Why intermittent fasting works and how to do it

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Obesity. Image courtesy Mallinaltzin/Wikimedia Commons

Firstly let’s debunk this myth! Intermittent fasting doesn’t alone help you to burn fat, rather it is a tool or a type of eating pattern that cycles between periods of fasting and eating which helps you be in caloric deficit aiding weight loss.

It doesn’t specify which foods you should eat but rather when you should eat them.

Common intermittent fasting methods involve 16-hour fasts daily or fasting for 24 hours, twice per week.

Intermittent Fasting Methods

There are several different ways of doing IMF.

The 16/8 method (The most popular and sustainable): In which your fasting window is of 16 hours and eating window is of 8 hours. Now the cool part is out of 16 hours 8 to 10 hours gets completed in your sleep itself. So you simply have to skip your breakfast and eat in the afternoon to complete your fasting window. Note: the more you sleep, the less fast it feels.

 Eat-Stop-Eat: This involves fasting for 24 hours, once or twice a week, for example by not eating from dinner one day until dinner the next day.

  • The 5:2 diet:With this protocol, you consume only 500–600 calories on two nonconsecutive days of the week, but eat normally the other 5 days.

By reducing your calorie intake, all of these methods should cause weight loss as long as you don’t compensate by eating much more during the eating periods.

How It Affects Your Cells and Hormones

  • Human Growth Hormone (HGH):The levels of GH shoots up, increasing as much as 5-fold. This has benefits for fat loss and muscle gain.
  • Insulin:Insulin sensitivity improves and levels of insulin drop dramatically. Lower insulin levels make stored body fat more accessible
  • Cellular repair:When fasted, your cells initiate cellular repair processes. This includes autophagy, where cells digest and remove old and dysfunctional proteins that build up inside cells.

These changes in hormone levels and cell function are responsible for the health benefits of intermittent fasting.

In addition to lowering insulin and increasing growth hormone levels, it increases the release of the fat-burning hormone norepinephrine (noradrenaline). Due to which your metabolic rate also increases.

Health benefits

Here are the main health benefits of intermittent fasting:

  • Weight loss:As mentioned above, intermittent fasting can help you lose weight without having to consciously restrict calories.
  • Insulin resistance:Intermittent fasting can reduce insulin resistance lowering blood sugar by 3–6 per cent and fasting insulin levels by 20–31 per cent, which should protect against type 2 diabetes.
  • Heart health:Intermittent fasting may reduce “bad” LDL cholesterol, blood triglycerides, inflammatory markers, and blood sugar and insulin resistance — all risk factors for heart disease.
  • Anti-aging:Intermittent fasting can extend lifespan in rats. Studies showed that fasted rats lived 36–83% longer.

Frequently asked questions

Here are answers to the most common questions about intermittent fasting.

1. Can I drink liquids during the fast?

Yes. Water, coffee, tea and other non-caloric beverages are fine. Do not add sugar to your coffee. Small amounts of milk or cream may be okay.

But in my opinion nothing is better than a simple water – cause at the end of the day we are trying to detox our body fast, so why would you make your gut acidic with coffee or tea?

2. Isn’t it unhealthy to skip breakfast?

There is no such thing as breakfast. Billion dollar food industries and companies created this concept to fool people for having cereals, Hence it’s a simple rule, when you feel a bit hungry have your food. And you are better off skipping breakfast but make sure to complete your macros throughout the day or eating window.

3. Can I take supplements while fasting?

Yes. However, keep in mind that some supplements like fat-soluble vitamins may work better when taken with meals.

4. Can I work out while fasting?

Yes, fasted workouts are fine. Some people recommend taking Essential amino acids (EAA) before a fasted workout.

5. Will fasting cause muscle loss?

All weight loss methods can cause muscle loss which is why it’s important to lift moderate to heavy weights and keep your protein intake high up-to 2g per Kg of bodyweight.

6. Will fasting slow down my metabolism?

No. Older studies show that short-term fasts actually boost metabolism. However, longer fasts of 3 or more days can suppress metabolism.

A typical 16:8 diet structure with IMF tool can look something like this: Note this is just a sample plan and may not be applicable for everyone:

Why intermittent fasting works and how to do it

The author is wellness expert and founder of FITX Transformation. Views expressed are personal.

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