Intermittent fasting, or IF, has been gaining tons of traction across the world and is quickly becoming one of the most well known “diets”out there. Though truth be told, intermittent fasting is not a diet at all. Fasting, something that’s been done for religious purposes for centuries may provide extensive health benefits as well.
So what is intermittent fasting? IF is basically meal timing and scheduling. So intermittent fasting is an umbrella term, used for various types of meal timing. Contrary to dieting, intermittent fasting allows the person fasting to eat what they please, and as much as they please, as long as it is during the window of the particular meal scheduling.
The three IF types are alternate day fasting, time-restricted feeding, and periodic fasting. Some of these types are easier while others are more strict.
Alternate day fasting requires that you go 24 hours without food one day, and eat normally the next. This fast continues in this fashion so it is ultimately the strictest form of intermittent fasting as it involves fasting several days a week.
There are two sub-types of alternate day fasting. You may fast for a full 24 hours, or you may decrease your calorie intake by 75 percent and only consume 25 percent of your regular calories on your fast days.
Periodic fasting, also known as whole-day fasting, involves eating regularly most of the week and fasting for a period of longer than 24 hours. The most popular version of periodic fasting is the 5:2 diet where you fast for two days and eat normally the rest of the week.
Finally, time- restricted feeding is the practice of fasting for a specific time of the day. The most common fasting schedule for this type of IF is the 16:8; you fast for 16 hours and eat normally for 8 hours. Some people skip breakfast altogether and begin eating after noon, while others have their breakfast around 7am and begin their fast around 3pm.
Intermittent fasting isn’t a concept that is very new. If we think about it, early humans intermittently fasted. In today’s society of 3 meals a day and snacks along the way, it’s difficult to imagine anything but. However for hunters and gatherers thousands of years ago, snacking throughout the day was not a luxury they had, and mealtimes depended on when their hunt was successful. We can all agree that early humans likely went to bed hungry often.
Is intermittent fasting difficult? Yes, it can be. If you’re interested in trying intermittent fasting to improve your health or lower your weight, you need to think about which type of intermittent fasting is the right choice for you. I’ve met people who swear by restricting the hours of feeding. Others say they’ve been able to lose excessive amounts of weight without ever gaining it back while alternate-day fasting.
Studies show that intermittent fasting contains a slew of health benefits. So even though it has become widely popular as a weight loss tool, it can attribute to improving your overall health, too. And how many diets can you honestly say do both?
Here are five ways intermittent fasting can improve your overall health.
1. Lowers Cholesterol
Low-density lipoprotein, otherwise known as the “bad” cholesterol, can be significantly reduced thanks to fasting. Studies suggest that maintaining an alternate daily fast can reduce this LDL by 25 percent over the course of eight months. Cardiovascular disease is linked to LDL particles. Fasting decreases these LDL particles and therefore decreases a person’s risk for heart disease.
2. Reduces Insulin Resistance
Fasting lowers the hormone insulin and IGF-1, or insilinlike growth factor. These hormones are linked to diabetes and cancer. Insulin is a hormone that allows the cells to absorb and use glucose. Insulin resistance does not allow the cells to absorb the glucose resulting in higher blood sugar levels.
3. Improves Cellular Turnover
Intermittent fasting has been linked to an improvement in cellular turnover, thus slowing down the human’s aging process. A new Harvard study suggests that intermittent fasting can extend your lifespan and keep your body younger! Research shows that IF is excellent for anti aging as it can imitate a very low calorie diet.
4. Improves Brain Health
Do you ever feel like your brain is in a fog? Here’s another reason to try intermittent fasting, even if you’re not looking to lose any weight. Studies show that going without food for 24 hours can increase your brain’s growth factors, and support neuron growth. Nature Reviews Neuroscience quotes it this way: “Metabolic switching impacts multiple signaling pathways that promote neuroplasticity and resistance of the brain to injury and disease.”
5. Helps With Weight Loss
And finally, the reason most people have even looked into intermittent fasting and the main reason it’s so popular: it yields excellent weight loss results. Several studies point to intermittent fasting accelerating weight loss.
The obvious weight loss benefit with intermittent fasting is the low calorie intake. Since you’re eating less frequently you’re less likely to eat as much. Studies also indicate that IF is proven to increase your metabolism which will allow you burn more calories throughout the day. Less calorie intake plus more calorie burning equals weight loss.
In conclusion, if you’re struggling with weight, or feel you want to revamp your lifestyle towards a more healthy approach, intermittent fasting may be for you. Once you figure out what type of intermittent fasting you want to commit to, understand that it may not be as easy as it sounds. You’ll get hungry and you’ll get hangry but the only way to yield results no matter what you’re doing in life, is through consistency.