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What is Intermittent Fasting and is it Healthy? - Part 1

What is Intermittent Fasting and is it Healthy? - Part 1

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What is Intermittent Fasting and is it Healthy?

Fasting itself is not new to any community as it has been practiced since the earliest of times by different cultures around the globe. These fasting practices however have a more spiritual inclination but having said that, the only guaranteed way to preserve a healthy lifestyle practice or even a ritual is to give it a spiritual connection. The fasting body goes through a cleansing process, limits its energy use and detoxifies naturally. A heathy body gives rise to healthy mind and spirit. This way, it gets the recognition it deserves and its practice is preserved over the generations.

Periods of voluntary abstinence from food and drink is called Intermittent Fasting. This type of fasting is not a diet, but a diet regime or an eating style that is purported to accelerate fat burning and losing weight. Over the years, many theories have been advanced about how much you should eat and the correct time to eat, to achieve optimal health.

Research reveals many affluent communities eat all day long, as frequently as 15 out of the 24 hours. Most also consume a majority of their daily calories late in the evening which is actually deleterious to health. Such eating patterns lead to dysfunctional metabolic processes and have an impact on health and wellbeing.

Therefore, with intermittent fasting you narrow the window to about 8 hours a day for eating. During the fasting period which is more than 8 hours, the body will burn the carbs stored in your body as glycogen. After that your body is stimulated to burn fat as its primary fuel.

Different Types of Intermittent Fasting

The 16/8 Method: Fast for 16 hours each day.

The 16/8 Method involves fasting every day for 14-16 hours, and restricting your daily “eating window” to 8-10 hours. This method is also known as The Leangains Protocol. In this method of fasting, one does not eat anything after dinner, and skips breakfast. You can drink water, coffee and other non-caloric beverages during the fast, and this can help reduce hunger levels.

The 5:2 Diet: Fast for 2 days per week.

The 5:2 diet involves eating normally 5 days of the week, while restricting calories to 500-600 on two days of the week.

Eat-Stop-Eat:

Do a 24-hour fast, once or twice a week. Eat-Stop-Eat involves a 24-hour fast, either once or twice per week. This can be fasting from dinner one day, to dinner the next, this amounts to a 24-hour fast. You can also fast from breakfast to breakfast, or lunch to lunch. The choice is yours based on your convenience. Water, coffee and other non-caloric beverages are allowed during the fast, but no solid food.

Alternate-Day Fasting:

Fast every other day. Alternate-Day fasting means fasting every other day. On the fasting days, you are allowed 500-600 but calories /day. Of- course there are some people who take to the extreme of consuming zero calories on fasting days. This is not encouraged.

The Warrior Diet:

Fast during the day, eat a huge meal at night. It involves eating small amounts of raw fruits and vegetables during the day, then eating one huge meal at night. Basically, you “fast” all day and “feast” at night within a 4- hour eating window. This diet also emphasizes a paleo type diet – whole, unprocessed foods that resemble what they looked like in nature.

The Benefits of Intermittent Fasting

The research on intermittent fasting is mixed. There are improvements in metabolic markers, like blood sugar, insulin and lipids but however, individual circumstances vary. And those circumstances might change over a given period of time. A new review evaluated the various approaches to intermittent fasting, particularly the advantages and limitations for its use in fighting obesity and type 2 diabetes. What the researchers found was that overweight or obese individuals with type 2 diabetes who fast on consecutive or alternate days lost more weight, while also experiencing enhanced heart health and cardioprotective benefits. Studies included in the review showed a broad range of therapeutic potential even when total calorie intake per day did not change, or was only slightly reduced. This includes evidence that intermittent fasting may:

  • Limits inflammation
  • Improves circulating glucose and lipid levels
  • Improves metabolic efficiency and body composition
  • Causes significant reductions in body weight in obese individuals
  • Improves pancreatic function
  • Improves insulin levels and insulin sensitivity

As you can see the benefits of Intermittent Fasting revolves around improving overall metabolic health, improving glucose and lipid levels and Insulin sensitivity. Therefore, with this mind, it will be an absolute waste to not enhance their effects by exercising regularly to attain better results and sustained changes. A good cardio workout done at the correct time can further boost fat burning properties and build muscle at the same time. Intermittent fasting does nothing to build muscle although research shows that it does help to preserve lean body mass unlike other starving type diets.

- End Part 1 -

 

Contributed by:

Dr Krishnaveni Kanason

Medical Consultant in SOL Integrative Wellness Centre