Intermittent fasting is not a new concept. Indians are well versed in the art and science of fasting. This article will show all the facts and secrets of Intermittent fasting and how effective in weight loss.
If you have read about weight loss programs in the last few months, you certainly must have heard about intermittent fasting. Many influencers on social media are writing, speaking, and following intermittent fasting.
Intermittent fasting has become the most popular way to lose extra weight and improve health and fitness. People are following it for weight loss as well as to improve their lifestyle.
Many studies also show that intermittent fasting has such a profound effect on your body and mind that your quality of life improves, and you live a better life.
So, let us see what intermittent fasting is all about.
The Problem of Obesity-Intermittent fasting could help people with obesity lose weight.
In the last few years, the problem of obesity has reached epidemic proportions in many countries. So far, every nation has struggled to understand the complexity of obesity and has failed to halt or reverse this epidemic.
Initially, obesity was thought to be limited to Western countries only. But now it is spreading to Asian countries as well.
Obesity is a medical problem that puts you at an increased risk of diabetes, heart disease, high blood pressure, and certain cancers. There is no single or straightforward solution to this epidemic.
Genetics and behavioral factors are known to contribute to obesity. However, blaming only genetics for weight gain is not correct. Poor diet and lifestyle choices are the main culprits as far as obesity is concerned.
Simply speaking, the world over, the prevalence of obesity can be attributed to an increase in consumption of high-calorie, high-fat foods and a sedentary lifestyle.
The consumption of highly processed foods that are high in added sugar, salt, and artificial ingredients causes a spike in blood sugar levels, leading to fat storage and insulin insensitivity.
Furthermore, the processed food is cheap as compared to healthy, nutritious, and organic food. Lower-income households do not have access or means to buy healthy and fresh foods like vegetables and fruits. As a result, traditional diets based on wholesome foods are being replaced with processed food.
Advances in technology have also contributed to making us more inactive. We don’t mind taking the car even if we have to go just a short distance away. We prefer to take the elevator even if we have to climb to the third floor of our building.
Additionally, the lack of recreation centers and parks also contributes to inactivity. In reality, all the activities that burn calories are dodged and replaced with easier alternatives. As a result, people are becoming much more predisposed to gaining weight.
So, is there an answer to this rising epidemic of obesity? Yes, there is a cure to reverse weight and obesity, and it is called Intermittent Fasting. By adopting intermittent fasting, you can lose weight without having to forego your favorite foods! Surprised? Intermittent fasting is unique because it primarily focuses on meal timings rather than on the food you eat.
If you are struggling to lose weight or have an appetite that you can’t control, intermittent fasting is the way forward for you. Intermittent fasting is one of the most effective and remarkable methods of losing weight.
What is Intermittent Fasting?
Intermittent fasting involves alternating periods of eating and fasting. You are required to fast intermittently; that is, you abstain from food for a set period of time and then indulge in eating again in a set period of time.
There are several types of intermittent fasting.
All involve the regulation of eating and fasting times. Intermittent fasting can be broken down into two windows –
Fasting Window – You are not allowed to consume any food during this period. You can drink water and zero-calorie beverages.
Eating Window – You are allowed to eat during the eating window. You will need to consume all your calories for that day during your eating window.
Intermittent fasting does not place any restrictions on the type or amount of food you can eat during the eating window. What matters is that you must be strict with yourself and not fall prey to temptations during the fasting window. This is the period when your body will utilize its fat store for energy.
The fundamental law of fasting is that your body will not have food to energize itself and will tap into your fat reserves for fuel when your stomach is empty. This process is known as fat burning. Many people struggle with weight loss because their insulin is high, and the body burns food as fuel. Their body doesn’t get a chance to access the fat stores.
You can have as many meals as you like in the eating window. You can eat whatever you want, but sticking to a wholesome diet is advisable for fasting to be effective. Stick to carbs, healthy fats, and clean proteins. Avoid junk and processed food.
You must pay attention to your calorie intake if you’re adopting intermittent fasting for fat loss. You can find out what your calorie requirements are by using an online calorie calculator.
What makes intermitting fasting particularly effective is its simplicity. All you need to do is eat and fast.
For example, if you’re following a 16/8 intermittent fasting pattern, your fasting window is 16 hours, and eating window is 8 hours. You will need to consume all your day’s calorie requirements during that 8-hour window. Your body will not go in starvation mode despite your short eating span.
So, the food you’ve eaten during the 8-hour window, will get digested in 3-4 hours.
Your body may have used some food as fuel however there are still 12 hours to go before your next meal.
Since you are in a 16-hour fasting window, your body will lack food that it can use as fuel. Your body will use insulin stores and fat stores for energy. Whether you’re awake or sleeping, your body will be burning calories for all your bodily processes.
Most FAQ’s About Intermittent Fasting
Where did intermittent fasting originate?
It did not originate from any particular place. But its roots are steeped in our ancient culture.
Since times immemorial, humans have been fasting for various reasons ranging from spiritual to therapeutic ones. Fasting is a common practice across different cultures and religions around the world. Different religions advise fasting from time to time for spiritual cleansing and improving one’s overall health.
Our ancestors were hunters and gatherers and had to search for food continually. They used to go hungry for days and learned to function without food for lengthy intervals. Due to this pattern of eating and fasting, our ancestors were seldom overweight. So, we can assume that the human body instinctively adapts to intermittent fasting.
Is intermittent fasting safe for you?
For most people, intermittent fasting will be safe, but it’s not for everyone. Studies have shown that intermittent fasting offers many health benefits, such as increased fat burning and a higher metabolic rate. Reduction in blood pressure, heart rate, cholesterol, and triglycerides is also seen in people who adopt intermittent fasting.
People with gastric problems, diabetes, and other medical problems, pregnant or breast-feeding, should consult their physician before starting on intermittent fasting.
How long it will take for intermittent fasting to work?
You need at least 10 weeks of adherence to few basics of intermittent fasting to see any benefits.
Intermittent Fasting Methods
There are various intermittent fasting types; however, the basics remain the same – an eating window and a fasting window. Keep in mind that it really doesn’t matter which method you choose. All the different methods will reward you.
You need to pick the method that you’re comfortable with. The chances of complying with it and staying the course will be much higher if the method suits you. Initially, if you’re new to intermittent fasting, you will want to take it slow and have a longer eating window and a shorter fasting window. It will take about two weeks to a month for your body to adapt to your new eating and fasting pattern.
In the beginning, you will most probably encounter resistance and cravings from your body. After all, most us are used to eating throughout our waking hours. Curbing your appetite during the fasting hours and limiting your intake for only a few hours can be stressful in the beginning.
However, be assured that with time your body will adapt and you will be happily surprised to see a decrease in your appetite. You will also start to feel more alert, energetic and slimmer as you go along.
So, let’s take a look at some intermittent fasting methods.
intermittent Fasting16/8 Method
The 16/8 method is the most popular method of intermittent fasting. Martin Berkhan of leangains.com created this method. This method is highly effective and fairly easy to follow.
In this method, men fast for 16 hours and women fast for 14 hours each day. They have an 8-hour and 10-hour eating window, respectively.
It is imperative to keep your eating window consistent. If there is a massive variation in your eating window daily, your body will get confused and hinder your results.
Martin recommends scheduling your meals around your workouts. For example, if your eating window ends at 8:00 PM, you should work out around 6:30 PM and consume your meal just before 8:00 PM. Or you could start your eating window just after you work out.
The Warrior Diet
This diet was created by the fitness guru Ori Hofmekler. It is an extreme and stricter form of intermittent fasting. In this method, you need to fast for 20 hours a day and only eat one huge meal every night.
The Warrior Diet is based on our ancient warriors, who ate very little during the day but indulged to their heart’s content at night.
During the fasting period, dieters can consume small meals of fresh fruits, vegetables, salads, and dairy products. The daytime starvation period is followed by a night diet rich in proteins and high-fat food paired with whole grain and carbs.
The warrior diet is highly effective, and many people who adopted this method have experienced its numerous health benefits.
Initially, when you are starting out, you might not want to use the warrior diet. It would be a better idea to start with the 16/8 method and gradually increase your fasting hours.
Brad Pilon developed this method. In this method, you can fast for 24 hours two or three times a week.
On the days when you’re not fasting, you can eat whatever you want.
In this manner, your overall consumption of calories for the week is decreased, and you will lose weight.
Since you are allowed to eat whatever you want to eat during the eating window, you can have your favorite cookies and chips. It can be a relief to many people who fear giving up the food they love.
However, the 24-hour break from eating can be challenging for many people.
So, as mentioned earlier, you may follow the 16/8 method and work your way up.
Which Method is Best for You?
So how do you decide which method is best for you? The truth of the matter is that you should analyze your lifestyle before embarking on any fasting method. You should analyze your eating habits, sleeping patterns, work schedule, etc.
It would help if you tailored the fast to suit you. If you work nights, you can’t fast throughout the night because you will be hungry. So, you should factor in your sleeping hours into the fasting window and so on.
Furthermore, your social activities (like going out for events/dinners) may make following the intermittent fasting program difficult. Sooner or later, your fasting will start cramping your social life. Once again, you will need to work around it.
Ultimately, you must choose a method that you think will work for you. Each method has its unique strengths and weaknesses. Determining which approach will work for you depends on your biological predisposition, body, health, fitness goals, and willpower.
Take one step at a time. Do not choose to go for the 24-hour fast on the first day – it can most probably be torturous. You might give up and start eating later on.
