One method of losing weight that has been making waves off late is intermittent fasting. This diet is not a diet at all. So what is intermittent fasting really? It is a weight management mechanism which tells you when to eat, not what to eat. Like other popular forms of diet, intermittent fasting is hardly a new concept. Indians have been practising fasting since generations.
The most basic answer to what is intermittent fasting is that it is an eating schedule that one is required to follow which clearly defines the periods of time when the body is fed and fasting. The individual can start with a limited number of hours of fasting and go on increasing the duration as time progresses. During the feeding hours, one can eat any kind of food they please.
So how does intermittent fasting result in weight loss without restricting the intake of calorie-rich foods? All the food we put into our body is not utilised for body functions instantly, the excess is stored in the body as fat. When the body is in an extended state of fasting, the body has to use its fat stores for its functions. This is what leads to weight loss.
9 Must Know Benefits Of Intermittent Fasting
There have been multiple pieces of research conducted with regards to the intermittent fasting benefits. Apart from the obvious effect of weight loss, there are a series of ways in which intermittent fasting is advantageous for the body.
1. The fasting period causes the body to make use of its fat reserves, causing fat loss
2. While other forms of diet restrict the intake of certain foods, following intermittent fasting means that the body gets all the nutrients it needs, preventing any kind of deficiency
3. This method does not result in muscle loss like other methods of weight loss do. On the contrary, when people eat bigger meals during the feeding hours, keeping a healthy level of muscle mass becomes possible
4. Intermittent fasting causes the insulin levels in the body to go down, preventing chances of ending up with type 2 diabetes
5. The restricted hours of eating automatically lead to a calorie deficit and cause an increase in the metabolic rate
6. The period when the body is fasting is when the cells regenerate themselves, causing the body to repair its cells and fight diseases better
7. Research has proven that intermittent fasting can also be beneficial for people with cancer as the body becomes better equipped at fighting the disease
8. Other proven benefits of intermittent fasting are improved hormonal balance, better concentration and healthy cholesterol levels
9. The cherry on the cake here is that while the intermittent fasting benefits were being researched on rats, it was noticed that their life span increased considerably
4 Major Types Of Intermittent Fasting
A lot of people wonder what is intermittent fasting and what are the different ways to do it? Intermittent fasting can be done in various ways. Though the basics remain the same, people can choose their intermittent fasting schedule on the basis of their goals and endurance. The various types of Intermittent fasting are:
1. Hour Specific
The most commonly used pattern for hour specific intermittent fasting is the 16:8 hour pattern. This means that the individual fasts for 16 hours each day and gets an 8-hour window to eat all the meals. Once people get the hang of it, most people start to change their schedule by trying to further cut down the feeding window as much as they can. It Is not uncommon to find people who move on to the 17:7 or even 18:6 pattern of intermittent fasting.
2. Day Specific
This kind of intermittent fasting is for people who have been doing it for an extended period of time and are comfortable with long hours of fasting. They then move on to fasting for days together. On the days of the fast, very minimal numbers of calories are permitted, usually between 400-500. One way of doing so is to eat all meals for 5 days a week while fasting for 2 whole days. One can also choose to fast on alternate days while eating all meals every other day. Some people pick one day in a week and fast the whole day.
3. Meal Specific
in this kind of intermittent fasting, people choose to forego one big meal each day. This meal could be breakfast, lunch or dinner. Skipping one meal increases the gap between two meals, putting the body in fasting mode.
4. Warrior Diet
This schedule of intermittent fasting is based on the way of life of warriors in. the olden days. The warriors would eat a minimal amount of calories all day and eat a big meal for dinner. Similarly, people following this schedule of intermittent fasting eat a big dinner and skip breakfast and lunch.
Intermittent Fasting For Weight Loss
Since the body does not consume anything but water during the fasting period, weight loss is an obvious by-product of intermittent fasting. However, despite its effectiveness, intermittent fasting for weight loss is not foolproof. Although there is no restriction on what to eat and how much to eat, it is required that one be mindful of how much food they put into their bodies during the feeding hours. Eventually, the success of any diet works on the basis of a calorie deficit. Excessive consumption of fat-rich foods during the feeding hours can cause the individual to break even or even exceed the calorie requirements for the day. In such cases, the individual might end up not losing any weight even after following the fasting rules correctly. intermittent fasting for weight loss requires a person to eat/drink more of certain foods while avoiding foods that are processed and high on refined flours. Knowing what to eat during intermittent fasting is probably the most important component of losing weight effectively. The foods that are recommended while on intermittent fasting are:
- Good fats like avocados and nuts
- Protein-rich foods like eggs, lean meat, beans and paneer
- High fibre vegetables like broccoli, cauliflower and leafy vegetables
- Fruits like apples, bananas and strawberries
- Herbal teas and detox waters (water infused with fruits and vegetables)
- Complex carbohydrates like sweet potato, potato, oats and brown rice
- Black coffee
Intermittent Fasting & Keto/ Veganism
Intermittent fasting is not a diet but a schedule of when to eat. Also, the fact that there is no list of restricted foods means that it can be clubbed with any conventional diet for faster and better results. For instance, intermittent fasting can be clubbed with the keto diet which results in reaching a state of ketosis sooner. All the person needs to do while doing intermittent fasting keto is to make sure that they eat only keto-specific food during their feeding time. Also, intermittent fasting has proven to be very effective for vegans as well. There are innumerable vegan-friendly foods that one can eat while on intermittent fasting. In fact, experts advise that people on intermittent fasting should consume more fibre-rich fruits and vegetables in addition to beans and legumes, all of which are vegan.
Who Should Avoid Intermittent Fasting?
Although the intermittent fasting benefits are too many and people of all age groups have benefited immensely from it, getting a doctor’s opinion is advised before one goes down this path. There is a section of people whose health can be adversely affected by following this kind of diet.
- Children or youth under 18 years of age. They need to eat all meals to provide them with nutrition for physical and cognitive development
- Pregnant women should not try intermittent fasting as it deprives the foetus of regular nutrition. Also, it is not a good idea for women trying to get pregnant to try this diet
- People who are underweight or suffer from eating disorders. People whose BMI is under 18.5 should not attempt intermittent fasting
- Breastfeeding mothers should wait till they wean their children off breastmilk to start intermittent fasting. Fasting while breastfeeding can affect the milk supply
- People who have low blood sugar or low blood pressure should not try intermittent fasting as the extended periods of not eating can further lower their sugar and blood pressure levels, putting them at grave risk
It is apparent that intermittent fasting is by far the simplest, easiest, safest and most sustainable method for achieving a fit and healthy body. Just like Ayurveda and yoga, intermittent fasting has its roots deep in the Indian culture, we should recognise and embrace it for our physical, holistic and spiritual development.