Fasting has been a common practice among all nations for many years.[*].
In primitive cultures, fasting was often required before tribal wars as a way to calm down angry gods. Fasting was practiced either as part of an adult ceremony or as an avoidance ceremony of famine and other disasters.
In the development of human history, fasting has played a key role in all major religions in the world (except Zoroastrianism that forbids it). Fasting was similar to confession and other forms of self-control.
Today, spiritual fasting is widely practiced and is still part of almost every major religion in the world. Jesus Christ, Buddha, and the Prophet Muhammad all shared a common belief in the healing power of fasting.
In addition, the time-tested ancient tradition of fasting is also widely used to reduce weight, improve concentration, prolong life, prevent Alzheimer’s disease, prevent insulin resistance, and even reverse the aging process.
Based on these practical benefits of fasting, in recent years, more and more ordinary people have become interested in fasting.
However, in the process of practicing fasting, you could encounter some confusion. This article summarizes several issues that people may be concerned about.
Hopefully, after reading this article, you will have a clearer understanding of this ancient and fresh way of eating.
Click on any question to automatically jump to the corresponding answer.
1. What is an intermittent fasting diet plan?
Intermittent fasting, also known as intermittent energy restriction is an eating pattern that cycles between periods of fasting and eating.
It doesn’t specify which foods you should eat but rather when you should eat them.
Evidence-based health benefits of intermittent fasting include help with weight loss, loss of belly fat, building stronger immunity, reducing insulin resistance, and may even help contribute to a longer life.
2. The most basic principle of fasting is autophagy, so what is autophagy fasting?
Autophagy was first discovered and named in 1963 by Belgian chemist Christian René de Duve.
In 2016, Japanese scientist Ōsumi Yoshinori won the Nobel Prize in Physiology and Medicine for the “discovery of the mechanism of cellular autophagy”.
According to Priya Khorana, (Ph.D. in nutrition education at Columbia University), autophagy is the body’s way of removing damaged cells in order to regenerate newer, healthier cells.
In other words, cells go through a series of biochemical processes to engulf and destroy their damaged or aging proteins and organelles in order to achieve self-renewal.
Although this sounds incredible, it actually benefits your overall health.
3. What are the different ways to do intermittent fasting?
Among many other benefits, the most obvious effect of intermittent fasting is weight loss.
Several different types or methods of intermittent fasting have been developed.
Every method can be effective, but finding out which one works best depends on the individual.
Here are some popular ways to do intermittent fasting:
- 16:8 diet: It’s about fasting every day for 16 hours and limiting your daily meal window to 8 hours.
- 5:2 fasting: People who follow this method eat standard amounts of healthy food for 5 days and reduce calorie intake on the other 2 days.
- Alternate day fasting: You fast every other day. It involves complete avoidance of solid foods on fasting days or allows up to only 500 calories. On feeding days, you can choose to eat as much as you want.
- 24 hours fasting: Known as the Eat-Stop-Eat diet, this method involves eating for 24 hours at a time, 1 or 2 days a week.
- The Warrior Diet: With this method, you can eat small amounts of raw fruits and vegetables during the day and eat one huge meal at night.
A more extreme way to fast has some experienced people occasionally practice prolonged fasting, which lasts or exceeds 48 hours.
4. When should I practice intermittent fasting?
You can repeat fasting patterns as frequently as you like — from just once or twice per week to every day, depending on your personal preference.
5. Can I really lose weight with intermittent fasting?
The answer is yes.
Intermittent fasting is labeled “the ancient secret of weight loss” because it is one of the most powerful dietary interventions for weight loss. However, in recent years it has been almost completely ignored.
Studies have shown that following this diet can indeed decrease weight and can effectively reduce inflammation in the body.
Fasting can also put the cells in your body under slight pressure. Scientists believe that this could enhance the cells’ ability to cope with stress, which may possibly help fight some diseases.
6. Who should not try intermittent fasting?
The following people should not attempt intermittent fasting:
- People, who are underweight: If your body fat rate is less than 18.5%, are you sure you still need to fast?
- Pregnant women and lactating women: Getting enough nutrition and putting less pressure on your body should be your top priority.
- Children under the age of 18: It is better to guarantee a normal diet during the critical period of physical development.
There are also cases where intermittent fasting needs to be performed under the guidance of a doctor:
- If you have type 1 or type 2 diabetes.
- If you are taking medications.
- If you have gout or high uric acid.
Otherwise, under normal circumstances, if you are in good health and do not belong to any of the above categories, you could try intermittent fasting. However, with any diet changes, it is good to speak to a nutrition specialist or Doctor.
Additionally, it is recommended that you start with short-term fasting and extend your fasting window gradually.
Similar to a low-carbohydrate diet, fasting also requires time and discipline for your body to adapt.
