Intermittent fasting is one of the latest diet crazes out there. You have probably already heard of it if you are into fitness, trying to losing weight or simply looking to improve your health. Growing in popularity, it is attributed a wide range of health benefits, including the ability to fight against obesity and cleasing the body.
But is it really worth the buzz? Let’s find out together…
What is intermittent fasting?
In the collective mind, the word “fast” refers to abstinence from food. However, intermittent fasting can be defined as the alternation of a normal diet and times of fasting. Some do it over a day while others spread it over a week or more. The combinations and possibilities are endless. This makes it possible to create a diet that is as unique as the person following it.
In any case, if performed well, this type of fasting helps restore health, promotes weight loss, and is excellent to recalibrate one’s metabolism.
In general, intermittent fasting also helps to burn fat, detoxify the body, fight against aging… which is why it has become more and more popular in recent years.
Most often, intermittent fasting is an effective strategy to reduce daily calorie intake and therefore, body fat as well as weight. For some, intermittent fasting is also a way to improve their insulin sensitivity.
Benefits of intermittent fasting
Intermittent fasting provides a wide range of health benefits, in particular, the cleansing of the body and the well-functioning of our metabolism.
A body free of toxins ensures optimal functioning of the immune system, which itself provides many health benefits. A well-functioning metabolism on the other hand promotes a healthy weight, which is the reason why most people do intermittent fasting in the first place.
But these are not the only notable health benefits of intermittent fasting, it is also beneficial to people who suffer from diabetes and helps prevents cardiovascular diseases.
Let’s take a look together at the main benefits that it provides.
Cleanses the body
The toxins and wastes produced by the human body during digestion are the cause of many diseases. Most of these toxins come from our food, especially when the diet is unhealthy. The human body needs to eliminate these toxins and ensure the best possible biochemical elements within the organism.
Of course, certain daily practices, such as drinking more water, are still essential for the elimination of toxins. Unfortunately, the body does not always receive enough water to flush out all of these toxins.
Fortunately, with intermittent fasting, the body activates its cleansing system”. This is explained by an essential biological process that our bodies go through known as homeostasis. This puts the body in perpetual digestion. Under these conditions, the body is unable to mobilize the vital energy, which is necessary for the activation of its “cleaning system”.
Overeating inhibits your body’s self-healing process. This is how various diseases arise. Conversely, when the body deprives itself of food for a time, it activates its self-healing capacities. The body thus begins its cleansing process. It is this phase that is called homeostasis, and which is beneficial for us to operate a complete cleansing of the body.
Fights cardiovascular disease
By fasting intermittently, you can prevent a multitude of diseases. Intermittent fasting notably helps reduce the risk of cardiovascular disease.
We now know that a poorly adapted diet promotes this type of disease. On the other hand, intermittent fasting reduces the risk of diabetes and has positive effects on bad cholesterol.
If you want to lower the bad cholesterol level in your blood, you shouldn’t hesitate to resort to intermittent fasting.
Helps with diabetes
Intermittent fasting is a very common diet offered to people who suffer from obesity and/or diabetes. This fasting method is used to better control insulin spikes.
Furthermore, losing weight improves glycemic control in people with type 2 diabetes.
Fasting allows better weight management, as we will see in the next point. It also helps protect the body from insulin hypersecretion, and therefore develop a form of resistance to its effects.
The reduction in meals and snacks would be at the origin of the protective effects of intermittent fasting in this context.
People with diabetes, therefore, have an interest in considering intermittent fasting with their specialist doctor in order to better control the disease and its symptoms.
Helps you lose weight more easily
Whether you are a woman or a man, keeping a healthy weight requires feeding yourself according to your real needs. Failure to comply with this rule logically leads to weight gain and the accumulation of extra pounds.
Poor nutrition is not the only enemy of your ideal weight, however. There is also a lack of physical activity or a tiring or toxic lifestyle. Intermittent fasting proves to be a faithful friend in the quest for the ideal weight. It is also and above all a sure ally for the regulation of weight and satiety.
An adapted diet, the practice of physical activity, and intermittent fasting can be associated together in order to maintain or find an ideal weight. The different types of fasting are most often practiced in this direction: to lose weight in a healthy way. It is also a therapeutic solution offered to people looking for solutions to lose weight safely and sustainably.
Do not hesitate to talk to your doctor for advice on intermittent fasting if you are looking to lose weight.
Helps you to burn fat
Today, many people spend large sums of money just to lose weight. However, these various slimming diets do not seem to provide real and lasting solutions to their weight problems. In fact, they would even do the opposite.
Intermittent fasting is an accessible and safe solution to help eliminate fat. Indeed, by fasting, you force the body to use its excess fat for energy, whether in the stomach, thighs, or hips.
Studies in this area have shown an increase in growth hormone (GH) levels in the blood during fasting. This growth hormone is considered a “natural fat burner”.
Intermittent fasting also increases the production of another “fat-burning” hormone, glucagon. Its high concentration in the blood helps the body to draw its energy from glycogen stores and fat stores, which leads to a decrease in fat mass.
With a fasting cure, you can detox your body, lose fat and weight, all the while not spending a penny on expensive useless weight loss products. Your worst enemies will be your own determination and lack of discipline.
All you just need is the discipline to abstain from food as part of your intermittent fast. You will of course have to adapt your lifestyle with the adoption of a regular sports routine and a balanced diet on a daily basis.
The disadvantages of intermittent fasting
Although the practice of intermittent fasting brings a lot of health benefits, it is possible to see unwanted effects.
The side effects that may be encountered during intermittent fasting are drowsiness, fatigue, irritability, decreased alertness, and risk of dehydration.
To prevent fatigue, after your fast, you can consume anti-fatigue foods, that is, foods rich in vitamin C such as orange, lemon, Brussels sprout, watercress, and parsley, or even foods rich in magnesium.
If necessary, you can also take some food supplements as part of a controlled and balanced diet. They will help you provide your body with the nutrients it needs, along with a balanced diet. They can also be solutions to certain side effects of fasting, often caused by the detoxification of the body.
Fasting can also cause bad breath. Indeed, during the fast, the ketone bodies are used for the production of energy; the elimination of these ketones leads to bad breath.
Keep in mind, depending on how your body responds to the fast, you may experience some unwanted effects. For example, you may gain weight if you fast too severely. The body may start building up reserves to prevent nutritional deficiencies. This is why you must avoid too long deprivation.
Who should not practice intermittent fasting
While fasting can have many benefits, it is nonetheless not recommended for some people:
- Diabetics: people with diabetes who are taking metformin or sulfonylurea therapy should not fast, as this could lead to severe hypoglycemia (for those who continue their therapy while fasting).
- Pregnant or breastfeeding women because there may be a lack of certain nutrients essential for the formation and development of the fetus. When it comes to breastfeeding, fasting can decrease milk production, mainly due to the fatigue it can cause. And this, combined with fasting during pregnancy, could affect the production and quality of breast milk.
- Children because they need energy, essential inputs for their growth, and have lower reserves than adults.
- The elderly as this can cause heart trouble and even stroke, not to mention the risk of increased falls or fractures, linked to the drop in metabolism while fasting.
- People taking any treatment who require medication with food.
- People who have suffered or are suffering from eating disorders as this could cause you to binge eat after the fasting due to deprivation.
- For athletes who need and spend a lot of energy. However, there is no consensus on this as some athletes claim to benefit from it.
How to start an intermittent fast?
Just because intermittent fasting has so many benefits, doesn’t mean you should jump in without taking precautions. If you want to get the most out of it, you need to know how to organize yourself. You must also know your state of health, which is why we recommend that you consult a doctor before any fast.
In addition, you should choose the number of days according to your abilities. It is essential to adapt the fast to your own characteristics, as well as your state of health and other possible factors. Medical monitoring and professional support allow you to do so in complete safety.
How many hours should you go without eating?
Regarding the duration of intermittent fasting, there are several possibilities. Some version advocates for 16, 17, 18, or even over 24 hours.
Ideally, to get the most out of intermittent fasting, you should not eat for sixteen hours (minimum). This is for this reason that the most practiced version of intermittent fasting is the 16/8.
However, keep in mind that prolonged deprivation can expose the body to weight gain or more or less serious consequences on health. You should therefore not fast too long, especially if you are just starting this specific dietary practice.
It is recommended that you start with the lowest “version”. Then, you can gradually increase the duration of the fasting periods, ideally with the approval of your doctor.
How long should your fasting period last?
One, two, three days… It’s up to you to choose the number of days you can take. There is not a number of days required for a successful intermittent fast. Remember to listen to yourself and respect your body’s limits. Everyone fasts according to their tolerance, their abilities, their situation, and the goals they would like to achieve. A person who would simply like to detoxify their body will not have the same way of fasting as someone who wants to lose excess fat.
However, for beginners, there is no point in rushing. It is better to start with one day in the week. Then you can gradually increase the rate as your body becomes more tolerant of fasting. Then you can try two or three days a week, or even more.
The most important thing to remember is that you should practice your intermittent fasting according to your pace and ability. Remember that a medical follow-up is never superfluous in this context.
Eat well after your fasting interval
You just finished your fasting period… now it’s time to recharge your batteries! While it might be tempting to skip on certain foods, especially if you are trying to lose weight, keep in mind a varied and balanced diet is still necessary even when doing intermittent fasting.
Favor proteins and carbohydrates (with a low glycemic index of preferences) without forgetting the right fats in order to recharge your body’s batteries. Moderate your consumption of fats, especially if they are saturated. Drink a good amount of water, use homemade fruit juices, tea, or herbal decoctions. Choose foods that are easily digested and that will not be too heavy.
For example, if you have to choose between fish and meat, go for the fish, because the stomach digests it more easily. The same is true for vegetable proteins. They are also digested better than animal proteins.
The idea is to eat light foods without skipping on essential nutrients. This prevents digestion problems and rests the digestive system while keeping your nutrient intake at an optimal level.
On the other hand, you should also avoid eating too much: take your time to enjoy your meal and stop to satiety.
Try to cook your own food and choose organic, seasonal, and local options if possible. And don’t forget to have regular physical activity!
Most popular types of intermittent fasting
In this type of intermittent fasting, you allow yourself to eat on an 8-hour interval, then abstain from eating for the remaining 16 hours. One way to do this, for example, would be to eat meals every day between 12 p.m. and 8 p.m., and not eat anything from 8 p.m. until 12 p.m. the next day. It’s one of the most popular forms of intermittent fasting right now.
In this case, you allow yourself to eat over a period of 4 hours, and you abstain the rest of the time (for example meal between 8 am and noon, then abstention until 8 am the next morning).
In this variant, you have a 12-hour window to eat your meals normally, and then you fast for the next 12 hours.
First of all, this one is recommended for experienced fasters with no incurrent risks. In summary, you eat the first day in a 12-hour interval, then you fast for 36 hours. For example, you could eat on Monday from 8 a.m. to 8 p.m., and fast until 8 a.m. on Wednesday.
These forms of fasting are not the only variations that exist. In addition, only you will be able to determine which one will suit you best, adapt it, and adjust it to yourself, as you go. Furthermore, before jumping into intermittent fasting, it is important to speak about it to your doctor, in order to make sure that there would be no risk to your health.
By practicing intermittent fasting, you will reap enormous health benefits: detoxification of the body, development of beautiful muscles, acceleration of the metabolism, a slowdown of the aging process, healthy and lasting weight loss, etc. The effects of intermittent fasting have been documented very well. However, be sure to fast in the right way and follow the stated recommendations to avoid putting your health at risk.
Betsy is a true science nerd, down to the glasses. Her words, not mine! She works as a nurse specializing in pediatric nursing. She holds a Master’s degree from the University of Pennsylvania. She is passionate about all thing pregnancy and baby-related.