Intermittent fasting has seen an uptrend in reputation over the past few years. It is currently amongst one of the most popular health and fitness trends, and its popularity is only increasing.
Intermittent fasting consists of an eating habit that cycles between periods of fasting and eating. Commonly referred to as a diet type; however, this is a misconception since intermittent fasting does not specify which foods to eat or avoid but rather what periods of time to consume food in general. Best referred to as an eating pattern or habit, intermittent fasting has many approaches which don’t feel as limiting as specific diets often do. This eating habit also has beneficial results.
What Happens During Intermittent Fasting
Several processes and changes occur in a person’s body while practicing intermittent fasting. Below are only to name a couple:
- Insulin: Intermittent fasting helps insulin drop levels significantly, meaning a person’s body can easily access stored body fat.
- Human Growth Hormone: Hormone levels skyrocket during intermittent fasting, improving muscle gain and fat loss.
Intermittent Fasting Methods
- The 16/8 Method: This method consists of skipping breakfast and limiting daily eating periods to 8 hours. For example, 2-10 pm. Doing so allows a person to fast for 16 hours. Perhaps the easiest of the methods and best to start as a beginner.
- The 5:2 Method: This method consists of consuming only 500-600 calories twice a week (non-consecutive days). A person can eat regularly for the remaining five days.
- Eat-Stop-Eat Method: This method consists of a complete 24-hour fast twice a week on non-consecutive days. For example, not eating breakfast from one day until the next breakfast day. No food consumption at all. Perhaps the most challenging of the three, beginners should leave this method to individuals with previous intermittent fasting experience.
Benefits of Intermittent Fasting
There have been many studies conducted on both humans and animals to test the effects of intermittent fasting. These studies have shown that intermittent fasting has a range of benefits linked to weight control and brain and body health.
- Weight Loss: This is perhaps the most popular reason people take to intermittent fasting. As mentioned above, this eating pattern can help one lose weight and stomach fat without having to restrict themselves to diets and consistently counting calories.
- Brain Health: Intermittent fasting aids the increase of the brain hormone known as BDNF and can help develop new nerve cells.
- Anti-Aging: Although not yet proven in humans, intermittent fasting studies performed on rats found that fasted ones lived around36-83% longer.
- Oxidative Stress: Oxidative stress has been linked to signs of aging and chronic disease caused by molecules known as free radicals. Studies show that intermittent fasting may heighten a person’s resistance to oxidative stress.
Can Everyone Do It?
Although studies have proven the benefits of intermittent fasting, it is not recommended everyone do it. If a person wishes to start intermittent fasting, it is recommended they consult their doctor beforehand. However, if a person suffers from being underweight or has a history of eating disorders, it would be wise to reconsider.
Intermittent fasting might also be more beneficial for men than it is for women. Evidence has shown that although fasting in men improves insulin levels, it tends to worsen them for women. Aside from this, women also claim to have experienced changes to their menstrual cycle while intermittent fasting, to the point of stopping their period entirely. A woman should consult intermittent fasting with her doctor, and should consider stopping if she is trying to become pregnant, is already pregnant, breastfeeding, or notices a change in or lack of a menstrual cycle.