What Is Intermittent Fasting And Is It For You?
Disclaimer: This piece is to educate and share the awareness of intermittent fasting. We do not aim to condone or support body dysmorphia and eating disorder habits. Everyone is subjected to their own choices.
In recent years, intermittent fasting has taken a storm in the health and fitness industry. From health experts claiming it has numerous health benefits, to fitness coaches implementing it into clients’ weight loss programs.
Intermittent fasting is essentially a pattern of eating where you eat normally for some time, then either stop eating altogether or restrict to very low calories during the fasting window. Here are the different types of intermittent fasting. Read on to find out if intermittent fasting is suitable for you!
Types of Intermittent Fasting
1. 16/8 Method
The most popular and probably the easiest intermittent fasting pattern to adhere to is the 16/8 method. This is where you do not consume any calories during a 16-hour fasting period in a day but are allowed to consume your normal meals for the remaining 8-hours of the day. During the fasting period, you are still allowed to consume zero-calorie beverages such as water, black coffee, or tea.
This method is the easiest to follow as most people unknowingly fast most of the time anyway. To illustrate, one might sleep from 10 pm to 8 am, which means that the individual would already have fasted for 10 hours. Then, maybe this person would skip their breakfast and only have their first meal at 2 pm, thus unbeknownst to them, they would have successfully fasted for 16 hours.
It should be noted that in this method, your fasting window could be anytime you find the most convenient for you, but people typically find that having their fasting period synchronized with their sleeping hours would make fasting much easier. This method is most preferred as it is flexible, does not involve calorie counting, and is easy to implement into your current routine.
2. 5:2 Method
This method involves eating your normal calorie requirements for 5 days a week. Then, on the other 2 days of the week (could be any day, but preferably not in two consecutive days), you reduce your calorie intake to 25% or one-quarter of your daily energy requirement.
For example, a person who usually consumes 2000 calories a day would eat normally on five days of the week. Then, for the two fasting days, only consume 500 calories.
3. Eat Stop Eat Method
Similar to the 5:2 method, this intermittent fasting plan involves eating normally for five days of the week but fasting for two days of the week. However, instead of consuming one-quarter of your calorie intake on the two fasting days, fasting here means consuming 0 calories for a full 24 hours.
Fasting for 24 hours would be challenging for many, and overconsumption during the following day is highly likely to occur. Therefore, it is advised to plan your meals beforehand so that whole and nutritious foods are the main bulk of your diet, and that your health would not be compromised.
4. Alternate-Day Fasting
As the name suggests, alternate-day fasting involves eating normally on non-fasting days but fasting every other day.
For those of you who might find this difficult, there is another version of this diet known as “Alternate-Day Modified Fasting”. In this modified version, you may consume less than 25% of baseline energy needs on your fasting days instead of eliminating calories altogether.
Similar to the Eat Stop Eat method, you are encouraged to incorporate healthy meals during your non-fasting days to prevent bingeing.
5. The Warrior Diet
This diet was proposed by Ori Hofmekler. It is a more radical form of the 16/8 intermittent fasting pattern as it involves eating little to no food for 20 hours a day, and then eating as much food during a 4-hour eating window.
It is also less flexible compared to the 16/8 method. While the 16/8 method allows dieters to dictate their eating and fasting times, the warrior diet essentially requires your 4-hour eating window to be during dinner time. This diet is based on the eating patterns of ancient warriors who ate little during the day and feasted at night.
Hofmekler encourages dieters to consume raw fruits and vegetables, hard-boiled eggs and dairy products during the 20-hour fasting period and allows people to eat whatever they want during the non-fasting period. Nevertheless, it is still recommended to have whole, healthy and nutritionally dense food.
6. OMAD Diet
OMAD stands for One Meal a Day. As you might have guessed from the name, this diet involves eating only one meal a day. In this extreme form of intermittent fasting, dieters are asked to fast for 23 hours, and are then allowed to have their one big meal within 1 hour. It is common for OMAD dieters to schedule their one meal during dinner.
