All About Intermittent Fasting: Methods, Effectiveness, And Benefits To Your Health

Date
June
2
2022
Compiled By Louise Rodriguez
Medically Reviewed By Dr. P Stein, MD FACT CHECKED

“Healthy” is trendy. Staying healthy and taking care of yourself is never out of trend.  But with changing times, the methods followed to stay healthy differ greatly. 

Diets and patterns are diverse and dynamic. Be it a keto diet, paleo, or the Mediterranean, all of them have a specific target. They are done to accomplish a particular goal for some particular time. 

These can help in both gains and shedding. Even similar foods consumed at different times and ways can give very different results. Similar is true for diet patterns and plans.

One that is the talk of the town these days is intermittent fasting. This article covers all you need to know about it and its hype.

What Is Intermittent Fasting?

First of all, it is important to get rid of the myth that it is a type of diet. It is not a diet but a pattern of dieting. It is not a short process. It could be followed for a lifetime.

Here, a person has certain fixed hours of eating and the rest goes into fasting. The idea is similar to the ancient techniques with the modern name and a little different approach.

Therefore it can be understood as a blend of ancient practices and modern science. This approach[1] is working wonders as it is backed up by facts.

In intermittent fasting, a person has an eating window which means that they have to consume the food within these fixed hours.

However, it is important to understand that you cannot eat unhealthy food or more than required. It has to be a balanced and nourishing diet.

It is not about skipping food or starving. Rather, it deals with 3-4 balanced meals divided into some time constraints. There are different approaches to following intermittent fasting.

Some of them are –

  • 16:8 method
  • Eat-stop-eat
  • 5:2 method
  • Alternate day fasting

Intermittent Fasting For Weight Loss

Now, since we have an idea about intermittent fasting let us know how effective and efficient could it be for weight loss, as mentioned in certain studies[1].

Fasting for longer hours and eating in a short span might reduce the fat and weight loss becomes possible. The type of diet followed during intermittent fasting is balanced and is far away from unhealthy foods.

Therefore, the amount of calorie intake is also reduced, which in turn reduces the biggest weight-increasing factor. Intermittent fasting is also known to control cravings as it is a part of this dieting pattern.

So, a person following this pattern has a low chance of being unhealthy or developing a habit of overeating.

Choosing the right method of intermittent fasting for you will be easier with the description of the methods ahead. It will give insight with an easy explanation.

How Does Intermittent Fasting Work?

It is not a trial and error method or jackpot. It is a simple approach that has factual evidence. A basic study of human metabolism is enough to understand its working clearly.

Our body converts the food we eat into glucose to provide energy. The primary source of food for glucose formation is carbohydrates. It can also be fats and proteins if carbs are not being consumed.

The only difference is with proteins and fats, it takes longer to make glucose. Not all of it is used at once. It is stored in the liver and adipose tissue in the form of glycogen or fats to provide energy later.

In between meals, our body uses this stored glycogen to be broken down to form glucose to provide energy. When the glycogen store is completely used, the body turns to fat stored in adipose tissue.

This fat is then broken down to keep supplying energy. This might take at least 12 hours. When this fat is broken down, the ultimate goal of intermittent fasting is achieved.

The key is to have fewer calories than required to maintain your current body weight or lose excessive weight.

Intermittent Fasting Benefits

It is not just a dieting pattern for fat or weight loss. It is a lifestyle. It has numerous benefits. Some of them are –

  • Reduces insulin levels
    When a person consumes food at regular intervals the entire day, normally the insulin levels remain high throughout the day. But, when a person is following intermittent fasting, there is a big 12-16 hour fasting window.
    Therefore, it reduces the amount of insulin secreted. Hence, it is beneficial for people suffering from type 2 diabetes.[2]
  • Makes the diet calorie deficit
    The most important factor to reduce weight is to make a diet calorie deficit. This is where intermittent fasting proves to be very useful.
    The long fasting window helps in converting fat to energy and the diet recommended in the course is less in calories. Therefore it aids in weight loss.
  • Increases the lifespan
    Studies have shown that intermittent fasting increases the lifespan of rats. Similar studies were not done for humans but it is claimed by scientists to have the same effect on the human body.
  • Numerous health benefits
    Intermittent fasting is not only useful for type2 diabetes patients or the ones looking for weight loss but might also be useful to improve heart diseases, Alzheimer’s disease, and cancer.
  • Increases the production of human growth hormone
    Intermittent fasting is known to increase the production of this hormone by 5 times. This hormone has multiple benefits. The most important one being it increases metabolism. The higher the metabolism, the higher the fat loss process.
  • The Increased Cellular Repair Process
    During intermittent fasting, the process of repair of cells increases. The amount of waste eliminated from the cells also increases. Therefore, the regeneration process speeds up.
  • Boosts immunity
    Intermittent fasting also has the potential to strengthen immunity. As cellular repair is faster, the metabolism increases, and cells are less prone to stress, the immunity is automatically strengthened.

Disadvantages Of Intermittent Fasting

Intermittent fasting might bring the following disadvantages tagged along with it-

  • Obsession with food
    Intermittent fasting is all about fasting and balanced meals. It has a large span of fasting to starve the body enough to use the fat stores. This can be difficult for the person and increase cravings.
    A person following intermittent fasting might think about food all day long, which can have a bad influence and be a source of distraction.
  • Tests the willpower
    Fasting for 12-16 hours a day is challenging. It tests willpower. It is not easy to follow. People end up overeating[3] during the eating hours and consume unhealthy amounts of black coffee which can be dangerous.
  • Interferes with hunger and sleeping patterns
    Fasting can be exhausting and is not everyone’s cup of tea. Some people are comfortable with it but others report affected sleeping patterns and untimely hunger.
  • Long term process
    Another drawback of intermittent fasting is that it is to be followed for a lifetime. Using it for a short span to get results and not following it afterward can have adverse effects. But, this lifetime commitment is not what everyone is looking for.

