Intermittent fasting is a new trend that’s been getting some attention recently. There are a few main ways to intermittently fast and there is a lot to consider when deciding whether this method of eating is right for you.
The first thing to think about is what intermittent fasting really looks like. IF is not a diet but a pattern of eating. It doesn’t restrict what you eat but rather when you eat. So the first thing to figure out is what kind of eating pattern you want to employ.
Three Main Fasting Patterns
There are three ways people typically do intermittent fasting. The easiest and most common way is referred to as 16/8. This fasting plan involves dividing your day into a 16-hour period when you don’t eat and an eight-hour period when you eat normally. So for example, you could wake and skip breakfast, eat your first meal at noon and your last at eight in the evening. Then you don’t eat until noon the next day.
This pattern is the easiest because it only involves skipping one meal and cutting off eating at a certain time in the evening. So for beginning fasters, this is the one to try.
A more difficult option is a 24-hour fast cycle. In this pattern, the faster fasts for a full 24 hours once or twice a week. This is much more difficult than fasting for 16 hours. If you think about it, the 16-hour fast isn’t that hard because you might be asleep for about half the time. But with a 24-hour fast, you have many more hours when you might struggle with hunger.
The third option for intermittent fasting is a five-days-off, two-days-on pattern. In this one, the faster eats a limited number of calories, say 500, on the two days on. The other five days of the week, the faster eats normally. This pattern can be difficult as well because limiting yourself to 500 calories can be difficult to maintain and doing it twice a week can take a toll.
Why Fast in the First Place?
Now that we can envision what fasting actually looks like, let’s think through the reasons why someone might do it. The most obvious reason to fast is to lose weight. If you eat fewer calories on your fast days and you don’t overeat on your off days you are bound to lose weight over time. But weight loss is only one potential benefit of intermittent fasting.
Your body goes through pretty intense changes when you’ve gotten used to fasting. The body produces human growth hormone at a higher level which can promote muscle gain. Cells all over your body begin cellular repair during a fast. This helps your body to be healthier on the whole. There are changes in your brain when you fast as well. Studies have shown that certain hormones in the brain are increased during a fast that can lead to the growing of new nerve cells.
There still needs to be many more studies done for us to know the full benefits of intermittent fasting but so far science is telling us it seems to be positive.
The Downsides to Intermittent Fasting
While IF seems to be a good thing on the whole, there are a few things to watch out for. If you’ve had problems with eating disorders in the past, IF is probably not a good idea for you. If you have other health problems you should definitely consult your doctor before starting IF. Studies have also shown that IF is more beneficial for men than for women and can even cause health problems for some women such as amenorrhea. So no matter who you are, do your research and talk to your doctor before you start down the path of intermittent fasting.