6 Reasons Why Intermittent Fasting Can Be Beneficial
Now that you are familiar with some of the common forms of intermittent fasting, you may be wondering, “Why should I subject myself to starvation and what good does it do for me?” If you are wondering if intermittent fasting is suitable for you, or just curious about the benefits of intermittent fasting, here are some reasons why intermittent fasting can be beneficial for you:
- Aids Fat Loss
- Induces Ketosis
- Improves Insulin Sensitivity
- Reduces Sluggishness
- Decreases Chances of Diseases
- Easy to Implement
1. Aids Fat Loss
The rationale behind this pattern of eating is that if you limit the amount of time spent eating, you will naturally consume fewer calories.
However, this is not a miracle diet, as you shouldn’t expect to have your weight on the scale magically disappear if you binge during your non-fasting window; just because you restrict calories for a short period, doesn’t mean you won’t gain weight from compensating by overeating afterwards.
The general energy equation still applies here, where your total energy intake should be less than your energy expenditure to lose fat.
2. Induces Ketosis
In the past, we were encouraged to have frequent small meals throughout the day to help us lose weight. However, more recent studies suggest that fasting improves fat burning as it stimulates ketosis which is when your cells break down fat tissue to provide energy to fuel metabolic processes in your body.
The science behind this is that the cells in our bodies use glucose as our primary source of fuel. However, during periods of abstinence from food, our body doesn’t receive glucose from an external source. So, fat tissue in our bodies is broken down into ketones, which are then used as the main source of energy for respiration.
Therefore, the breakdown of fats in our body would naturally lead to a lower body fat percentage.
3. Improves Insulin Sensitivity and Lowers Blood Glucose Levels
Insulin is a hormone that is released by our pancreas when our blood sugar levels increase, which is right after we have had a meal. It is crucial in lowering our blood sugar levels after a meal. It does this by stimulating our body cells such as liver cells or muscle cells to convert glucose into glycogen for storage.
However, when our glycogen stores are full, insulin starts converting glucose into adipose tissue (fats). When our insulin sensitivity decreases, this is known as insulin resistance, which is associated with obesity and weight gain. Fortunately, intermittent fasting has been proven to reduce insulin resistance, hence decreasing our likelihood of developing obesity.
4. Reduces Sluggishness
Some intermittent fasting advocates claim that fasting helps them to concentrate better while working.
On the other hand, some argue that intermittent fasting makes them feel weak and lethargic. Thus, this varies from person to person, and if you ever feel light-headed during your fast, be sure to have something to eat to prevent yourself from fainting.
5. Decreases Chances of Diseases
Some studies from Am J Med journal, Science Direct, Recent Results Cancer Res journal and Exp Biol Med (Maywood) journal have shown that people who practice intermittent fasting have a lower likelihood of developing certain diseases such as cardiovascular disease, type 2 diabetes, cancer and Alzheimer’s disease.
6. Easy to Implement
As mentioned, intermittent fasting is not so much a diet, but more of a pattern of eating. It is easily implemented into our lifestyle as it is flexible, convenient and does not require calorie counting. Besides, it takes away the headache of planning meals as not many meals are eaten anyway.
Is Intermittent Fasting For You?
Now the critical question here is, is intermittent fasting suitable for me?
Intermittent fasting would be suitable for you if you are looking to lose some pounds, and previous dieting methods have proved unsuccessful for you.
However, it is important to note that intermittent fasting isn’t safe for everyone.
You shouldn’t implement intermittent fasting if you:
- Have had a history of eating disorders or are in recovery from an eating disorder,
- Have missed your period for 3 or more months (amenorrhea),
- Are pregnant or planning to conceive,
- Are breastfeeding,
- Are underweight.
Have you managed to find out if intermittent fasting is suitable for you? All in all, there are many proven benefits of intermittent fasting. From weight loss to improved heart health, intermittent fasting could be one of the best diets out there. Not only is it easy to implement into your daily routine, but it also does not involve cutting out food groups.
Nonetheless, it is still always important to consult with a health professional to decide whether this diet is suitable for you. For an open letter to every girl who struggles with food, check out this article on our website and read more about how our relationship with eating can quickly become toxic and unhelpful to us.