Intermittent fasting (IF) is a form of fasting that cycles between periods of eating and fasting, usually for a predetermined duration.
It is an umbrella term for various eating patterns, and there are several intermittent fasting approaches with different protocols for frequency of feeding, meal timing, and length of fasting periods.
It’s also known as time-restricted feeding, cyclical fasting, or interval eating.
Studies have seen the benefits of intermittent fasting on the body to manage or lose weight. It has also been seen to reverse or prevent certain diseases as well.
Read on to learn more about intermittent fasting and how you can incorporate it into your lifestyle safely.
How Do You Do Intermittent Fasting?
You do intermittent fasting by simply focusing on when you eat since it will only be for a specific period during the day.
When you eat during specific hours of the day or just have one big meal a day a few times during the week, it helps your body burn through its body fat stores for energy and even gives your digestive system a well-deserved break. (1)
Certain doctors have been studying the effects of intermittent fasting for over 25 years and have found that our bodies are amazing machines.
We have evolved from our ancestors to go without food for many hours at a time. Some experiments have lasted multiple days to months of intermittent fasting, like Angus Barbieri, who fasted for 382 days.
Before we started farming for our food, our ancestors were hunter-gatherers who needed to not only survive but perform in high-stress situations for prolonged periods without food.
Our bodies likely adapted to this situation by regulating our hunger hormones and slowing down metabolism.
When our ancestors hunted for food, they experienced a surge of adrenaline from the thought of not knowing exactly where their next meal would come from followed by a release of endorphins rewarding them when they finally reached their destination and found food.
Now, food is readily available to us almost at every turn. We can have it delivered, sent to our homes and offices, or even delivered to our car. There’s not much that we can’t find in a grocery store.
All of this convenience and abundance has bred a culture of consuming whatever we want anytime. But there’s another way to live.
How Intermittent Fasting Works
There are many different ways and protocols for intermittent fasting, but when you get down to it, it’s just based around specific times where you’re allowed to eat food, and you fast for the other portion of time.
For example, a popular intermittent fasting protocol is the 16/8 fast, where you’re fasting for 16 hours and eating within 8 hours.
Most people who opt for this fast usually end dinner the night before, skip breakfast and start eating again around lunchtime. This is because that protocol seems to be the most convenient for many people who start off fasting.
Another popular intermittent fasting protocol is the One Meal A Day (OMAD) protocol, where you’re usually fasting for 20-23 hours and eat a big meal, usually containing all of your daily calories in a single sitting or over just a few hours.
There are many different protocols you can try out for yourself and see which fits your lifestyle the best.
You should also check with your doctor to ensure that whichever protocol you decide to go with is safe for you to start.
They may have you start small and work your way up to bigger fasts in the beginning. It’s advised to take their advice as they know your medical history.
The reason why intermittent fasting works so well is because most people today live a very sedentary lifestyle. Food is readily available, and exercise is non-existent.
When you prolong the period of the time your body last consumed any calories, it has the opportunity to burn through your fat stores since no new food is coming in for it to fuel your body with energy.
Different Approaches To Intermittent Fasting – Finding Your Plan
Again, you want to check with your doctor before starting any fasting protocol.
When you’re all cleared, it’s time to pick an option you can start with.
As mentioned earlier, the 16/8 approach is the most popular because it’s the most convenient for people to get started with.
The 16/8 method is where you’ll be fasting for 16 hours and eating during an 8 hour window.
Another approach is called the 5:2 protocol, where you eat normally for 5 days a week, but for 2 days, you only can consume 500-600 calories that day.
It’s important to stress that on the 5 days, you eat normally and not eat outside of what’s normal for you. The goal is to restrict calories on those two days so that the decrease in calories will lead to weight loss.
You can work your way up to longer fasts lasting for 24, 36, 48, and even 72 hours or longer.
Give your body some time to get used to intermittent fasting when you get started initially.
You never know how your body will react, so it’s best to start small and gradually go for longer periods if it feels right for you.
Are Certain Foods Restricted When Fasting?
While you’re in a fasted state, you will break your fast if you consume any food.
However, you can consume water, tea, or black coffee to blunt your appetite during the fasting part of your day.
When it’s time to consume food again, you can eat normally. It’s important to note that you should not consume extra food to make up for the time you were not eating.
Yes, you may be hungry, but you won’t likely be able to consume a lot in one sitting anyway.
Don’t overindulge in sweets or unhealthy food, either. This is a healing period, and you don’t want to undo all the benefits that fasting just did for your body.
To learn more about the keto diet, check out a few of these articles:
- Pros and Cons of the Ketogenic Diet
- The Basic Rules And Guidelines For The Keto Diet
- 8 Ketogenic Dieting Mistakes Common With Beginners
What Are The Benefits Intermittent Fasting Provides?
Intermittent fasting does more than just burn fat. It affects our brain and our bodies. It helps us get leaner and perform faster and clearer.
It’s also been shown to help in protecting our organs against the following diseases:
- Type-2 diabetes (7)
- Heart disease (3)
- Neurodegenerative disorders relating to age (8)
- Bowel disease (9)
- Cancer (10)
Additional benefits of intermittent fasting backed by research are:
- Memory function is boosted.
- Improved blood pressure, resting heart rate, and overall heart health.
- Fat loss while retaining muscle mass.
- Prevents obesity.
- Improves tissue damaged due to surgery.
Is It Safe To Intermittent Fast?
You should check with your doctor before starting any fasting protocol. Your doctor needs to take your medical history into account to make sure it’s safe for your circumstance.
If you belong to these categories, intermittent fasting isn’t for you:
- Anyone under 18.
- Women pregnant and/or who are breastfeeding.
- If you’ve had a history of eating disorders.