The Ultimate Guide to Intermittent Fasting

Published on: 20/03/2022

Thinking of following the trend? Here are a few things you need to know first.

With more and more evidence showing that it is an effective means for weight loss, intermittent fasting has grown in popularity within recent years. Its undeniable worldwide recognition is further backed by Google, naming it as the most popular searched diet term of 2019. With all the interest behind this health trend, let us learn more about the diet plan that is intermittent fasting. 

What is Intermittent Fasting?

Intermittent Fasting is an eating pattern that lays out the schedule when you can eat and when you should fast. Rather than establish restrictions on what you should eat intermittent fasting gives you the guidelines on when you should do so.

The objective behind this eating plan is to give our bodies ample time to properly digest our food in between meals. Essentially, the food we eat is broken down into various stages. Upon reaching our small intestines, the enzymes from our pancreas and bile from our liver continue the digestive process. This is where carbohydrates, particularly sugars and refined grains are broken down into sugar, which we use for energy in our day-to-day activities. 

The unused sugars are stored in our cells as fat, and these can be released through lower insulin levels, which our bodies are able to achieve when we are not eating. Simply put, the idea behind intermittent fasting is to allow the insulin levels to go down to the right levels for the amount of time necessary in order for us to burn off the stored fat. 

The Benefits

By ensuring proper digestion and the release of stored fats in our cells, intermittent fasting is a powerful tool when it comes to weight loss. It also helps in reducing blood sugar, which in turn lowers the risk for type 2 diabetes. John Hopkins Medicine also cites better memory and improved heart health as some of the benefits of intermittent fasting. This is because it helps reduce LDL cholesterol, blood triglycerides, and insulin resistance. It also increases the brain hormone BDNF which is vital for keeping our neurons healthy and in creating new ones.

Intermittent Fasting Methods

There are several ways to go about intermittent fasting, and one of the most popular is the 16:8 method. This setup involves skipping breakfast and allotting only 8 hours as the window for consuming meals. For example, you can choose to eat only between the hours of noon to 8 p.m., or from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m., with the remaining 16 hours designated for fasting.  

Another widely-practiced method is Eat-Stop-Eat - wherein you fast for 24 hours once or twice a week, such as when you skip dinner one day until dinner of the next day. 

Popularized by British journalist Michael Mosley, the 5:2 diet is also well-known among intermittent fasting practitioners. To do this, you restrict your calorie consumption to 500 – 600 for two non-consecutive days of the week. 

Recommended Foods

Being able to eat normally is part of the appeal of intermittent fasting but in order to maximize the benefits of this plan, a varied and healthy diet is recommended. Complex and unrefined carbohydrates are good, such as whole grains, leafy greens, lean protein, and healthy fats. Avoiding too much sugar and refined grains can also go a long way. 

Keeping It Safe

Before embarking on intermittent fasting, it is best to determine whether this meal plan will be personally beneficial to you. If you are underweight, have a history of eating disorders, or have other medical concerns, make sure that you consult with a health professional first. Children and teens under 18 and pregnant or breastfeeding women are also discouraged to take on intermittent fasting.  

Bear in mind that setting up an intermittent fasting meal plan can entail hunger at particular times. You may also feel weak because of this, so make sure that you monitor how your body reacts when you are doing your intermittent fasting.