eating 5-6 small meals throughout the day, you end up eating just two meals of 900 calories each, won’t that be great? You will save alot of time along with feeling completely satisfied. Though 900 calories in one sitting is alot of food, but you will be benefited by it as long as your meals include healthy choices of food. Who knows, you might as well enjoy this lifestyle and stick to it forever. Intermittent Fasting should be a choice of eating habit for the women who have low calorie requirement.
So above was the list of important reasons why women should seriously consider switching to intermittent fasting lifestyle. As we have already seen, women can achieve some pretty good outcomes that they have been expecting from other diet plans.
Losing weight and burning fats with ease without starving themselves to anorexia, saving time for other routine work rather than wasting it on preparing meals for all day long and eating large meal to feel satisfied are some of the worth considering benefits of intermittent fasting. Women can transform themselves to their desired hour glass shaped body just by making some small changes like this.
Intermittent fasting schedule variations
Intermittent fasting comes with a lot of variations in schedule. For example, one can fast for 24 hours and eat on next day or one can fast for 20 hours and eat in the remaining four hours. Because of these flexible variations, the food conscious crowd now gets to choose an intermittent fasting schedule as per their needs. To be more specific, below are some of the most popular methods of intermittent fasting that people follow.
- Alternate Day Fasting (36-hour fasting/12-hour feasting)
In this method, people usually eat between the feasting window and then fast for the other entire day. Suppose for example, On Wednesday, you have a scheduled feasting window from morning 8 am to evening 8 pm then during this period, you can eat whatever you want, as much you want. You don’t have to restrict yourself from any kind of food. Even if it’s not a healthy choice, you are allowed to eat it, but after 8 pm, your fasting window starts which lasts till Friday morning 8 am. That means, you go without feasting for 36 whooping hours. The good thing about this plan is that it provides flexibility in making food choices. But for some people 36 hours might sound too much, so better check out some other suitable variation.
- Randomly skipping of meals:
Basically intermittent fasting revolves around the concept of our ancestor’s eating habits. And so, random meal method represents the same. Our ancestors were non vegan, and they ate randomly, so not very surprisingly, this type of intermittent fasting is popular among Paleo-diet lovers. People following this method can skip their breakfast and dinner for several times a week while trying to balance their calorie requirement.
Note of caution- Random meals may not be suitable for everyone who crave for food every once a while, so if you are going to think about following this method, better know thyself well.
- Eat Stop Eat (24 hours fasting – twice a week)
Brad Pilon made this method popular. In eat stop eat method, one should eat healthy food for 5 days a week and on any two days, one should keep a complete fast for 24 hours. This method is very flexible since you get to choose any two days for fasting as per your convenience. On those 2 fasting days, one should not eat anything from today’s dinner to tomorrow’s dinner or today morning’s breakfast to tomorrow’s breakfast. Though it sounds great, but 24 hours might be too long for people who are very active.
- Warrior Diet (20-hour light eating/4-hour heavy eating)
Warrior diet doesn’t sound much like an intermittent fasting lifestyle but still it offers similar benefit to the human body. In a warrior diet plan, one eats very lightly for their entire busy scheduled day. This light eating can be like evening snacks. And after 18-20 hours, they can eat heavily till they are satisfied. All the required calories can be acquired in this 4 hour feasting window. Moreover, people can fast for the whole day and then at night, they can have a complete wholesome dinner with their loved ones. This type of intermittent fasting method is suitable for everyone.
- Lean muscle Gains (16-hour fasting with 8-hour feasting )
The Lean muscle gain method of fasting was made popular by Martin Berkham. It is the best of the anabolic programs available and usually leads to muscular gains while burning excess fats. In this method of intermittent fasting, one should fast for 16 hours and feast in the remaining 8 hours. The feasting period should be full of healthy protein rich food with small cycle of carbohydrates. The bulk of the food should be eaten after the exercise sessions.
