Fasting is not a new thing for humans. It has been a life involving practice throughout human evolution. The ancient hunter-gatherers didn’t have supermarkets, refrigerators, or available year-round foods. Sometimes they couldn’t find anything to eat for one or more days. It took a lot of time and energy to hunt and gather food, and they had to fast for long.

Fasting is also practiced for religious or spiritual reasons, such as in Islam, Christianity, Judaism, and Buddhism. People can easily cope with this type of fasting without any complications.

Previously there were no computers, and TV shows turned off at 11 p.m. People stopped eating late as they went to bed early. More people worked and played outside and, generally, got more exercise. As a result, they remained better and felt physically more comfortable.

But at present, TV, the internet and other entertainment are available 24 hours every day. We stay awake for longer hours to enjoy our favorite shows, play games and chat online. We’re sitting idly and snacking all day and most of the night.

Consequently, we have extra calories and less activity which can mean a higher risk of obesity, type 2 diabetes, heart disease, and other illnesses because of excess weight. So, it’s essential to take steps to lose weight anyhow. Intermittent fasting can help us in this case. We can take up intermittent fasting for weight loss. What is intermittent fasting?

Does intermittent fasting work for weight loss? You should read this article if you want to know the amazing intermittent fasting benefits. You can also know about intermittent fasting diets, ways and methods of work of intermittent fasting, its safety, and side effects, and who should avoid it.

What Is Intermittent Fasting?

Some may think that intermittent fasting is a diet. For those, no, Intermittent fasting (IF) is not a diet. There is nothing to name it intermittent fasting diet. It is essentially an eating plan that cycles between fasting and eating on a regular schedule. It doesn’t define which foods you should eat; rather, it instructs when you should eat. Intermittent fasting doesn’t change the foods you eat, it only changes the time of eating.

Common intermittent fasting methods instruct 16-hour fasting a day, twice per week. Some plans may encourage skipping food entirely for up to 24 or 36 hours at a time. Other methods may include an every-other-day diet or the 5:2 Fast Diet.

You can have some food but not more than one-fourth of your regular calories. The fasting time is changeable. It’s a great way to manage weight along with preventing diseases. Intermittent fasting is a great way for weight loss without any crazy diet. You can keep muscle mass on at the same time as you burn fat and lose weight.

It’s simply one of many lifestyle strategies to improve your health. Eating real food, having regular exercise, and taking care of sleep are the most important factors of intermittent fasting. Intermittent fasting is not essential for anyone to do. It’s the best for people who love fasting.

As the research says, the timing of fasting is important because proper timing can make intermittent fasting a more realistic, sustainable, and effective approach for weight loss and also for the prevention of diabetes.

Intermittent fasting is a powerful weight-loss tool. Weight loss is the first common cause for people to try intermittent fasting. Intermittent fasting can lead you to an automatic decrease in calorie intake through fewer meals.

Moreover, intermittent fasting alters your hormone levels to amplify weight loss. In addition to alleviating insulin resistance and enhancing growth hormone levels, it increases the release of the fat-burning hormone norepinephrine (noradrenaline).

For the above changes in hormones, short-term fasting may improve your metabolic rate by 3.6–14%.
Studies indicate that intermittent fasting can be a powerful weight-loss tool.

How Does Intermittent Fasting Work?

Does intermittent fasting work? Yes! Intermittent fasting works excellently for weight loss. When you eat food, your body is in a fed state, and it is in for digesting and absorbing food for 3 – 5 hours. Then it cannot act with the stored fats as the insulin levels are high.

After that, the body enters the postabsorptive state, which lasts up to 8 – 12 hours after your last meal. Then the body enters the fasted state when the insulin levels are low.

In this fasted state, the body easily burns fats that were inaccessible during the fed state. This is why most people who start intermittent fasting can lose fat without changing what they eat, how much they eat, how often they eat, or how often they exercise.

During your fasting, several things occur in your body on the cellular and molecular level. During this time, the body adjusts hormone levels and makes stored body fats more accessible. The cells begin important repairing processes and make changes to the expression of genes.