You may experience feeling off-kilter and feel like you have failed. This is where most people throw in the towel.
They think that they have failed when in reality, they just set unreasonable goals. The key to success is to make measurable progress with reasonable goals.
Most Popular Ways to do Intermittent Fasting
The 5:2 Diet
The 5:2 diet plan follows a seven-day cycle where you fast for two days and eat regular food for five days.
This method relies on reducing your calorie intake on two days of the week. This diet is also called the Fast Diet. Michael Mosley, a British doctor, created it.
The diet recommends that women eat 500 calories and men eat 600 calories on fasting days. For example, you can fast on Mondays and Thursdays, with two or three small meals and eat normally on the other days.
Alternate Day Fasting
In this method, as the name suggests, you fast every alternate day – you fast one day but eat normally on the next. You can eat 500 to 600 calories per fasting day or not eat anything at all. A complete full-day fasting every other day is not recommended for beginners or people with certain medical conditions.
A Weekly 24-hour Fast
On a 24-hour diet, you can have tea, unsweetened coffee, and other zero-calorie drinks but no food. Many people fast from breakfast to breakfast or lunch to lunch. You can return to a normal eating pattern on non-fasting days.
A 24 hour fast can be challenging as it may cause fatigue, headaches, or irritability. Many people find that these effects become less extreme over time as the body adjusts to this new pattern. People may benefit from trying a 16-hour fast before transitioning to the 24-hour fast.
Spontaneous Meal Skipping
It involves spontaneous skipping of normal meals during times when you are too busy or not hungry. You can skip one or two meals a day, be it breakfast, lunch, or dinner. But make sure that your other meal consists of healthy and nutritious food.
Intermittent fasting is not for everyone, and it is not something that anyone needs to do. It is just another tool that some people can use for improving their physical well-being.
If you decide to try this out, then keep in mind that you need to eat healthily. It is impossible to binge on junk food during the eating window and expect to lose weight and improve health. Calories still count, and food quality is still absolutely crucial.
Should You Watch Your Diet?
Paying attention to what you eat is critical, whether you are fasting or not. If you’re doing intermittent fasting, it becomes still more critical to watch your diet. A well-balanced diet will help you derive more benefits from intermittent fasting. Eating a balanced diet that can fulfill your nutrient requirements is crucial for intermittent fasting.
Eat more fruits & vegetables
Include more vegetables and fresh fruits in your diet. Fruits and vegetables provide you with flavonoids, which act as powerful antioxidants. They protect your cells against oxidative damage, preventing certain forms of cancer. Furthermore, fruits and vegetables are full of fiber.
Fiber is a great source of nutrients and keeps you full. Add vegetables like broccoli, kale, celery, tomatoes, spinach, cabbage, and cucumber to your diet. You can eat as many vegetables as you like. Vegetables generally contain fewer calories, so you will still be able to maintain your calorie count.
Always try to eat natural fruit rather than drinking juice. The fiber in fruits is great for your body, and your insulin levels will remain steady. Avoid canned fruits and canned/packaged fruit juices as they are full of additives and sugars.
Eat healthy meats
Eating too much fatty red meat can be unhealthy. Go for healthy cuts of meat. Prepare your meats in a healthy way, either by grilling or steaming. Avoid deep-fried meats and processed meats such as sausages, bacon, ham, corned beef, canned meat and salami, or consume them minimally.
Use healthy oils
You will need to add healthy fats to your diet. Extra virgin olive oil and virgin coconut oil are excellent sources of healthy fats.
Extra virgin olive oil is a great source of healthy fats and antioxidants. It has anti-inflammatory properties because of the presence of phenols. Olive oil also protects against heart diseases.
Coconut oil provides numerous medicinal and therapeutic benefits. It increases good cholesterol levels, aids in weight loss, eases the symptoms of infections, boosts hair and skin health, promotes digestion and boosts immunity.
Eat the right carbs
Get rid of sugar from your diet as much as possible. Sugar is the cause numerous health problems, including obesity and diabetes.
Avoid calorie-free sweeteners as substitutes. Get your good carbs from potatoes, sweet potatoes, legumes, fruits, and vegetables. You can also add oats, quinoa, rice, and barley to your diet.
Other than eating right, scaling down your portions, choosing smaller plates, sourcing locally grown food, and cooking from scratch will help you to be in control of your diet and your health. The best way to be healthy is to eat healthy. All the exercise in the world will not make you healthy if your diet is poor. You may be in great shape physically, but if the food you eat is unhealthy, you will encounter health problems sooner or later.
So, focus on eliminating foods that are bad for you and replace them with healthier choices. Once you begin to change your diet to include the good stuff, your body gets used to it. Eventually, your body learns to stop craving sugar, fats, and high-carb foodstuff that could harm your health.
