When it comes to diets and weight loss, a new fad gets hyped every few months. But Intermittent Fasting (IF), or fasting in general, is one “trend” that has been practiced by people since ancient times for spiritual and health reasons. People are now re-discovering this dietary concept, quite obsessively in fact, making “Intermittent Fasting” one of the trendiest weight loss search terms in 2019 and 2020.
So, what exactly is Intermittent Fasting? It isn’t a diet. It’s an eating pattern that cycles between fasting and eating. It doesn’t specify the kind of foods you should be eating, but rather when you should be eating. The reason why IF is so popular today is because it leads to one thing that most of us chase at some point in our lives – weight loss.
Let us explain the process to you in a simple way. Your body exists in 2 states – the fed state and the fasting state. When you eat, more food energy is consumed than can be used at that time. So, with the help of insulin, some of this excess energy gets stored away for later use in the form of fat. Even hours after you eat, your body is still digesting and absorbing the food. It is difficult for the body to burn fat during this fed state due to high insulin levels.
12 hours after your last meal, your body finishes digesting and absorbing it and enters the fasting state. Since it has had no incoming food energy for the last 12 hours, your insulin level falls. In order to function, your body starts using its stored energy by burning excess fat, leading to weight loss. The results take a few weeks to show, so you can’t give up too early.
But it’s not just about burning fat and losing weight. IF benefits you in many other ways such as:
So now that you’re familiar with what and why, let’s talk about how. There are many ways to go about practicing IF. Here are some of the popular ones:
1. 16:8 method – This is the easiest method to start with. It involves eating during an 8-hour window, and fasting for the remaining 16 hours. For example, you can eat till 3PM and fast until 7AM next day, or finish eating by 7PM and fast until 11AM next day. Water, coffee and zero-calories beverages are allowed during the fasting period, but no solid foods. See what timing works best for you.
2. 20:4 method – This involves eating for 4 hours and fasting for the remaining 20 hours. You can either choose to eat one large meal or have 2 smaller meals during the 4-hour eating window.
3. 5:2 method – This method involves 5 days of eating normally and 2 days of fasting. On the fasting days, you are allowed to consume few calories (500 kcal for women and 600 kcal for men is recommended). You can either eat this is one sitting or spread it throughout the day.
4. Eat Stop Eat or 24 hours method – This requires you to practice a longer fast, 1-2 times a week. If you have dinner at 7PM on day 1, you are required to fast for the next 24 hours and can have your next meal at the same time the next day. You can either choose to either have lunch or dinner, as long as you just have 1 meal in 24 hours.
Due to reduced calorie intake, all of these methods should lead to weight loss, as long as you don’t compensate by overeating or binge eating junk food during the eating periods. Be mindful about your diet quality.
While IF has worked for many people in terms of weight loss, it’s important to note that it may not work for some. Also, people with eating disorders should avoid it. When you start out, the hunger can cause irritability and a reduced ability to concentrate during fasting periods. However, these side effects usually disappear within a month. It’s recommended that you start out slow and not test yourself beyond your limits. Give it a try and find out which method works best for you.
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