Should You Try Intermittent Fasting?

Intermittent fasting has gotten quite popular over the past decade.

 

But what is it, how does it work, and what impact does it have on the body? More importantly, how would you go about trying it for yourself?

 

Let’s break it down.

 

What Is Intermittent Fasting?

 

Intermittent fasting is an eating pattern that dictates when you should eat and fast. There are many forms to pick from, with some examples including:

 

  • 16/8 – fast for 16 hours every day and eat your day’s calories in an eight-hour window
  • 18/6, 20/4, 22/2 – similar to the above one, but eat your daily calories inside six, four, or two hours, respectively
  • Eat Stop Eat – eat as usual but have one or two 24-hour fasts each week
  • Alternate-day fast – don’t eat anything every other day
  • One meal a day (OMAD) – only have a single meal each day and fast for the remaining time

 

Unlike most diets, intermittent fasting doesn’t dictate what you should eat or avoid, only when.

 

When (And How) Should You Do It?

 

You can intermittent fast every day, a few times per week, or weekly. Find a schedule you can follow and stick with it. For example, you can follow a simple 16:8 protocol, which would have you fast daily. If that’s not your cup of tea, you can try the Eat Stop Eat method, where you eat normally five to six days per week and do one or two 24-hour fasts per week.

 

For fasting to fit the textbook definition, you can’t have any calories from foods or drinks. This means no beverages, no sugar to your morning coffee or tea, and no snacks, even low-calorie ones such as fibrous veggies. All you can consume while fasting is water, black coffee, tea, and sugar-free beverages.

 

A Sample Plan to Try Intermittent Fasting

 

You can approach fasting however you like, but I recommend starting with an easier option, such as 16:8. For example, experiment with skipping your morning meal and instead break your fast at noon. Have an afternoon snack after that, eat your dinner, and fast again for 16 hours.

 

If that’s too challenging, start by pushing your breakfast back by an hour every few days. For example, if you usually eat breakfast at 7:30, try the following:

 

  • Days 1 to 4 – 8:30 breakfast
  • Days 5 to 8 – 9:30 breakfast
  • Days 9 to 12 – 10:30 breakfast
  • Days 13 to 15 – 11:30 breakfast (and make it a smaller one)
  • Days 16+ – following the 16:8 pattern

 

Doing so will give your body time to adjust to a new meal schedule and stop you from feeling overly hungry if you skip your morning meals. Plus, you can always take advantage of black coffee and green tea to blunt your appetite in the morning and help you fast until noon.

 

What Happens to Your Body When You Fast Intermittently?

 

Fasting has numerous effects on the body. Here are some of the most notable ones:

 

  • Fasting leads to lower insulin levels, which elevates fat-burning (1).
  • Fasting normalizes blood sugar levels and can reduce the risk of developing insulin resistance and type 2 diabetes (2).
  • Fasting can enhance human growth hormones levels inside the body (3, 4).

Fasting can trigger the body’s self-cleaning mechanisms (autophagy) and promote cellular repair (5, 6).

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