Tips for Intermittent Fasting Success
Know your goals
Be clear about the reason behind adopting intermittent fasting. You should choose the fasting method or plan depending upon whether you want to lose weight or build your body or improve your health.
Know your schedule
Intermediate fasting is generally not focused on the foods you eat. It is focused on the timing – your eating time and fasting time are the cornerstones of intermittent fasting. You must strictly adhere to your eating window timings and fasting window timings for intermittent fasting to be beneficial. Fix your eating window and fasting window according to your lifestyle and preferences and adhere to the timings.
Start at a gradual pace – don’t go for prolonged fasting on day 1. Start with small-duration fasting and then slowly build up to prolonged fasting.
Battle your hunger waves
Initially, you will feel the hunger pangs intensely during your fasting window. If you ride out the hunger waves, eventually, your body will get used to it. Keeping yourself hydrated will help you to ride out these hunger waves.
Alcohol makes fasting harder. It de-energizes, dehydrates, and disturbs metabolism. Try to avoid it during fasting.
Adapt your workout routine to match your fasting schedule. Exercise first thing in the morning after waking up or exercise before your eating window is about to close. Eat after you exercise so that your body gets the fuel it needs.
Adequate sleep is critical to maintaining optimal health. So, sleep for at least 7-8 hours each night.
Common Intermittent Fasting Mistakes to Avoid
Mistake 1 - Giving up too fast
Some people give up too quickly if they feel that they are not getting the desired results. Remember that you have to stay the course for at least two weeks for intermittent fasting to succeed. Do not throw in the towel if you slip up or are not getting the desired results. Be patient and positive. Within 2-3 weeks, you will be amazed to see how well your body has started adapting.
Mistake 2 - Poor planning
Proper planning is critical as far as your fasting and eating windows are considered. You have to plan and fix your fasting and eating timings according to lifestyle and schedule. Poor planning will put unnecessary stress on you and you will be continuously watching the clock.
Mistake 3 - Being too ambitious
Don’t be too ambitious and jump into intermittent fasting without easing into it. Don’t throw yourself into a 24-hour fast or drastically cut down on calories at the start. Remember, slow and steady wins the race. Ease into fasting gradually and give your body time to adjust.
Mistake 4 – Not watching your diet
People opt for intermittent fasting because there is reduced time available to eat, which means consuming fewer calories. However, some people still eat their usual number of calories in that short window. It may harm their chances of reducing weight. So, eating a healthy and wholesome diet is of utmost importance to derive maximum benefits from intermittent fasting.
Mistake 5 - Not exercising
If you want to be stronger and fitter, you must exercise. Try doing a mix of cardio and resistance training during your workouts. You can make your workouts more interesting by trying varying workouts like pilates, kickboxing, swimming, or cycling. Regular workouts will help in speeding up the process of weight loss.
Should You Exercise While Fasting?
Yes, you should exercise while fasting.
Working out while intermittent fasting might seem challenging. Going for an extended period without eating can make you feel weak and tired, but it is essential to exercise to get the maximum benefits of intermittent fasting. It is possible to exercise while fasting, but with due safety precautions.
Regular physical activity prevents muscle atrophy, improves blood circulation, prevents cognitive decline and other diseases associated with it.
You may choose to exercise in the eating window or choose to exercise in a fasted state. Start with low-intensity exercises like walking, cycling, and swimming and then move on to weight training or HIIT.
Exercising after periods of eating will provide you with the energy you need to complete a workout. Eat nutritious meals after your workout to build and maintain muscle.
Listen to your body. Don’t push yourself to the point of exhaustion. The best exercise is the one that makes you feel strong and rejuvenated rather than exhausted.
A clean diet, intermittent fasting, and regular exercise are the three steps to weight loss. When you have all three steps in place, you will lose weight, get healthier, and fitter.
Benefits of Intermittent Fasting
Intermittent fasting provides numerous health benefits.
The intermittent fasting program is extremely effective, safe, and sustainable. One of the biggest benefits of it is that you could adopt it for life. Unlike a fad diet which only works for a short while, intermittent fasting is a way of life. It’s a lifestyle.
You will be eating real food and getting all the nutrients you need. There are no restrictions. The fasting window will take care of the fat-burning process. Your body will also have more energy because it is not constantly digesting food. Your insulin level will be more stable, and your insulin sensitivity will improve. It will make you less likely to gain weight.
You absolutely should give intermittent fasting a try. Stay focused and be committed. It may seem difficult initially but remember what doesn’t kill you, makes you stronger. As long as you stay the course, you will get accustomed to it.
Monitor your progress and how you feel. Keep a journal to write down your progress. In a few weeks, you will see that you made an excellent decision by adopting intermittent fasting.
Once you see the benefits, you can tell your friend and family about it and encourage them to join you.