For example, suppose you start the fasting at 9pm on Wednesday night, then this fasting period should last till Thursday’s afternoon 1pm. Your exercise session can be conducted just an hour or two before starting your feasting window. And so after exercise, you can have your biggest meal with required amount of calories. After the big meal, you can have another 2-3 meals till the 8 hour feasting window ends. It is a very structured model as compared to other intermittent fasting models.
So these were the different variations of Intermittent fasting that you can follow based on your convenience. Please do choose carefully.
Intermittent Fasting Meal Plan
So are you ready to start the Intermittent Fasting lifestyle? Well, hold your horses for now. Instead of diving straight into the pool of intermittent fasting, we suggest you to slowly make your body familiar to it. We strongly recommend you to not shock your body suddenly by fasting for 16 hours or a day. Initial days of intermittent fasting are full of hunger so you should better start fasting for short periods of time first.
Say, youcan skip your dinner tonight after the evening snacks. Feed yourself again on tomorrow morning’s breakfast. Start skipping meals randomly for Initial couple of weeks. Changing your diet plan from 3 square meals a day to random, irregular eating pattern requires some practice.
Try to keep your fasting window around your sleep time. That way you can stop your cravings for food while you are asleep. After few weeks, we hope that your hunger cravings will become almost Non-existent or at the worst, it will be Mild. Regarding the food choices, you don’t have to make any changes in it. As long as you are supplying your body with the required calories, you will be perfectly fine. But if you want to go out of the way and make some more healthy choices, than you can go chose a Paleo-based diet or a vegan diet, whichever that suits you best.Just follow that diet plan in accordance with the intermittent fasting lifestyle.
While you make changes to your basic food choices, make sure you start slowly by eliminating certain food and then replacing them with better ones. For example, maybe you can cut out the dairy products and replace them with egg whites? Or replace the fat-rich butter with coconut oil. Do the way you want, eat the way you want. Just make sure it isa healthy meal. Try your semi intermittent fasting for few weeks and if everything suits you well, you can make it your permanent lifestyle.
In case, after being two or three weeks on semi intermittent fasting diet method, if you still haven’t been able to adapt it, then you should better start considering some other variations of intermittent fasting. Eventually after eliminating and correcting certain things, you’ll find your way of eating lifestyle. Not just an ordinary eating lifestyle but a healthy eating lifestyle. And By the way, we know that some of you are very impatient and eager to dive in, and won’t start it slowly. So for those hardcore people who don’t need to start slowly, if such is the case then sure, plunge in. Start directly with your 16-20 hours fasting windows. Don’t complain that we did not warn you, though.
Anyways, since we are in the last section of this article, we might as well give you a quick take home message.
Here we go, Intermittent Fasting is not a diet plan, but to be more specific, it is a schedule of our diet plan. In intermittent fasting, you can continue your same food choices by just alternating the time of their consumption. By doing this, you achieve an accelerated rate of fat burning while putting on some serious lean muscles. Intermittent fasting benefits have not been extensively researched but still the scientific community supports it. This is majorly because of the studies conducted on animals. Though there are some researches made on humans, but the results are still in evolving stage.
Since, Intermittent fasting has a lot of variations and claimed benefits, it is very appealing to people. Maybe you should follow an intermittent fasting lifestyle for few weeks with all your efforts before reaching to the conclusion of either it helped you become a better healthy person or not.
Take a personal initiative to get to the bottom of this by faithfully following it. Also, in case if you have any doubts, then you can surely rely on the internet. There are thousands of useful articles on intermittent fasting that you should check out. Many of the articles are based on people’s personal experience, so you can find out what has worked for others and try doing the same for you. Maybe it will work out for you too and a month from now you might be someone feeling high on energy all the time, with beautiful glowing skin and healthy heart! Just give it a try.
Also if you’re new to keto, I have a guide you may want to check out here. If you habe any question please leave a comment below… Thanks!