Does Intermittent Fasting Work?

The points covered above are enough to indicate its action and importance for the human body. Studies have shown a positive impact of intermittent fasting on rats and the same effects have been confirmed by many humans.

It is a full-fledged practice that is at its peak nowadays. It is not a new technique. This has been practiced by the Indian ancestors for ages.

Eating fruits and healthy nourishing foods and not consuming anything after sunset was a common practice. It was considered healthy for longevity.

However, this term has been coined recently. It is approved by science and its approach is largely based on the biological activity of our body.

What Is 16:8 Intermittent Fasting?

This is the most common approach used by people following intermittent fasting. Here a person keeps a fast for 16 hours and has an 8-hour eating window.

During the 16 hours fast, people are allowed to consume water, green tea, and black coffee without sugar. Basically, a person might resort to a fluid diet.

The meals i.e. breakfast, lunch, and dinner have to be consumed within eight hours. The person is free to choose these 8 hours according to preference.

Other Methods Of Intermittent Fasting

  • Eat stop eat
    This method means a person keeps a fast for 24 hours once or twice weekly. For the rest of the days, food intake has to be cautious and balanced.
  • Alternate day fasting
    Here, a person has to keep a fast every alternate day. This means that the days should not be consecutive. One day gap should be there between two fasting days.
  • 5:2 method
    This approach is an easier beginning for some. A person can choose any two non-consecutive days of the week to restrict the calorie intake and eat normally for the rest of the 5 days. Monitoring calories has to be done only on two days of the week.

What Could Be Expected In Terms Of Intermittent Fasting Results?

Once the body gets used to intermittent fasting, it could help in improving your lifestyle and could also give you numerous positive results.

Some of them are weight loss, improved immunity,  higher energy level, better heart health, improved brain ability, reduced insulin level, fat breakdown, increased life expectancy, better sleep, and fewer food cravings.

However, if you fail to follow intermittent you may get results like no weight loss due to overeating during the eating hours, affected sleep, frequent hunger, distraction, and obsession with food.

Therefore, to get positive results and maintain the effectiveness of intermittent fasting, you will have to follow it strictly and in the right order.

Is Intermittent Fasting Healthy?

It is undoubtedly one of the best choices to make for a weight loss journey and healthy lifestyle. It provides the much-needed balance, healthy eating habits, immunity, boosts energy, and takes care of the heart and mind. It is indeed a healthy option.
The important thing to keep in mind is that if you belong to the following category of people , then you are taking help from a medical professional.

  • Pregnant or Breastfeeding Ladies

    If you are one of the pregnant or breastfeeding ladies, then you need to make sure that you are consulting a certified medical professional when you are making this decision.

    Taking help from a nutritionist or a professional becomes even more critical, especially if you are one of those females conscious about shedding the pregnancy weight as soon as possible.

    In totality, you could say that taking up intermittant fasting while pregnant is a very personal decision and should be performed under the guidance of a certified professional.

  • Diabetes patients without consultation

    If you are dealing with diabetes, your body is not capable of producing enough insulin. Glucose consumption is needed for developing insulin.

    Considering following intermittent fasting in diabetes depends on the type of diabetes you are dealing with. As during type 1 diabetes, intermittent fasting could severely affect your overall health.

    People suffering from diabetes by following intermittent fasting in their diet might get at risk of hypoglycemia as well as hyperglycemia. As intermittent fasting may trigger multiple blood sugar fluctuations in between the gaps in your diet consumption.

  • Kids And Teens

    Kids and Teens are the one group of people in their growing age. At this age, one may require a nutritious diet consumption.

    As a result, Intermittent Fasting is not recommended for this age group. Children in their teens are highly vulnerable and have continuous hormonal changes undergoing.

    Further, Kids and Teens in their age group may not require the 5:2 consumption formula which involves and allow people to consume whatever they want to consume for five days a week.

  • Underweight people

    Intermittent fasting is considered one of the effective methods for weight loss. The Underweight people following an intermittent fasting pattern may lag in overall growth.

    As the people underweight would require excess calories for their growth and effective development. Intermittent Fasting restricts the consumption of the right amount of calories for longer hours throughout the day.

    It could further also affect the stored energy that is being utilized by the body if the nutritious food is restricted for consumption in the underweight people.

So, now after this introduction to the new healthy lifestyle, you’re all set to dive into the ocean of wellness!

+3 References/Sources

Working4Health prefers using primary and verified references. We have strict sourcing guidelines and our primary references include peer-reviewed researches, academic and medical institution studies. 

  1. Mary-Catherine Stockman, RD, LDN, Dylan Thomas, MD, Jacquelyn Burke, MS, RD, Caroline M. Apovian, MD. Intermittent Fasting: Is the Wait Worth the Weight? Curr Obes Rep. 2018 Jun; 7(2): 172–185. doi: 10.1007/s13679-018-0308-9.
  2. Michael Albosta, Jesse Bakke. Intermittent fasting: is there a role in the treatment of diabetes? A review of the literature and guide for primary care physicians. Clin Diabetes Endocrinol. 2021 Feb 3;7(1):3. doi: 10.1186/s40842-020-00116-1. Available from: https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/33531076/.
  3. Roger Collier. Intermittent fasting: the science of going without. CMAJ. 2013 Jun 11; 185(9): E363–E364. doi: 10.1503/cmaj.109-4451.

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