Here are some changes that occur in the body while fasting:

  • Human Growth Hormone (HGH): The levels of growth hormone increase as much as 5-fold. This can provide benefits for fat loss and muscle gain.
  • Insulin: Insulin sensitivity develops, and levels of insulin go down dramatically. Lower insulin levels make stored body fats more accessible.
  • Cellular repair: In the fasted state, the body cells begin cellular repair processes. This includes autophagy, where cells digest and remove old and dysfunctional proteins and build up inside cells.
  • Gene expression: Changes occur in the function of genes related to longevity and protection against disease.

Intermittent Fasting Methods

Intermittent fasting has recently turned into a health-friendly trend. Disciples claim that it can cause weight loss, improve metabolic health, and may even help live longer. There are many different methods of intermittent fasting for devotees.

Every method may be effective, but it depends on the individual to figure out which one works best. Before selecting any of the existing eating patterns for intermittent fasting or deciding how often to fast, you should talk to a healthcare professional.

Remember, during the fasting periods, you should eat either very little or nothing at all. By decreasing your calorie intake, all of the methods can cause weight loss as long as you don’t start eating much more during the eating periods.

Following are the most popular methods for intermittent fasting:

  • The 16/8 method: 16/8 intermittent fasting is very simple, safe, and sustainable. It is called the Leangains protocol. This method involves skipping breakfast and fasting for 16 hours, restricting your daily eating window to approximately 8 hours, such as 1–9 p.m. During the eating period, you can have two, three, or more meals.
  • Eat-Stop-Eat: Eat Stop Eat involves a 24-hour fast once or twice a week. For example, not eating after dinner one day till the dinner next day amounts to a full 24-hour fast. You can also keep fasting from breakfast to breakfast or from lunch to lunch. This method was first introduced or popularized by fitness expert Brad Pilon.
    During this fasting period, water, coffee, and other zero-calorie beverages are allowed, but solid foods are not permitted.
  • The 5:2 diet: The 5:2 diet involves eating normally for 5 days of the week and restricting your calorie intake for another 2 days. With this method, you can have only 500–600 calories on two nonconsecutive days of the week. On the fasting days, women are recommended to eat 500 calories and men to 600 calories a day. This diet is also called the Fast Diet, which was popularized by British journalist Michael Mosley.
  • Alternate-day fasting: In this fasting, you fast every other day. About 500 calories are allowed during the fasting days. One small study investigated that alternate-day fasting wasn’t any more effective for producing weight loss or weight maintenance than a typical calorie-restrictive diet. A full fast every other day is rather extreme and more difficult. So it’s not suitable for beginners.
  • The Warrior Diet: The Warrior Diet was one of the first popular diets of intermittent fasting. This method was popularized by fitness expert Ori Hofmekler. It involves having small amounts of raw fruits and vegetables during the day and eating one huge meal at night within a 4-hour eating window.
  • Spontaneous meal skipping: This is another way to do intermittent fasting. You can simply skip one or two meals when you don’t feel hungry or don’t have time to eat. In this method, you should make sure to eat healthy, balanced meals during the non-fasting periods.
  • Overnight Fasting: This method is the simplest of all and involves fasting for a 12-hour duration every day. For example, if you choose to stop eating after dinner by 7 p.m., you have to resume eating at 7 a.m. with breakfast the next morning. Shemek says- though you’ll get more mild cellular benefits, autophagy does still happen at the 12-hour mark.

What Can You Eat and What You Can’t?

You can eat mostly what you like on days you don’t fast. But to lose weight and fulfill the demand of nutrients you need, you should choose healthy foods and limit treats such as desserts and processed foods.

During the fasting periods, water and zero-calorie beverages such as black coffee and tea are permitted.
Since it’s not easy for you to skip most of your calories a few days a week and rely mostly on water, coffee, and tea to make you full, you’ll need a balanced meal plan to eat.

To avail of the maximum potential health benefits of Intermittent Fasting, it’s important to stick to nutritious whole foods and beverages during your eating windows. Filling up on nutrient-rich foods can help round out your diet successfully.

Try to balance each meal with good healthy whole foods, such as:

  • Fruits: Apples, berries, bananas, oranges, peaches, pears, etc.
  • Veggies: Broccoli, cucumbers, cauliflower, leafy greens, tomatoes, etc.
  • Whole grains: Quinoa, oats, rice, barley, buckwheat, etc.
  • Healthy fats: avocados, olive oil, and coconut oil
  • Sources of protein: meat, fish, poultry, legumes, eggs, nuts, seeds, etc.

