Fasting is not new to us. For centuries, fasting for religious, spiritual or political purposes has been widespread throughout the world. It still plays an important role in the world’s major religions to this day.
In recent years, due to its increasing impact on disease and aging, intermittent fasting has attracted a lot of attention in the medical field. It has gradually become one of the most popular health and wellness trends today. People use intermittent fasting to lose weight, improve their health, or simplify their life.
What Is An Intermittent Fasting Diet Plan
Intermittent fasting is an eating pattern that cycles between fasting and eating. It is a completely different diet and lifestyle.
Intermittent fasting focuses on the times that you eat, not the food itself. It has a very obvious effect on weight loss, while also providing other incredible health benefits.
This method of fasting is based on the living habits of individuals. The most commonly used are the following methods:
- 16/8 fasting: To follow the 16/8 method, you need to limit your daily eating window to eight hours while fasting for the remaining 16 hours.
- 20/4 fasting: This method expands the fasting window to 20 hours.
- Eat-stop-eat: This method involves fasting every other day. In other words, eat normally one day, fast the next day, in a cycle.
- 5:2 fasting: This method involves eating normally five days a week and cutting back to 20 percent of your normal daily calorie intake for the other two.
- One meal a day (OMAD): To follow this method, you only eat one meal in a day. It doesn’t specify which meal you eat, or even what time you eat, but most people choose to have their one meal at dinner time.
- Prolonged fasting: Any fasting that exceeds 48 hours uses this method. The world record for fasting is 382 days, so fasting for one to two weeks is feasible, if under the supervision of a doctor.
It is not recommended that ordinary people fast for more than 7 consecutive days. You also need to supplement your day with nutrients to maintain the normal metabolism of your body.
These methods divide the day or week into a feeding period and a fasting period.
All of these fasting methods can help you to lose weight and reduce fat. The premise is that you do not eat a lot of high-calorie food during the eating window.
Many people find that the 16/8 fasting is the simplest and easiest method to follow. It is also the most popular way to practice intermittent fasting.
The Difference Between Calorie Restriction And Fasting
When it comes to fasting, many people think of a calorie-restricted diet. They think fasting and restricting your caloric intake are the same in achieving their weight loss goals.
However, there is a big difference between fasting and calorie restriction. Simply put, a calorie-restricted diet may be harmful to your health, while fasting may be good for health.
1. Let’s talk about calorie restricting first:
In the usual sense, a calorie-restrictive diet means eating less, controlling and reducing your caloric intake.
However, there is no standard for how many calories one should reduce their diet by. It all depends on whether your weight has been reduced within a certain period of time. If the desired weight loss is not achieved, you will need to continue to reduce calorie intake, eat less or not eat at all.
The problem with this is that it does not guarantee the energy required for the basic metabolism of your body. It also neglects the balance of nutrition. Thereby this can lead to two direct results: binge eating or anorexia.
During the calorie restriction diet, because you eat very little, your body will enter a starvation mode. This makes you hungry all the time and also causes low blood sugar. The typical symptoms are fatigue, heart palpitations, dizziness, anxiety, and emotional instability. At this point, out of a survival instinct, the brain will induce you to eat.
Once you resume your diet, there will be a need for compensation in your subconscious mind and you will begin to overeat. Your weight will rebound quickly and you may possibly gain even more weight.
During this time you can also begin to feel guilty, so you go on a calorie-restrictive diet again. This Yo-Yo like dieting can eventually damage your immune system.[*]
Others may feel guilty due to binge eating and take extreme remedies, such as forced vomiting. Repeated many times this can gradually lead to anorexia (eating disorder).
2. What about fasting?
As explained at the beginning of this article, intermittent fasting focuses on the time you eat and generally does not limit your caloric intake.
Therefore, during the eating period, you can eat healthy meals to fully guarantee the energy required for the basic metabolism of your body. This ensures a comprehensive nutritional intake.
If you combine fasting with a low-carbohydrate or a ketogenic diet, because of the high-quality protein and healthy fats, it will increase satiety and stabilize blood sugar. This can reduce your hunger and prolong your fasting time more easily.
When the fasting time exceeds 16 hours, your body will activate the “autophagy mechanism“.
According to Wikipedia, “Autophagy is the natural, regulated mechanism of the cell that removes unnecessary or dysfunctional components. ”
It was first discovered and named by Belgian chemist Christine de Diff in 1963.
Japanese scientist Yoshinori Ohsumi won the 2016 Nobel Prize in Physiology and Medicine for his “discovery of the mechanism of autophagy”.
According to Priya Khorana, Ph.D. in Nutrition Education at Columbia University, autophagy is the body’s method of removing damaged cells in order to renew and regenerate healthy cells.
In other words, through a series of biochemical processes, the cell swallows and eliminates the damaged or senescent proteins and organelles to achieve self-renewal.
Therefore, fasting not only helps people lose weight but also enables the cells in the body to repair themselves. This is also the reason why fasting may delay aging.
The Benefits Of Intermittent Fasting
When you don’t eat anything for a certain period of time every day, you are actually reducing the burden on your body system and brain.
This makes sense from an evolutionary perspective.
For most of the history of human evolution, people did not eat three meals a day, plus various snacks. On the contrary, due to lack of food, people were often hungry.
Humans have learned to adapt to the environment and thrive in fasting.
Nowadays, we spend most of our time in front of the computer, with all kinds of food within reach.
Even though our bodies are actually not suited for this kind of non-stop eating lifestyle, only a few people really listen to the feelings of the bodies, because the temptation of food is too great.
Over the years, scientists have conducted many studies on intermittent fasting in animals and humans.
These studies show that fasting not only can effectively control weight but also has powerful benefits for the health of the body and brain. It may even help you extend your life.
The following are some main health benefits of intermittent fasting:
- Weight loss: As mentioned above, the most obvious benefit of intermittent fasting is that it can help you lose weight. Especially abdominal fat, without deliberately limiting calories.
- Increase energy: Intermittent fasting can make you more energetic.
- Reduce insulin resistance: IF you can reduce insulin resistance, thus lowering blood sugar by 3–6% and fasting insulin levels by 20–31%, this method can help protect against type 2 diabetes.[*]
- Reduce inflammation: Some studies have shown that intermittent fasting can reduce inflammation markers. Inflammation is a key driver of many chronic diseases.
- Promote heart health: Intermittent fasting can reduce low-density lipoprotein cholesterol (LDL), triglycerides, inflammatory markers, blood sugar and insulin resistance. All of these are risk factors for heart disease.[*]
- Prevent cancer: Animal studies have shown that intermittent fasting can reduce the risk of cancer.
- Promote brain health: Intermittent fasting can increase brain hormone BDNF, improve brain function and enhance memory. It is also effective for preventing Alzheimer’s disease and Parkinson’s disease.[*]
- Anti-aging: Experimental research shows that the life span of fasting rats is extended by 36-83%.
In addition, another advantage of intermittent fasting is that it simplifies life.
In today’s society, with the pace of life is getting faster and faster, many people don’t have time to cook, let alone eat a healthy diet.
Intermittent fasting simplifies life in many ways. While fasting, you won’t need to worry about eating three meals a day. It also eliminates the need to clean up after meals.
Thus, it can not only improve your health but also save time, improve quality of life, and improve your work efficiency.
The benefits of intermittent fasting have been proven by scientists. Choosing and following this lifestyle can make your body healthier and make your life easier and more enjoyable.
There are so many benefits of intermittent fasting. However, before you start, you should also understand some of its negative effects.
Again, when changing your diet you should always consult with a medical professional.