In the beginning, due to the initial changes in your eating pattern, your physical feelings may lead you to feel you won’t be able to stick with it. This could lead to overeating resulting in a negative effect on your health.
7. What is the difference between fasting and starvation?
It is easy to get confused between fasting and starvation. But Fasting and starving are not the same things.
- Starvation: It usually means zero nutrition, for a longer duration, and often causes serious, negative results.
In the beginning, you may feel that you are losing weight quickly. However, having zero nutrition for long periods of time can reduce your body’s metabolism, making it increasingly difficult to lose weight.
- Fasting: It is the voluntary prevention of food for spiritual, health, or other purposes.
This method does not limit calorie intake, but only restricts the eating window.
Eating well promotes proper metabolism, completes cell replacement by autophagy, and the health benefits are self-evident.
8. Can I exercise while fasting?
The short answer is : YES.
While fasting, you should continue all regular activities, including exercise.
You don’t need food to provide energy for exercise. During this time, your body will burn its own fat for energy.
9. What are the negative effects of intermittent fasting?
There will be some discomfort in the early stages of fasting.
Some common symptoms are:
- Constipation: During fasting, when you eat less, your excretion will decrease accordingly, and you may experience difficulty defecating due to insufficient water intake.
If you do not feel particularly uncomfortable, such as bloating and abdominal pain, don’t worry too much about constipation.
- Headache: This is more common in the early stages of fasting. It will slowly improve as the body adapts. You can also relieve the symptoms by adding salt to your diet.
In addition, you may experience other uncomfortable feelings such as, dizziness, heartburn, and muscle cramps.
As your body slowly adapts to your new eating routine, these areas of discomfort should gradually ease.
10. Why does my blood sugar increase when fasting?
Some people will find that blood glucose rises during fasting.
This is due to hormonal changes caused by fasting. Your body is producing sugar to ensure energy supply.
11. How should I deal with hunger while fasting?
Our brains are easily governed by behavioral habits. When we feel hungry, we must eat.
In fact, the feeling of hunger is like a wave. When the peak comes is when you feel the most hungry. You only need to drink a glass of water or green tea to relieve hunger.
If you can endure the initial hunger, it will gradually subside.
At the same time, your body is mobilizing fat to provide energy.
This is the process of cell repair and renewal. Your weight and body fat are also decreasing.
12. Do you lose muscle during fasting?
During fasting, your body first breaks down glycogen into glucose for energy. After this, your body increases fat breakdown to provide energy.
Excess amino acids (the basic building blocks of protein) are also used for energy, but your body does not burn its own muscles as fuel.
Fasting has been practiced for thousands of years without any difficulties.
Through the study of more than 1,000 people on various fasting schemes, no one noticed significant muscle loss.
13. How to stick to intermittent fasting?
It may not be easy to start intermittent fasting at first. Trying the following tricks can help you overcome your initial hunger:
- Drink more water, green tea or black coffee.
- Keep yourself busy, understanding that hunger is like a wave and will pass in time.
- It’s better to combine intermittent fasting with a ketogenic diet or a low-carb diet. This can increase your satiety and make it easier to extend your fasting time.
14. Is it unhealthy to skip breakfast?
The word breakfast is composed of “break” and ”fast”, the original meaning is “break fasting”.
Most people are in the habit of eating three meals a day. In fact, this is just a custom that has been misunderstood for a long time.
If you can’t function without the fuel in the morning, you should eat breakfast.
However, if you are not hungry when you get out of bed, don’t worry about skipping breakfast or postponing your meal in the morning. It will allow your body more time to burn fat for energy.
After fasting for a certain period of time, fasting will trigger autophagy and accelerate cell repair and renewal, which is very beneficial to your overall health.
Therefore, using intermittent fasting to skip breakfast should help and not affect your health.
15. Does intermittent fasting affect my metabolism?
If your method is improper, it will affect your metabolism.
Many people confuse intermittent fasting and restrictive dieting. They think that as long as they eat less, it is called fasting.
True intermittent fasting does not limit calories, it only emphasizes when to eat, not what and how much to eat.
If you consume enough protein and high-quality fat, your metabolism can be assured.
16. Who can benefit from intermittent fasting?
Intermittent fasting isn’t for everyone. For individuals who’ve struggled to lose weight, this is another tool to have in their toolkit. Other than weight loss, intermittent fasting has many other health benefits for your body, for instance:
- Reduces blood pressure
- Reduces inflammation
- Lower cholesterol
- Boosts brain function
- Decreases the risk of cancer
- Reduces insulin resistance
- Reduce the risk of cardiovascular problems
- Could improve longevity
Altogether, intermittent fasting is about a person’s lifestyle and the choices they make.
Again, it is recommended you speak with a nutritionist or doctor before beginning any new diet routines or have any questions. However, this fasting has been used for many years, for many reasons.