Taking calorie-free beverages like water and unsweetened tea and coffee, even at the time of fasting, can also help control your appetite and keep you hydrated.

Intermittent Fasting

Benefits of Intermittent Fasting

Changes occurred in hormone levels – cell function and gene expression at the fasted state contribute to the health benefits of intermittent fasting. Mattson expresses, “When changes occur with this metabolic switch, it affects the body and brain.” It can have strong benefits for weight control, body health, and the brain. It may even help you live longer with a sharper mind.

In One of Mattson’s studies, he says, “Many things happen during intermittent fasting that can protect organs against chronic diseases like type 2 diabetes, heart disease, age-related neurodegenerative disorders, even inflammatory bowel disease, and many cancers.”

The prime health benefits of intermittent fasting are as follows:

  • Weight loss: Intermittent fasting can help you lose weight and belly fat without eating any restricted calories.
  • Insulin resistance: Intermittent fasting can alleviate insulin resistance, lowering blood sugar by 3–6% and fasting insulin levels by 20–31%, which can protect against type 2 diabetes.
  • Inflammation: Some studies show reductions in inflammation, which can lead to many chronic diseases.
  • Heart health: Intermittent fasting may decrease LDL or the “bad” cholesterol, blood triglycerides, inflammatory markers, blood sugar, and insulin resistance- all of which are risk factors for heart disease.
  • Cancer: Studies say that intermittent fasting may prevent cancer.
  • Brain health: Intermittent fasting helps improving mental health and enhances the brain hormone BDNF and can help the growth of new nerve cells. It may also protect against Alzheimer’s disease.
  • Thinking and m:emory: Studies found that intermittent fasting can boost working memory in animals and verbal memory in adult humans.
  • Physical performance: Young men fasting for 16 hours can have a fat loss while maintaining muscle mass.
  • Tissue health: Intermittent fasting can reduce tissue damage in surgery and improve results.
  • Anti-aging: Intermittent fasting can help you live longer.

Remember that research is still in its early stages. Many studies were small, short-term, or launched on animals. So many questions are yet to be answered in higher-quality human studies.

Safety and Side Effects

Intermittent fasting is not equally safe for all, and it’s not for everyone. It may be harmful to some people who are not fit for it. It may cause some side effects too.

The main side effect of intermittent fasting is hunger which can make you feel weak. Your brain may not perform normally. This may be temporary and can take some time for your body to adapt to the new meal schedule. But it will cause no problem.

However, if you have a medical condition, you should consult a doctor before trying intermittent fasting.

This is certainly important if you-

  • Have diabetes
  • Have low blood pressure
  • Have problems with blood sugar regulation
  • Take medications
  • Are underweight
  • Are a woman trying to conceive
  • Have a history of eating disorders
  • Are a woman with a history of amenorrhea
  • Are pregnant or breastfeeding

However, intermittent fasting is outstandingly safe. Nothing dangerous is likely to happen for not eating for a short time if you’re healthy and well-nourished overall.

Who Should Avoid It?

Some people are seen to try intermittent fasting for weight management, but others for chronic conditions like irritable bowel syndrome, high cholesterol, or arthritis. You should keep in mind that intermittent fasting isn’t for everyone.

Williams suggests that before you try intermittent fasting, you should have a check with your primary care practitioner first. Some people should avoid trying intermittent fasting:

  • Women who are pregnant or breastfeeding.
  • Children and teens under age 18.
  • People with diabetes or blood sugar problems.
  • Those with a history of eating disorders.

Remember that intermittent fasting may have different effects on different people. If you have unusual anxiety, headaches, nausea, or other symptoms, you should talk to your doctor before you start intermittent fasting.

The Final Word

Intermittent fasting is a powerful weight-loss tool that works for certain people. It doesn’t work for everyone equally. It’s not recommended for people having eating disorders or for those with negative health conditions.
If you decide to try intermittent fasting, think about diet quality as it’s not possible to take ultra-processed foods during the eating hours, and you should consult a healthcare specialist.