Intermittent Fasting: The Basics and the Benefits

Aug 28, 2020 | 0 comments

In the age of COVID-19, I’ve been eating a lot. Much more than I ordinarily would because I’m cooped up at home all day. Just finished a particularly stressful assignment? Let me go and get some Ben & Jerry’s to relax. Trying to watch the newest season of my favorite TV show? Those packets of noodles look really good. 

Can you relate? 

I wasn’t always like this. Once upon a time, I had my diet in check and was an avid practitioner of intermittent fasting. But the pandemic has somehow managed to swoop in and erase all of those good habits I maintained for years. If you want lose weight and naturally rid yourself of those cravings that tell you, “Yes, if you don’t get that burger meal the end of the world WILL occur,” you should check out intermittent fasting. 

What is Intermittent Fasting (IF)?

Intermittent fasting refers to fasting for a specific period of time and then eating whatever you want in a specific window. You’ve probably practiced it before, though you might know it by a different name – sleep. As you get your 7 to 9 hours of sleep (like all adults should) you’re actually practicing intermittent fasting by fasting for a prolonged period of time in between meals. Your body is already familiar with IF, even if it is on a subconscious level.

“But why should I care about it?” you ask. 

You’re right, of course. Why should you care about adopting a lifestyle that could potentially…

  1. Bring your appetite back into check
  2. Regulate your blood sugar levels
  3. Increase your body’s rate of cellular repair 
  4. Stimulate production of Human Growth Hormone (HGH) 

…and generally leave you feeling better than you felt before?

“Oh,“ you say. “Well, I never thought about it like that. So how do I start?’”

I’m glad you asked. Here’s a short guide to Intermittent Fasting that will suit anyone who wants to begin. 

The Different Methods of Intermittent Fasting

IF has an eating window and a fasting window. Here are some popular variations of these windows:

  • The 16/8 Method. This method is frequently used by bodybuilders trying to “cut” or reduce fat percentage while maintaining muscle mass. It involves fasting for 16 hours and eating within an 8-hour window.
  • The 10/14 Method. Usually used by beginners new to fasting, this plan involves fasting for 14 hours and having a 10-hour eating window.
  • One Meal a Day (OMAD). This is for the absolute champions who eat one meal at any point in the day, fast for 24 hours, and then have another meal the next day at the same time. If you’re a busy professional who can’t be bothered with wasting much time eating, this method might be for you. 

Other less common but still widely used methods of Intermittent Fasting are:

  • The 5:2 Method. This involves eating your normal maintenance calories for five days and then spending the two days in which you are the most sedentary under-eating at about 00-600 calories. 
  • Fasting less often. For those who don’t want to go all in, it is entirely possible to fast on alternate days, or even once a week, and enjoy the benefits of fasting and generally live a healthier lifestyle. Think of it as a detox. 

You can customize your own eating and fasting windows in intermittent fasting as long as your fasting window has a range of 12 hours and above. Scientific studies generally conclude that after approximately 12 hours spent fasting, your body starts converting fat stores into energy. This means that the glycogen reserves in your muscles and liver are mostly depleted, so fat cells in your body release fat into the bloodstream, after which they are converted into energy by the liver.  

Warning: It is not encouraged to fast for more than 24 hours. IF does not involve or encourage fasting for more than a day, and if you suspect you have disordered eating behaviors, please see a specialist. 

Why Intermittent Fasting?

I love the idea,” you say. “But this still seems like a lot of work. Why should I do this as opposed to other diet plans, like keto?”

Well, unlike other diets, fasting manages your satiety by regulating your blood sugar levels, along with bringing ghrelin and leptin into check. These are the hormones responsible for the sudden unexplained bouts of hunger you feel. 

This factor makes it automatically better than any of the other diets out there which promote hunger, like the low-carb diet, by cutting out core nutrients.  

In addition, it should also be noted that Intermittent Fasting is not a diet. You can eat whatever you want, provided that it falls within your normal maintenance calorie range. 

Unlike other diets, you do not need to cut back on A, B, or C, because Intermittent Fasting is not a diet; it is a way of living. 

The best part? You lose weight by decreasing the percentage of fat within your body without doing anything at all.  

In addition to losing at least a pound or two a month, you will find yourself craving unhealthy junk food much less due to the regulation of your blood sugar levels.

When you first begin your journey of intermittent fasting, you might feel very irritable and hungry. Such sensations are natural and will usually go away after three or four days of trying IF out. If they persist for more than a week, IF is not right for you and you should look for other ways to live a healthy lifestyle. 

As important as exercising and eating a balanced diet is, trying intermittent fasting can bring you to a whole new level of wellness.

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Nikita Padhye
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