Intermittent fasting was one of the most popular health trends of the last decade. Few people have found it to help manage their appetite and weight as well as to support optimal health.
Nevertheless, intermittent fasting might not be fit for everyone, be it due to medical reasons or because it doesn’t match their picture of a nutritious as well as a sustainable diet. This article takes a closer look at some of the most popular ways to do intermittent fasting, along with a few of their pros and cons.
What is the basic premise of intermittent fasting?
Intermittent fasting is an eating pattern during which the follower is refrained from consuming any calories for an extended period. Usually, this period lasts between 12 to 40 hours. Water, coffee, as well as other calorie-free beverages are allowed during this fast, however, no solid foods or calorie-containing drinks are allowed for consumption.
The time frame depends on the individual. A full 24-hour fast every other day might feel extreme and may be difficult for people to maintain, so it is usually not recommended for newbies. A majority of intermittent fasting routines start with shorter fasting periods.
Here are 5 of the most popular eating patterns of intermittent fasting:
- Time-restricted eating – This involves fasting every day for 12 hours or longer and eating in the remaining hours, a popular example being the 16/8 method. It features a daily 16-hour fast combined with an 8-hour eating window where you can fit in 2, 3, or more meals.
- The 5:2 diet – This diet involves eating as you normally do 5 days of the week, restricting the calorie intake to 500–600 for the remaining 2 days.
- Eat Stop Eat – This involves a 24-hour fast once or even twice per week.
- Alternate-day fasting – With this fasting, the goal is to fast every other day.
- The Warrior Diet – The Warrior Diet was among the first popular diets to include a form of intermittent fasting, this involves eating small amounts of raw fruits as well as vegetables during the day, then eating 1 large meal at night.
3 pros of intermittent fasting
Researchers have linked numerous health benefits with intermittent fasting, they are also continuing to examine them. Plus, for a few people, intermittent fasting fits well into their model of a healthy, sustainable long-term diet.
Here are a few benefits that might pique your interest regarding fasting.
- Fasting might support weight loss while also improving metabolic health
Two main reasons why people try intermittent fasting is to manage their weight as well as their metabolic health. Metabolic health is a marker of how well the body processes energy. It is often measured by blood pressure, blood sugar, as well as blood fat levels.
Fasting can create a calorie deficit, which means the body has fewer calories than it needs to maintain the current weight. That is why diets that rely on calorie restriction, in this case, fasting, are the hallmark of many weight-loss diets.
Research shows that few types of intermittent fasting can be as effective for weight loss (though not necessarily more effective) as other diets that rely on limiting the daily calorie intake.
Time-restricted eating routines like the 16/8 method are one type of intermittent fasting that has been linked directly with weight loss. Alternate-day fasting and the 5:2 diet might also be found effective.
Besides naturally eliminating the calorie intake during the fasting period, intermittent fasting might support weight loss by regulating your appetite to increase feelings of fullness when the feelings of hunger are being suppressed.
The eating pattern has been tied in with other improvements in health, for example:
- Lowering blood pressure
- Improving blood sugar
- Repairing the damaged cells
- protecting brain health
- Fasting has the ability to be a sustainable lifestyle change
Intermittent fasting may seem intimidating; however, it can be simple at times. You might even find that fasting helps simplify your day as you would not need to plan for multiple meals.
Another plus is that it does not typically require calorie counting, watching your macros, or eliminating certain foods that you enjoy.
For example, let’s say you have an early dinner followed by a late breakfast the next day, that is one way to fast intermittently. Say you finish your last meal at 8 p.m. and then don’t eat until noon the next day, then you would’ve technically fasted for 16 straight hours.
For people who are hungry in the morning and would want breakfast, or for the people who cannot eat until later in the evening due to obligations, this method might be hard to get accustomed to.
However, some people instinctively eat this way already. These may be more prone to following an intermittent fasting eating pattern.
- Works well with a nutritious, whole foods diet
As intermittent fasting is focused more on when rather than what you eat, it is easy to implement in your current diet. You will not necessarily have to buy special foods or diverge much from what you generally eat.
If you are already content with the state of your current diet, however, and are looking for other ways to continue boosting your overall health, fasting might be worth exploring.
For example, intermittent fasting may work well for someone who wants to pair it with a resistance training program combined with a high protein diet.
This is not meant to imply that what you are eating doesn’t matter. There is no doubt that you will be reaping the most benefits from intermittent fasting by eating a variety of nutritious foods all the while limiting ultra-processed foods during the eating window you set for yourself.
3 cons of intermittent fasting
Intermittent fasting is a way to regulate your calorie intake while also working towards improving metabolic health. Though the eating pattern can certainly be part of a healthy diet, it will likely need some adjustments to be made. Plus, intermittent fasting is not really for everyone. Here are a few downsides you could encounter when you are first trying to follow intermittent fasting.
- Fasting may go against your intuition
Intermittent fasting takes discipline, restraint, as well as planning. For a few people, using the tactics to keep your calorie intake below or within a designated time frame is no problem, however, that isn’t the case for all, and it might feel unnatural for some at first. This might be especially true if you are used to relying on your intuition to decide when to eat and break the fast.
Further, if you don’t want to be following a strict schedule, you may feel intermittent fasting is frustrating.
On top of that, if your schedule tends to vary from day to day due to work, family, or other obligations, keeping the calorie intake to a designated time frame might prove to be challenging.
- You are likely to feel hungry
Just an 8- or 12-hour fast may feel like a long time when you are new to fasting. You might have to go to bed hungry several times per week, which might naturally feel unpleasant/unsustainable when considered long-term.
At times, it might be necessary to override your natural hunger, as fullness cues in order to not break your fast earlier than planned by you.
This does not mean that fasting is not a schedule you can get accustomed to. After you have adjusted to intermittent fasting, you might find it just makes you feel less hungry.
Many people adjust to the routine, while some even find that they enjoy fasting after a few months. However, hunger, as well as frustration, are certainly something to be expected and be aware of initially.
- Fasting side effects may affect your mood
When it is the first time you’re trying intermittent fasting, one of the first things you might notice, aside from feeling hungrier, is the ups and downs in your mood. Initially increasing hunger levels, fasting can have side effects such as headaches, constipation, fatigue, and sleep disturbances, among many more.
Irritability, as well as anxiety, are classic symptoms of low blood sugar levels, which is a common bodily response to fasting or to restricting the calorie intake.
Your emotional well-being may be another side effect of following intermittent fasting which will improve with time as well as practice. After you have had time to adjust, intermittent fasting might even bring you a sense of achievement/pride.
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