Everyone has heard the age old adage that “breakfast is the most important meal of the day”, right? Truth be told, new research is appearing that there might be more benefits gained by avoiding your eggs and toast first thing in the morning. Intermittent fasting is gaining steam and becoming progressively well known, even though it is far from a new concept.
What is Intermittent Fasting?
Intermittent fasting is an extended period of time where we avoid eating or drinking (with a couple of special cases like water, tea, and black coffee). This shouldn’t be mistaken for starvation or calorie limitation. Shortening your eating window, is what is really comes down to.
It may be useful to consider intermittent fasting more an eating pattern, instead of a diet.
For the longest time, we’ve been taught to eat somewhere in the range of 3-6 times per day – and this doesn’t include snacking between meals. Intermittent fasting sets a restricted time window of eating so your body can enjoy a reprieve from digestion (which utilizes a considerable amount of energy), and rather spend that energy dealing with different procedures like cell repair and battling oxidative stress in the body.
Benefits Of Intermittent Fasting
Intermittent fasting can provide numerous benefits including:
- Increased energy
- Mental clarity
- Reduced inflammation
- Normalized blood sugar levels
- Weight loss
- Improved cholesterol levels
Negatives Of Intermittent Fasting
There are some documented side effects of intermittent fasting that include:
- Increased stress levels
- Mood swings
- Poor sleep
Being hungry can and will take a toll on various aspects of your life. The most important thing you can do while intermittent fasting is to listen to your body. If at any point you feel lightheaded, faint, nauseous, or shaky you should probably break your fast and eat.
It is important to be mindful of what you are eating when you do break the fast. Often, people feel deprived when they are being restricted, which can lead them to overeat or binge during their eating windows. One can easily nullify the benefits of intermittent fasting by eating a bunch of unhealthy food during those periods of eating.
When you are committed to a consistent eating schedule, intermittent fasting can be hard on your social life as well. So, what do you do about birthdays, celebrations, work lunches, and other social outings, where these events are typically centered around eating? It can be hard to not give into temptation, when you see or smell these delicious food options right in front of you.
How Do I Get Started?
There isn’t a specific way to go about intermittent fasting, as different variations will work differently for each individual. The key here is consistency. Whichever way you decide to go, you must be vigilant in your efforts and attempt to stay as consistent as possible. Here are a few options to get you started.
This method is one of the most adopted variations of intermittent fasting. With this variation, you will be incorporating a shortened eating window. Your eating window will typically be 6-8 hours, while fasting for the remaining 16-18. This eating window can be whenever suits you best. For someone who wakes up starving every morning, it may be beneficial for that person to eat between 6am and 2pm, for example. For those of us who aren’t breakfast people, we would probably be better suited to start eating at around 2pm and having our last meal of the day at 8pm. Choose the timeframe that works best for you and your schedule.
Stop – Eat – Stop
In this variation of intermittent fasting, you will be alternating days where you do and don’t eat. An example fasting schedule could be:
- Monday – Eat
- Tuesday – Fast
- Wednesday – Eat
- Thursday – Fast
- Friday – Eat
- Saturday – Fast
- Sunday – Eat
With this plan, you aren’t necessarily required to alternate eating every other day. It may be easier for most people to start off by fasting only two or three days a week, and possibly work their way up from there. The key is to get in a full 24 hours of fasting each day you decide to fast.
This variation of intermittent fasting is one of the more extreme ones. This option allows for five days of normal eating and two consecutive days of fasting. Yes, you heard that right. Fourty-eight hours of fasting, once a week. The 5-2 option is obviously not for everyone, but those who choose to go this route may see greater benefits than those that choose one of the other options.
Who Should Be Intermittent Fasting?
As with any diet or exercise regimen, always consult your doctor before making any drastic changes. Intermittent fasting may not work for everyone, and there are some people who probably should not be doing it.
Women who are pregnant or breastfeeding should not fast, as doing so could cause complications. People who have a history of eating disorders, are underweight, have problems with blood sugar control (diabetes), or those with existing medical conditions should always consult with a doctor first.
Results will be different between men and women as well, as most research on intermittent fasting has been done on men. Intermittent fasting can cause hormone imbalances and irregular periods in women, as they have more complex hormone systems.
Like with any changes you make in life, it’s essential to comprehend your reasons for fasting. For example, would you say you are hoping to get over a weight loss plateau? Intermittent fasting may help with the plateau, however, there are other changes you can make in your life that can provide this advantage as well.
On the off chance that you don’t have any of the conditions specified above and want to try fasting, here are a few things to consider. Is it a feasible method of eating for you? Does it meddle with your social life? How can it influence your mental health? Do you appreciate it and would you be able to make a way of life around it? Not every individual is the same, and intermittent fasting may work differently for you than it does for others.
If you think intermittent fasting is the approach you want to take, I would suggest starting with a pared down version. Start off by fasting maybe once or twice a week for 14-16 hours. See how you feel and progressively scale up from there. As always, only do what you are comfortable with, and be safe.