Intermittent fasting is currently one of the most popular trends in the health and fitness niche.
Intermittent fasting involves alternating cycles of fasting and eating.
Intermittent fasting is an eating pattern where you cycle between periods of eating and fasting.
It does not say anything about which foods to eat, but rather when you should eat them.
There are several different intermittent fasting methods, all of which split the day or week into eating periods and fasting periods.
Most people already "fast" every day, while they sleep. During intermittent fasting this period is extended a little longer.
This can be done by skipping breakfast, eating the first meal at noon and the last meal at or before 8 pm.
Then you're technically fasting for 16 hours every day, and restricting your eating to an 8-hour eating window. This is the most popular form of intermittent fasting, known as the 16/8 method.
Hunger is usually not that big an issue.
It could be a problem for beginners, while the body is still getting used to not eating for extended periods of time.
No food is allowed during the fasting period, but you can drink water, coffee, tea and other non-caloric beverages.
Some forms of intermittent fasting allow small amounts of low-calorie foods during the fasting period. Taking supplements is generally allowed while fasting, as long as there are no calories in them.
Can my body endure long-hours of fasting?
Humans have actually been fasting for thousands of years.
Sometimes it was done out of necessity, when there simply wasn't any food available.
In other instances, it was done for religious reasons. Various religions, including Islam, Christianity and Buddhism, mandate some form of fasting.
Humans and other animals often instinctively fast when sick.
Clearly, there is nothing "unnatural" about fasting, and our bodies are very well equipped to handle extended periods of not eating.
All sorts of processes in the body change when we don't eat for a while, in order to allow our bodies to thrive during a period of famine.
It has to do with hormones, genes and important cellular repair processes.
What are the main benefits of intermittent fasting?
Regulates blood sugar levels
When fasted, there is significant reduction in the blood sugar and insulin levels, as well as a drastic increase in human growth hormone.
Many people do intermittent fasting in order to lose weight, as it is a very simple and effective way to restrict calories and burn fat.
Others do it for the metabolic health benefits, as it can improve various different risk factors and health markers.
Protection against diseases
Some research also suggests that it can help protect against diseases, including heart disease, type 2 diabetes, cancer, Alzheimer's disease and others.
Other people simply like the convenience of intermittent fasting.
Fasting is an effective "life hack" that makes your life simpler, while improving your health at the same time. The fewer meals you need to plan for, the simpler your life will be.
Not having to eat 3-4+ times per day (with the preparation and cleaning involved) also saves time. A lot of it.
What are the different types of intermittent fasting?
Intermittent fasting has become very trendy in the past few years, and several different types/methods have emerged.
Here are some of the most popular ones:
- The 16/8 Method: Fast for 16 hours each day, for example by only eating between noon and 8pm.
- Eat-Stop-Eat: Once or twice a week, don't eat anything from dinner one day, until dinner the next day (a 24 hour fast).
- The 5:2 Diet: During the 2 days of the week, eat only about 500–600 calories.