Intermittent Fasting: an explanation of how it works and the 4 methods you can try
Basically, it's a way of eating that allows you to have more energy and keep your weight in check without having a strict diet or counting calories.
If you're like most people, you probably don't really know what intermittent fasting is. Basically, it's a way of eating that allows you to have more energy and keep your weight in check without having a strict diet or counting calories.
There are a number of different types of intermittent fasting that you can try depending on what your goals are. In this article, we’ll give you a basic explanation of each type to help you decide which one is right for your needs.
What is intermittent fasting?
Intermittent fasting is a diet regimen in which you eat normally for one or two days each week, and restrict your eating to only water or non caloric beverages for the other six days of the week.
By restricting your caloric intake to about 500 calories per day on fasting days, you allow your body to use its stored fat reserves for energy. As a result, you will lose body fat without drastically reducing your calorie intake or participating in strenuous exercise.
For example, if you finish dinner at 7 p.m. Monday and don’t eat again until 7 p.m. Tuesday, you’ve completed a 24-hour fast. Some people choose to fast from breakfast to breakfast or lunch to lunch. But which time frame works best depends on the individual.
A full 24-hour fast every other day can seem extreme and may be difficult for many people to maintain, so it’s usually not recommended for beginners. However, you don’t have to go all-in right away, and many intermittent fasting routines start with shorter fasting periods.
What are the benefits of intermittent fasting?
Studies have shown that intermittent fasting may promote weight loss, improve insulin sensitivity and reduce levels of the inflammatory cytokine TNF-alpha in obese women.
In addition, there is evidence that it may reduce the risk of cardiovascular disease and improve cognitive function in people with Alzheimer’s disease.
Types of intermittent fasting
How to intermittent fast is important because you want to maintain proper nutrition in your overall diet and not put yourself at unnecessary risk.
If you want to try intermittent fasting, you’ll first need to figure out how you’re going to incorporate this style of eating into your life, especially when it comes to things like social events and staying active.
Ready to explore your options? Here are the 4 types of intermittent fasting that you can try.
1. Time-restricted eating (the 16/8 method)
The most common type of intermittent fasting is called "16/8" and it refers to a specific schedule of when you should eat and when you should be fasting.
On non-fasting days, you should limit your eating window to eight hours; for example, you may start eating at 11 a.m. and end at 7 p.m. On fast days, you should not eat anything during the eight hour period.
There are several variations of this schedule that you can use depending on your goals. For example, some people choose to fast for 24 hours once a week, while others prefer to do two 16/8s per week.
If you are doing more than two fast days a week, you may want to make sure that you don't exceed 72 hours of total fasting each week; otherwise, you may experience some negative side effects such as fatigue or dehydration.
2. The twice-a-week method (the 5:2 method)
The second most common type of intermittent fasting is called the "5:2" method and it involves having two days of fasting a week and eating normally for the other five days..
There are also variations of the 5:2 method that you can try depending on your goals and needs. For example, some people choose to do a 14:10 schedule in which they have two days where they are only eating for 10 hours and one day where they are only eating for 14 hours.
Others choose to do a single 24-hour fast every week or two instead of doing the 5:2 each day. Again, it's important to make sure that you don't exceed 72 hours of total fasting each week if you want to get the most out of this method.
3. Alternate day fasting
A third common type of intermittent fasting is called alternate day fasting and it refers to the regular practice of limiting your eating window one day and eating normally the next day.
To do an ADF, you have to make sure you don’t eat anything between six and eight hours. Then, you would resume your normal eating pattern the following day.
This is another convenient and flexible option for practicing intermittent fasting because the window of time for your fast can be easily adjusted depending on the size and timing of your meals and other factors like your schedule and work.
4. The 24-hour fast (or eat: stop: eat method)
The 24 Hours Fast Method is a more traditional approach to intermittent fasting in which you practice total fasting for 24 hours every day.
This method is not for beginners since it can be very physically and mentally challenging. Some people choose to start with a shorter fast of just 12 or 16 hours until they are more comfortable with the process and then increase the duration of the fast over time until they reach the full 24-hour duration.
Is it safe to exercise while intermittent fasting?
If you've made it this far in the article, we'll assume you're a health-conscious person, and exercising will be your core activity when it comes to maintaining your fitness level.
If our guess is right, then you’re probably wondering if is it safe to exercise while intermittent fasting? The answer is… it depends! It depends, if you’re doing the exercise correctly while intermittent fasting.
And how exactly should you exercise while observing intermittent fasting?
1. Listen to your body
First and foremost is to listen to your body. If you're feeling faint or lightheaded, it's probably because your blood sugar is low or you're dehydrated. In that scenario, it's best to consume an immediate carbohydrate-electrolyte drink, followed by a healthy meal, as soon as possible.
2. Time your exercise properly
Making your workout more effective while fasting involves three timing factors, according to registered dietician Christopher Shuff: whether you should exercise before, during, or after the fueling window.
One popular method of IF is the 16:8 protocol. The concept refers to consuming all food within an 8-hour fueling window and then fasting for 16 hours.
“Working out before the window is ideal for someone who performs well during exercise on an empty stomach, while during the window is better suited for someone who doesn’t like to exercise on an empty stomach and also wants to capitalise on post-workout nutrition,” he explains. For performance and recovery, Shuff says during is the best option.
“After the window is for people who like to exercise after fueling but don’t have the opportunity to do it during the eating window,” he adds.
You can also go to a fitness studio if you have trouble exercising on your own and sticking to a strict routine.
When choosing a fitness studio, make sure to look for one that has user-friendly fitness software. So that you can easily schedule your workouts around your fasting times.
3. Stay hydrated
Sweat evaporates from the skin during exercise, cooling the body and preventing dehydration, but it also removes some of the body's fluids along with the heat. When you sweat, you lose a lot of fluid from your body, so it's important to keep hydrating while you exercise.
Some people find success with intermittent fasting as a weight loss strategy, but not everyone does. For those who currently have or have had an eating disorder, it is not advised. Children, people with preexisting medical issues, and women who are pregnant or nursing may not be able to use it.
If you choose to experiment with intermittent fasting, keep in mind that, as with any eating strategy, diet quality is essential. Eat a range of nutrient-dense whole meals within your eating window and avoid eating too many ultra-processed foods to get the maximum benefits from intermittent fasting.
Additionally, make sure to speak with a qualified healthcare practitioner to confirm that starting an intermittent fast is safe for you to undertake.
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