If you’ve ever heard the term intermittent fasting it’s almost certain that you were immediately intrigued. Not just another diet or health phase, this type of fasting has been proven to detox your body and promote your well-being so that you feel better both physically and emotionally. If you’re curious about this unique phenomenon, read on.
Who Started Intermittent Fasting?
Throughout the ages, people have fasted. Thousands of years ago, people fasted because they did not always have something on-hand to eat. This meant that through evolution, our bodies became used to a type of fasting, so it is not something completely unfamiliar to our bodily systems.
People also fast for religious reasons, including Christians, Muslims, Jews, and Buddhists. When you fast, you not only clear your body of harmful toxins, but your mind gets clearer as well. You can concentrate on what’s most important and even make better decisions, so fasting is, in fact, good for you.
Intermittent fasting, or IF, most often consists of going without food for 16 or 24 hours at a time, twice a week. It is more of a meal plan than it is a diet, because most types of intermittent fasting don’t tell you what to eat but rather, when to eat your food.
The Basic Types of Intermittent Fasting
IF involves various diet schedules, but they all include periods of either eating very little or eating nothing at all. Below are three methods that many people use when they’re interested in intermittent fasting:
- The 16/8 method: with this method, you skip breakfast and restrict your daily eating period to eight hours, for example, 1:00 to 9:00 p.m. You also fast for 16 hours in between. In other words, you fast for 16 hours then have an eight-hour eating window.
- The 5:2 method: this method involves eating normally five days a week and consuming 500 to 600 calories per day for two nonconsecutive days.
- The eat-stop-eat method: with this method, you simply stop eating for 24 hours at a time, and you do this two days a week.
There are many other methods than this, of course, but these three are some of the most common types of IF. In addition, of these three methods, the 16/8 method is the most popular one and the easiest one to follow for most people.
Benefits of IF for Men and Women
As you can well imagine, intermittent fasting is a great way to lose weight, which is perhaps why it is so popular with women. However, IF provides many benefits to both men and women, and these include the following:
- For women, it can improve heart health, improve insulin sensitivity, reduce inflammation in the joints, reduce hunger, improve your immune system, slow down the aging process, boost brain function, increase the human growth hormone (HGH), and may even prevent cancer.
- For men, IF can help you lose weight, help prevent Alzheimer’s, reduce inflammation in the joints, increase your resistance to stress, increase brain power, and may even help you grow new nerve cells from your stem cells.
For everyone, IF can change the function of genes, cells, and even hormones. More specifically, your insulin blood levels drop and waste material is removed from your cells so that they repair themselves a lot faster. In other words, intermittent fasting can actually change the physiological makeup of your body so that your health can improve in a number of ways.
IF can also help you:
- Get rid of belly fat so you can have a flatter stomach
- Lower your risk of Type II diabetes
- Reduce oxidative stress and, therefore, slow down the aging process
- Lower both blood sugar and blood pressure
- Extend your lifespan and, therefore, live longer
As long as you don’t eat too much on the days you’re allowed to eat and you always eat the right types of foods, IF shouldn’t be that difficult for you and is all but guaranteed to produce great results. Intermittent fasting can also lower your cholesterol, improve the body’s ability to heal itself, help speed up your metabolism, and may even help you live longer.
IF can burn fat easily and quickly, provide a slow and healthy way to lose weight, provide a simple and affordable diet plan, make dieting easy because you’re not told what to eat, and works whether you exercise or not. It is a simple plan that you are likely to adjust to a lot faster than you might think.
The good news is that these benefits are scientifically proven, which means once you start the IF method you’re most interested in, you can count on getting some pretty amazing results.
What About the Side Effects?
Of course, as with any diet or meal plan, there can be negative side effects of intermittent fasting. These include the following:
- Hunger pains
- Early menopause
- Missed periods
- Bowel movement changes
- Anxiety and stress
In addition, you cannot “kind of fast” and get the results you were looking for. You’re either in it for the long haul or you’re not. In other words, you have to give this diet 100% or nothing at all for it to work.
When you’re in the fasting phase, the only things you’re allowed to consume are black coffee, seltzer water, plain water, or black tea. No sugar or cream in your tea or coffee and no flavored waters or soft drinks. You can drink as much of these as you like, of course, but this is all you can have while you’re fasting.
IF is also difficult because many people will react negatively to you doing it, which can decrease your motivation and your commitment to the process. This can be easily avoided by simply not disclosing the fact that you’re on this diet. Or, you can choose a friend to diet with you, enabling both of you to be stronger and more committed.
Intermittent fasting also means you may have plateaus just like you do with other types of diets. Indeed, periods where your weight loss just remains the same can be frustrating, but they happen in other diets as well, which is likely to make this a lot easier on you in the end.
IF can be inconvenient for many people, including when your fasting day occurs on a day that a family dinner is scheduled or on a holiday where eating is an important part of the day. For these and many other reasons, IF isn’t for everyone, but as long as you’re aware of the pros and cons of the plan, you should be able to handle it a lot better.
Other Types of Intermittent Fasting
In addition to the three methods mentioned above, there are also a few other types of intermittent fasting utilized by today’s dieters. These include:
- A fasting window: with this method, you simply fast within a certain timeframe. You already do this to an extent when you sleep for eight hours or go all night without eating. Now, you can simply extend that window and fast for a bit longer, and do this two days out of the week.
- The alternate day fasting method: this method consists of fasting for one whole day, eating for all of the next day, and so on. In other words, you’re fasting every other day and not just two days per week.
