Intermittent Fasting: Does It Really Help?
Fasting is one of the oldest and most powerful dietary interventions that help to improve your health, manage your weight, and even prevent some diseases. However, what’s in an intermittent fasting diet, and what are the different types of fasting one can adopt? Keep reading to find out.
What is intermittent fasting?
It is an eating pattern which cycles between periods of fasting and eating. Other diets focus on what to eat, but intermittent fasting is about when you eat. Hence, it’s more accurately described as an eating pattern. Any time you are not eating, you are intermittently fasting. Hence, it should be a part of everyday life. Learning how to fast properly will give you the option of fasting or not.
How it works
There are many ways to do intermittent fasting, but they are all based on choosing regular time periods to eat and fast. For instance, you might eat only during an 8-hour period each day and fast for the remainder. You could also eat only 1 meal a day for two days a week. After several hours without food, the body exhausts its sugar stores and starts burning fat. This is also known as metabolic switching. Intermittent fasting works by extending the period when your body has burned through the calories consumed during your last meal and begins burning fat.
How to intermittent fast
What are the different types of fasts? Here are some popular regimens that you can adopt. Generally, shorter fasts are done more frequently.
This way of fasting involves daily fasting. It’s also referred to as an 8-hour eating window. You eat all your meals within an 8-hour time period and fast for the remaining 16 hours. This can be done daily, or almost daily.
This involves a 4-hour eating window, and then a 20 hour fast. You can either eat one large, lengthy meal or 2 smaller meals within this period.
This is also known as “one meal a day”, which can be done 2-3 times a week. If you eat dinner on day 1, you would skip the next day’s breakfast and lunch, and eat dinner again on day 2.
This involves 5 regular eating days and 2 fasting days. On these 2 fasting days, you can eat 500 calories per day, which can be consumed any time throughout the day.
This provides a powerful weight-loss benefit and involves fasting for the entire day. For instance, if you eat dinner on day 1, you will fast for all of day 2 and not eat again until breakfast on day 3.
What can I eat while on intermittent fasting
The good thing about intermittent fasting is that it allows us to be mindful and take pleasure in eating good and nutritious food. During the times when you’re not eating, water and zero-calorie beverages such as black coffee and tea are permitted. During eating periods, the Mediterranean diet is a good blueprint of what to eat. You can’t go wrong when you pick complex and unrefined carbohydrates such as whole grains, leafy greens, healthy fats, and lean protein.
Benefits of intermittent fasting
The most obvious benefit of intermittent fasting is weight loss. Some other health benefits of include:
- Weight and body fat loss
- Increased fat burning
- Lowered blood insulin and sugar levels
- Increased energy
- Improved mental concentration
- Activation of cellular cleansing
- Reduction of inflammation
In addition, while most diets are quite complicated and cumbersome, fasting actually can simplify your life and save you time. It’s also cheap, powerful, and convenient.
Safety & side effects
Intermittent fasting isn’t for everyone. Some people try intermittent fasting for weight management, while others do it to address chronic conditions such as irritable bowel syndrome, high cholesterol, or arthritis. Before you try intermittent fasting, do check in with your doctor first.
Who shouldn’t do intermittent fasting:
- Women who are pregnant or breastfeeding
- Children and teens under age 18
- People with diabetes or blood sugar problems
- People with a history of eating disorders
Generally, if you don’t fall into any of these categories, you can do intermittent fasting safely as a lifestyle change. Fasting can have different effects on different people. Talk to your doctor if you experience anxiety, headaches, nausea, or other symptoms.
Top tips to manage intermittent fasting
To ensure enjoyable intermittent fasting, here are some tips:
- Drink water, coffee, or tea
- Stay busy
- Ride out the hunger pangs
- Give it at least 1 month to see if intermittent fasting is a good fit for you
- Try to follow a low-carb diet between fasting periods, as it reduces hunger and makes intermittent fasting easier. It can also increase the effect on weight loss and type 2 diabetes reversal.
- Don’t binge after fasting
Many people consider the 16:8 method the simplest and most sustainable way of fasting, so you might want to start with this first. After that, you can try moving on to more advanced fasts like 24-hour fasts one to two times a week. Or, you can simply fast whenever it’s convenient – simply skip meals occasionally when you’re not hungry. Without following a structured intermittent fasting plan, you can also derive some of the benefits.
Fast your way to a healthier lifestyle!
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Speaker: Dr Lee Guan Huei 李冠辉, Senior Consultant, Gastroenterology, NUH Sponsors/Organising parties: 365 Cancer Prevention Society (365CPS), Singapore National University Hospital (NUH), Singapore National University