One of the buzzwords in health and fitness today is intermittent fasting. It is highly effective for weight loss and health improvement. What’s more, fasting has deep ties with many ancient cultures. However, there are a few things about intermittent fasting for beginners that you should know before you try it. Here are some basic facts about intermittent fasting to help you decide if it is right for you.
What is Intermittent Fasting?
Intermittent fasting is less a diet and more an eating pattern. As the name suggests, intermittent fasting involves alternating periods of eating with periods of fasting.
When you fast, your body is affected at the molecular and cellular level. Your insulin sensitivity improves, your cells trigger repair functions, growth hormones increase, stored body fats are dissolved, and even longevity increases due to changes in gene expression.
The biggest difference between intermittent fasting and other diets is that intermittent focuses on WHEN you should eat rather than on WHAT you should eat.
Benefits ofIntermittent Fasting
Intermittent fasting is helpful for your health in several ways:
- Insulin – Your insulin resistance reduces, which helps to protect against type 2 diabetes.
- Metabolism – Your metabolism gets a boost, allowing your body to burn more calories.
- Brain – There is an increase in brain hormones that support growth of new neurons.
- Heart – Your bad cholesterol, blood sugar, and triglycerides go down, improving heart health.
- Anti-ageing – There is an increase in antioxidants that fight cell damage and ageing.
- Inflammation – There is a decrease in inflammatory markers that cause chronic diseases.
The best-known benefit, of course, is intermittent fasting for weight loss. Eating fewer meals leads to lower calorie intake. Fasting also affects insulin levels and releases a fat-burning hormone named norepinephrine that further helps in weight loss.
Methods of Intermittent Fasting
Although intermittent fasting follows the basic principle of cycling periods of eating and fasting, there are various types of intermittent fasting that you can choose from.
- 16-8 Method – In this method, your eating period is 8 hours and fasting period is 16 hours. For example, you might eat from 2 to 10 pm, but fast for the rest of the day. It is simple, easy, and sustainable, which makes it the most popular intermittent fasting method.
- 12-12 Method – This method is similar to the 16-8 method. In this method, both your eating and fasting periods are 12 hours each. Many beginners start with this method before moving to the 16-8 method.
- 5:2 Diet – In this method, you eat normally for 5 days of the week. And on two non-successive days (e.g., Tuesdays and Saturdays), you restrict your calorie intake to 500 or 600 calories.
- Eat-Stop-Eat Method – In this method, you fast for 24 hours once or twice a week. On the other, non-fasting, days you will eat regularly.
Foods to Eat and Avoid duringIntermittent Fasting
Because intermittent fasting balances periods of eating and fasting, it is essential to have a good diet during your eating periods. For instance, if you eat a lot of processed, high-fat, or sugary foods during your eating periods, you will not get the most out of intermittent fasting.
Here are some foods you can and should eat:
- Fruits – avocado, berries, watermelon
- Vegetables – cauliflower, broccoli, cucumber, Brussel sprouts
- Unsweetened beverages – herbal tea, buttermilk, coconut water, lemon water without sugar
- Whole grains – buckwheat, barley, oats, quinoa
- Lean proteins – paneer, egg whites, skinless chicken, fish
- Legumes – beans, lentils
You can also have healthy snacks like Health Nut’s Soya Splits and nutritional completers like Health Nut’s Meal in One.
And these are foods that you should avoid if you want to make the most of your fasting:
- Processed foods – chips, instant noodles, frozen foods
- Sugary foods – soft drinks, ice cream, candy
- Junk food – burgers, fries, street food
A Final Word of Caution
Though the benefits of intermittent fasting are manifold, it is important to understand the right way of going about it. If possible, you should consult a professional nutritionist before starting and follow some important intermittent fasting rules:
- Map out a thorough action plan before starting
- Avoid overeating during eating periods
- Women who are breastfeeding, pregnant, or trying to have a baby should not opt for intermittent fasting
- Stay hydrated during the fasting period
- Include hours of sleep in your fasting period and try to get a good sleep
- Be patient about seeing results as the body takes a few days to show a noticeable difference
- If you have any health issues that can be aggravated by fasting, you should avoid this diet or consult a general physician before you start
- When exercising, you should consider lighter options like yoga or low-intensity workouts during fasting periods.
Intermittent fasting has many health benefits and is rapidly becoming popular because it is easy and sustainable. But it needs to be done right if you want to get the maximum benefits from it. So, if you want to know how to do intermittent fasting the right way, our handy beginner’s guide will help you get started.