Beginners Guide to Intermittent Fasting

Over the last few years, intermittent fasting has been trending on the internet. From celebrities to diet experts, everyone seems to be recommending it. Even our ancestors who relied on hunting to feed themselves kind of naturally practiced fasting, as they didn’t know when they were eating their next meal.
The core idea of intermittent fasting is that it’s not about “what” you eat but rather “when” you eat it that makes a real difference when it comes to weight loss.
In this brief guide, we’ll walk you through the basics of intermittent fasting.

What Is Intermittent Fasting?

In the simplest terms, intermittent fasting is limiting the periods of eating to specific windows, typically an 8 to 10-hour window. Otherwise, you’re fasting. You’ll abstain from eating, but you’re allowed to drink water and zero-calorie drinks like unsweetened beverages.
The idea is to let your insulin levels go down for a prolonged period of time so that your body starts burning fat. While your body takes around 3 to 5 hours to process a meal, it enters something called the absorptive state afterward. This state lasts for 8 to 10 hours, so if you guarantee that no food enters your body during this, you’re ensuring that it’ll be free to burn stored fats.
You can boost the effectiveness of your intermittent fasting if you accompany it with healthy eating habits, especially low carb and high protein diets when it comes to weight loss. However, you can still reap the benefits of intermittent fasting just by restricting your eating window.

Benefits of Intermittent Fasting

Apart from the obvious reward of losing weight, intermittent fasting can help improve your overall well being. Here’s how.

Eases Weight Loss

Rather than sticking to limiting diets and dull meal preps, intermittent fasting helps you lose weight in an easy manner. You’ll probably skip breakfast, so that’s one less meal for you to prep, and you’ll eat at specific times, so you don’t have to think about your next “healthy” snack.

Improves Insulin Resistance

Given an unhealthy lifestyle, a lot of us are unfortunately prone to insulin resistance, a condition where muscle, fat, and liver cells don’t respond well to insulin. This results in an excess amount of glucose in the blood, which hinders these cells’ ability to use blood sugar for energy. Prolonged insulin resistance might lead to type 2 diabetes.
Intermittent fasting has proven to reduce insulin resistance by lowering insulin levels by 20% to 30%, significantly improving your weight loss process, specifically losing belly fat.

Increases Muscle Mass

When you fast, you’re stimulating your growth hormone produced by the body during sleep. Increased production of HGH will lead to improved muscle mass. This means better fat burning and a more toned physique in the long term.
As opposed to other diets that cause muscle loss, intermittent fasting won’t compromise your muscle mass.

Reduces Inflammation and Stress

Research has shown that intermittent fasting helps reduce free radicals in the body. Thus, reducing oxidative stress and inflammation. This can help lower the risk of multiple chronic diseases.

Is Intermittent Fasting Right for You?

The general consensus is yes. Intermittent fasting would benefit you unless you have a special health condition like diabetes, low blood pressure, or eating disorders. In this case, you should check with your physician first.
Pregnant ladies shouldn’t do intermittent fasting. The same applies to children and teenagers under 18 years.

Types of Intermittent Fasting

Now that you’re probably thinking of trying out intermittent fasting. Here’s a rundown of some of the most common ways to apply it.

The 16/8 Fast

The most popular intermittent fasting technique is the Leangains or 16/8 fast. You simply skip breakfast and limit your eating window to 8 hours a day while fasting for the remaining 16.
Sleeping hours should be within the fasting window.

Alternate Day Fasting (ADF)

ADF is a bit more extreme. As the name implies, you alternate between fasting and eating on a daily basis. For example, you fast for 24 hours, once or twice a week, and normally eat the rest of the week.

One Meal a Day (OMAD)

In OMAD, you eat only one meal a day. Then you fast for the rest of the day. Therefore, OMAD only works if it fits your lifestyle, such as for people who work long shifts.
Yet, it’s obviously unnatural, and it has some potential health risks like increased blood sugar and bad cholesterol and possible dizziness and irritability. So it’s more of a temporary solution to kickstart your weight loss journey.

5:2 Approach

A modified version of the OMAD is the 5:2 Approach, where you eat normally for 5 days a week and you limit yourself to one 500-600 calorie meal for each of the other two days. This way, you’ll make a remarkable calorie deficit while keeping your blood sugar levels stable.

Frequently Asked Questions

Isn’t it wrong to skip breakfast?

The short answer is No.
While we’ve been always told that breakfast is the most important meal of the day and that people who have healthy breakfasts are healthier overall, this might not be true. There’s no direct causation between being healthy and eating breakfast. It’s all observational.
On the other side, when you’re fasting, you’re just postponing your breakfast. You don’t cancel it. So, you’ll still have breakfast, but like at 1 pm, which won’t harm you.

How should I break my fast?

You’re free to eat whatever you want to break your fast as long as you don’t get your blood sugar levels skyrocketing after being dormant for over 16 hours.
Doctors usually recommend a protein-based meal to restore depleted glycogen. A meal that’s 40% carbs, 30% fats, and 30% protein would be ideal.

Should I be counting calories?

Ideally, you should be monitoring your calorie intake so as not to overeat.
When it comes to intermittent fasting, if your goal is weight loss, a calorie deficit will significantly improve your results. Cutting down 500 calories a day would be a reasonable way to go.