Intermittent Fasting 101
Among the many weight loss trends and fad diets, intermittent fasting is perhaps one of the most popular. Instead of focusing on what you eat, this trend focuses on when you consume food. Studies suggest that intermittent fasting can improve heart and brain health, reduce the risk of cancer and type 2 diabetes, as well as help you lose weight. However, this fad diet isn’t for everyone. Read on to learn more about intermittent fasting and if it’s right for you.
What Is Intermittent Fasting?
Often abbreviated as IF, intermittent fasting is when you only eat during a specific time. In other words, you voluntarily cycle between periods of consuming food and fasting, which can help your body burn fat. Some people go without food for hours or even a day to boost their metabolic performance. Although no food is allowed during the fasting period, you can still drink water, tea, coffee and other non-caloric drinks.
How Does It Work?
The main reason this diet is effective is because it helps boost the body’s responsiveness to insulin. Moreover, it helps trigger the process of autophagy, which starts after a fasting period. This is when the body cleans out dysfunctional cells. It then recycles parts of them into new, healthy cells. In doing so, the body increases cell turnover by getting rid of mutated cells and toxic proteins that can lead to health conditions such as cancer and Alzheimer’s disease.
The Types of IF
When it comes to following this fad diet, there are several popular eating patterns, including the following:
- 5:2: This eating pattern involves consuming sustenance as one normally would for five days of the week. For the remaining two days, you reduce your calorie intake to 500-600.
- Eat-stop-eat: This method takes the 5:2 pattern up a notch. Essentially, you eat normally for five days of the week, then fast for the remaining two.
- 14:10: This pattern involves an eating window of 10 hours and fasting for 14 hours.
- OMAD: Also known as “one meal a day,” this method is a bit more restrictive. It means you only eat one time per day.
Health Benefits of Intermittent Fasting
Many scientific studies reveal that intermittent fasting can have powerful health benefits for the brain and body. Benefits of this wellness diet include:
- Lower cholesterol: Different patterns of IF may help lower LDL (bad) cholesterol, which can help reduce the risk of heart disease and stroke.
- Weight loss: Eating fewer meals reduces your calorie intake. Moreover, this diet lowers insulin levels and boosts growth hormone levels. This helps to increase your fat-burning hormones and improve your metabolic rate.
- Cancer protection: Intermittent fasting can slow the spread of cancer cells and improve the effects of cancer treatment.
Is IF Safe?
Intermittent fasting is considered safe. In fact, it’s recommended by physicians as an effective way to lose weight and gain more energy. However, like any fad diet, it’s important to exercise caution and consult your health care professional before trying intermittent fasting.
Reducing one’s calorie intake for a long period of time can be dangerous. This applies to the following groups:
- Children and adolescents
- Pregnant or breastfeeding individuals
- People with diabetes
- Individuals taking certain medications
- Those with a history of eating disorders
- Individuals who are underweight or injured
As you can see, intermittent fasting isn’t for everyone. It can also cause symptoms such as dizziness, fatigue, headaches, increased hunger, irritability, weakness and difficulty focusing. Before starting this diet, consult a physician to determine if it’s right for you.
To learn more about intermittent fasting, see the accompanying resource.
Author bio: Dr. Myur S. Srikanth is a board-certified bariatric and cosmetic surgeon at the Center for Weight Loss Surgery. He has been performing bariatric surgery exclusively since 2000 and has performed over 4,000 weight loss surgeries. Dr. Srikanth performs nearly every operation that is currently available to treat obesity.
Infographic provided by Center for Weight Loss Surgery, a clinic for duodenal switch Seattle