- The fat fasting method: perfect for those on the keto diet and who are already in ketosis, this method involves getting up to 90% of your calories from fat for two to four days per week; you can also limit your daily calories to 1000 to 1200 per day or break this up into small, 200- to 250-calorie meals throughout the day.
- The warrior method: with this plan, you fast all day and eat a hearty meal at night; you should not, however, overeat or it may cause indigestion or other tummy problems.
- The 18/6 method: using this method, all you have to do is fast for 18 hours and eat only during the remaining six hours of the day, for example, between 12 noon and 6:00 p.m. Again, do this twice a week on nonconsecutive days.
Remember that when you’re on any type of fasting diet, you should drink a lot of water so that you don’t get dehydrated. You should also remember to eat healthy during the nonfasting phases of your diet. In addition, if you’re pregnant, nursing, or have any pre-existing medical condition, you should always ask your physician before starting on one of these fasting plans.
If you’re new to IF, you can start by skipping just one meal and see how you feel. If you feel fine, you can start with something like the 16/8 method, and work your way up from there to another type of plan. All of these plans will not work for everyone, so you can experiment and find the method that works best for you.
Remember, start slowly if you’re unsure about the IF plan because this is the only way to make sure you can participate in one of these plans without being too uncomfortable.
Tips to Make Intermittent Fasting a Success
Even if you’re sure you want to give IF a try, you may still be a little apprehensive. After all, most of us aren’t used to going too long without the intake of food, so it’s normal to be a little nervous. However, if you keep in mind some helpful tips that will make the diet a lot easier, you should be more anxious to try out this unique way of dieting.
- Make sure you drink lots and lots of water. Sometimes people feel hungry simply because they’re dehydrated, so staying hydrated is not only healthy for you, but will also make you feel a lot less hungry while you’re dieting. You can also drink various types of water, including sparkling water or mineral water.
- Keep coffee and tea to a minimum. Black coffee and tea are alright to drink, but since they can also make you dehydrated, it is crucial that you drink only two to four cups of coffee or tea per day. You can drink all the water you want. Oh, and avoid diet sodas. They contain artificial sweeteners that can actually raise your blood-sugar levels and wreak havoc on your body.
- Make sure you brush your teeth. For some reason, brushing your teeth can reduce your hunger pains and, therefore, make it a lot easier to fast. It will also keep your breath smelling nice and give you a little taste of something besides water and black coffee.
- Learn to love apple cider vinegar. No, you do not have to drink it on its own; you can mix it in water or juice to dilute it and make it taste less bitter. Start with just one to two teaspoons per day or use an apple cider vinegar supplement. It is good for digestion and can even cut your appetite, making it much easier to fast.
- Move around. You don’t have to exercise, although it definitely helps when you’re trying to lose weight. However, keeping active is vital when you’re fasting because it can keep your mind off of the fact that you’re not eating. And while you’re at it, keep your mind as busy as your body is because the last thing you want is to concentrate on your fasting 24 hours a day.
- Practice some deep breathing every day. This helps you relax and is yet another way to take your mind off of everything that is going on, Plus, it’s just plain healthy for you!
You might even want to consider writing in a journal for the first few weeks or longer. It’ll record how you feel both physically and emotionally throughout the experience, and it can make you feel good when you read the journal a few weeks later and see how far you’ve come.
In addition, you should also keep in mind these other tips:
- Even though you’re trying to eat healthy, don’t just eat salads and watercress! Eat healthy, but good meals so that you’re satisfied when you’re done eating
- Pick the plan that is right for you and your lifestyle; otherwise, there is no way it will be effective
- Remember that fasting doesn’t have to be a bad thing, especially if you’re careful when choosing a method to use
- Research and learn all you can about intermittent fasting; this should be easy because most of it can be done online
- Take before-and-after pictures so that you can see the results for yourself!
- When you’re fasting, don’t go overboard on the exercising; exercises should be lighter than they are on days when you’re eating
What does all this mean? It means that above all else, you have to be prepared for your intermittent fasting. This takes different amounts of time for different people, so don’t worry how long it ends up taking you to get started. The important thing is to give it all you’ve got the minute you get started, and don’t cheat because even cheating a tiny bit can ruin the plan.
How Long Should You Participate in Intermittent Fasting?
Intermittent fasting can be rough on the body in some ways, especially if you do it for too long. When you’re researching IF the one thing you’ll learn is that different “experts” recommend staying with the plan for different amounts of time. Most people, however, recommend that you stick with IF for only six weeks to six months at a time.
Why up to six months and no more? Well, although many people stay with IF for a year or maybe even forever, the truth is that for most people, the diet is just too difficult and strict to stay with for many years at a time. Eventually, most people get tired of the fasting and tired of the side effects, so giving yourself a break after six weeks or six months can rejuvenate you into starting up again soon.
The good news is, you’ll likely see results from IF in a matter of about two weeks, regardless of the particular method you end up choosing. These fast results mean you’ll be more motivated to continue with the plan, so it shouldn’t be that difficult to stick with it until your goals are fulfilled.
There are also easy ways to tell if the diet is working in the meantime. If your goal is to lose weight, all you need is a scale. If your aim is to lose body fat, buy yourself one of those electronic body fat estimators, which look like regular scales, but estimate your body fat so that you can see for yourself that the number is going down.
Intermittent fasting is not as difficult as you might think, especially because there are plans that suit everyone’s lifestyle and preferences. Losing weight is a lot easier with one of these plans, and because there are many different types of intermittent fasting, it is good to know there is a method out there with your name on it.