We do not eat only to survive, but because it is one of the most pleasurable activities in our life. We love food. Who would dare to take that away from us?
The trend is growing, and it is getting hard to ignore the hype about fasting, intermittent fasting (IF).
Many voices were raised for and some against intermittent fasting. Is intermittent fasting taking the joy of eating from our life?
Or is it bringing people back to healthier and pleasurable eating?
Intermittent fasting beginners are usually full of doubts about whether it helps and if it would work for them? Is it another baseless diet trend, or is the scientific backing behind it legit?
I have been practicing IF for over two years now. During which I have tried different fasting models. I have followed the 16:8 (also known as the “leangains protocol”) for a while, turned OMAD (One Meal A Day) into a lifestyle, and gave the 72-hours fasting a try.
I did enjoy it all.
Since then, I have read tons of research papers and personal testimonies on intermittent fasting. Now, it is my turn to share that all with you.
The most basic method of intermittent fasting is the leangains 16:8 plan. It is that simple: you fast for 16 hours, and then you eat for 8 hours. The method got a lot of attention when Jennifer Aniston told the UK magazine that she passionately follows the plan.
The plan is made for IF beginners; it is supposed to get people into fasting and prepare them for other advanced models. Nevertheless, many practitioners have found the 16:8 method sufficient for their health goals and turned it into a sustainable lifestyle.
This article takes you on a journey to explore intermittent fasting. Below you will find the following:
Well, put simply, you “time-restrict” your meals by fasting for 16 hours and then eating during the 8 hours window.
For 16 hours, you can drink water and other calorie-free drinks like black coffee and tea [more on that later]. Those 16 hours include your sleeping time, and you can easily synchronize the plan to your sleeping schedule.
Once 16 hours have passed, you can finally stop your stomach’s grumbling and eat. No restrictions. This is one of the main reasons why dieters often turn to the 16/8 plan. Having no caloric restrictions during your feasting window makes it so convenient to follow.
In our modern days, we are constantly told that a “healthy” diet is one that includes having three meals a day, and we tend to think of eating less than three meals as dangerous, harmful starvation.
But if you think about it, our bodies have evolved to sustain hours and days without food. Our ancestors did not have the luxury of eating three meals a day. Three meals a day is, in fact, an unusual and unnatural setting.
Before they learned how to farm and cultivate, humans were hunters and gatherers, and both activities took time and a lot of energy. It was not feasible or possible for them to hunt and gather food three times a day.
Therefore, their bodies evolved to sustain long periods of hunger. With time, food became more accessible, food preservation became possible, and people gave in to their gluttony. Our bodies live in a confusion of modern life.
The digestive system, which evolved to store food for later, never gets a chance to consume what is stored. One meal is followed by another, the supply of calories doesn’t come to a stop. We eat more than we need. Our bodies keep building up fat, and we keep feeling hungry for more food. That is unnatural.
Fasting is a way back to our nature. That is one reason why it is still valued in many religious or cultural settings. Humans never ate that much and that often for ages; through intermittent fasting, our bodies learn once again how eating works.
When fed, the primary energy source in the body is glucose (sugar), which signals insulin secretion.
When fasting, the sugar levels drop, which causes insulin to drop as well. This signals “starvation mode” and causes the cells to utilize their storage of fatty acids .
So what does this mean? The fed-fast cycle forces your body to use up its fat storage, and that is why numerous studies on intermittent fasting showed some degree of weight loss and fat mass loss .
You will have to feel irritated and hungry at the very beginning. Well, many don’t suffer at all, but you are making a lifestyle change. You should expect that It might be a little hard to skip a meal you are used to for ages. The good news is, it gets easy almost on the third day.
It is essential to schedule a plan that fits your lifestyle, and then it becomes easy to stick to. The question is: which meal to skip? What kind of person are you?
Most people select their fasting-eating time frame as follows:
But if your work or life schedule is unique, you can always change it as you please.
Find the right motivation and guidance. Share the experience with friends and family, join a social group, and do enough read on intermittent fasting before getting started. Living an existing challenge helps to crack the 3-meals-a day habit.
Technically, you can eat anything you like. In your eating time, you should feast. There are no typical restrictions on what to eat during your feasting window, but you should be aware that what you eat during your feasting affects your fasting and health, and weight-loss goals.
Since you would be fasting for 7-8 hours (not counting sleeping time), it is good to eat food that increases your satiety and helps you feel full for a more extended time. It is wise to avoid sugary foods, refined carbs, known to stimulate food craving in the brain.
Here is a list that can help you stay full for long:
I find this the most clever trick I learned to sustain long fasting periods that go up to 72 hours.
While you play fasting, you need to master your drinking game. I came to learn these tricks to keep your stomach and brain busy during the first days of longer fasting until you get used to it.
Intermittent fasting was shown to improve metabolic and physiological health.
In rodents, the 16/8 diet plan helped reduce blood sugar levels .
In humans, intermittent fasting reduces body fat mass and improves blood sugar levels .
Since intermittent fasting reduces fat mass and blood sugar level, it is associated with a decreased risk of type 2 diabetes.
In a recent study covering over 1400 individuals following an intermittent fasting diet for over a year, blood pressure was significantly reduced. However, the benefits of blood pressure reduction only lasted as long as intermittent fasting was maintained .
Increased blood pressure and high blood sugar increase the risk of cardiovascular diseases; therefore, by reducing blood pressure, intermittent fasting offers protection from heart diseases .
A study done on overweight adults following an intermittent fasting diet showed that the diet reduced the levels of oxidative stress, which can also reduce the risk of cardiovascular problems .
Your body has an internal clock called the circadian clock. It is hypothesized that synchronizing with your body’s clock will improve your health.
Some scientists believe that an intermittent fasting diet is beneficial because it syncs with the circadian clock. For example, insulin levels drop later in the day, proof of a circadian timed drop.
Additionally, late-night eating is associated with a higher risk of diabetes, so an intermittent fasting diet would then be highly beneficial by optimizing the body’s internal clock [8,9,10].
According to many dieters and numerous studies, intermittent fasting can help weight loss and fat mass reduction. In a study on 51 obese men, intermittent fasting resulted in greater weight and fat loss .
As we previously mentioned, intermittent fasting causes weight loss because it forces the body to mainly use fat for energy instead of sugar.
Additionally, it works because of the 8 hours eating window; people are less likely to eat a lot or binge-eat.
And although most people benefit from intermittent fasting, everybody is different, and you wouldn’t know until you try it. There’s no harm in trying it if you are a healthy adult. The worst-case scenario is getting hungry for eight hours.
Unfortunately, it is not. While it is perfectly safe for healthy adults, it is not recommended following the diet if you:
Having diabetes can also be a reason not to try intermittent fasting, especially under no medical supervision. Nevertheless, there is growing evidence that intermittent fasting can be applied as a method to reverse diabetes.
An advanced method of IF was proven in two recent studies to reverse insulin resistance in patients with prediabetes or type 2 diabetes .
Intermittent fasting comes in many shapes; the most basic method is the 16:8 leangains protocol, in which you fast for 16 hours and eat for 8 hours.
In addition to promoting weight and fat loss, intermittent fasting is associated with other health benefits, such as reducing the risk for obesity, diabetes, and cardiovascular diseases.
The 16/8 plan has no severe side effects for a healthy adult, and it is easy to follow with time. While it might be a little tricky getting used to skipping meals when you have been constantly told never to skip a meal, you can benefit from a 16:8 plan.
While we mainly talked about the 16:8 plan, there are many other ways to practice intermittent fasting, such as: