Intermittent fasting is having a moment in the world of diet trends RN, and anything that doesn’t involve spending way too much money on banting bars and paleo trail mix already has our attention. At a glance it involves periods of fasting and is great for weight loss and improved health. Best of all you won’t have to give up your favourite foods to do it.
Intermittent Fasting: Everything You Need to Know
What is intermittent fasting?
We usually associate fasting with religion or preparing to go in for surgery, but the practice is also great for weight loss and health. Although it’s commonly referred to as one, it isn’t technically a diet but rather a term for a way of eating that cycles between periods of eating and not eating. Instead of recommending and limiting certain foods, the hours during which you eat are affected. There are a number of different ways you can try intermittent fasting ranging from the doable (fasting for 16 hours a day) to the only-for-the-brave (doing full 24-hour fasting periods).
What are the different methods?
There are a few variations on intermittent fasting but they all essentially involve splitting your days or weeks up into periods of eating and fasting. While fasting you consume nothing but water, coffee and/or tea (‘cos it’s much easier to miss breakfast if you have a coffee in you). These are the most popular versions of intermittent fasting:
The 16:8 Method
Probably the easiest one to do, this method basically involves simply skipping breakfast. You fast for 16 hours of the day and eat during the other 8. You can select which hours you’d like to spend eating and which you’d like to spend hangry; whatever will suit your lifestyle best. Most people do 12pm until 8pm so you don’t have to be that annoying person ruining everyone’s dinner plans for your new diet.
The 5:2 Method
For this method you’ll eat normally for five days a week and only consume 500 calories on the other two days, making sure your fasting days don’t run consecutively.
The Eat-Stop-Eat Method
This calls for a whole 24 hours of fasting, twice a week. So for two non-consecutive days you’ll eat dinner then not eat until dinnertime the next day. This one is not for the faint of heart.
The Warrior Diet
If you don’t mind fasting for long periods of time provided you get to stuff your face a disgusting amount at the end of it then the warrior method could suit you. Your days will be divided into 20 hours of fasting and four hours of eating as much as you want. During your fasting period you’re allowed to have a small amount of nuts and eggs so you don’t, like, pass out.
Who is it for?
Intermittent fasting is aimed more at weight loss than eating healthily. If you eat really well and just want to shift a few kilos you should totally try it. But if you’re the type who eats pain au chocolat for breakfast and thinks a 500ml Coke isn’t big enough then you would need to look at changing your actual diet as well. The health benefits of fasting won’t be as significant if you spend your eating periods chowing on Cadbury’s biscuit slabs (although we wouldn’t blame you ‘cos how good are those?!).
What does intermittent fasting do to your body?
When you fast your body takes action in a way that make this eating plan really effective for losing weight. Your insulin levels drop and your growth hormones go up, which are both useful in getting your body to use it’s fat reserves. This change in hormones can also increase your metabolic rate, by up to 14%. Your calorie intake will probably lessen too, provided you don’t overdo the bingeing. Because you’re eating fewer meals, fasting could also mean you end up spending less money on food and less time washing up.
Aside from weight loss fasting also puts your body into repair mode. While you’re in a fasting state your cells induce autophagy, which is a defence mechanism against infection, malignancy and disease. So your cells are basically checking into rehab while you temporarily starve yourself; pretty cool.
What foods to eat and avoid
The best bit about intermittent fasting is you can eat whatever you want. There is no rule that says you’re only allowed to eat that 98% dark chocolate that honestly might as well be a piece of tree bark, no limit to the carbs you can drench in cheese, and no mention of cauliflower mash. That said, it is encouraged that you eat whole, unprocessed foods and be mindful about what you’re eating.
Are there any negative side effects?
After a while of intermittent fasting your body will get used to your new eating cycle but be warned: the first few days, or even weeks, are pretty hard. You’re going to get hungry, really hungry and might also suffer from low energy, headaches, constipation and feeling cranky AF. You need to drink lots of water and potentially avoid super strenuous exercise during this period. If you are someone with a history of eating disorders then intermittent fasting is not a good option for you. It is also not recommended for pregnant women, people with diabetes, someone who is underweight, women trying to conceive, or if you have issues with blood sugar regulation.
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