If you’re always aiming to stay in the know on the latest health news and trends, you’ve probably heard of intermittent fasting. It seems that everyone is using IF to either lose weight, improve their health, or both! Studies have even shown that following this eating pattern can boost brain health, too. If you’re thinking about hopping on the fasting train, you’re in the right place! So grab a green juice and keep reading for more information about intermittent fasting.
What is Intermittent Fasting?
Intermittent fasting isn’t a diet — it’s an eating pattern where you cycle between eating and fasting. Technically, no foods are off-limits when intermittent fasting — it’s more about when the foods should be consumed.
There isn’t just one way to fast — there are several different methods, all of which will split days or weeks into eating and fasting periods. Some forms of intermittent fasting even allow small amounts of low-calorie food while you’re in fasting mode. You can also enjoy water, black coffee, tea, and other non-caloric beverages.
The Benefits of Intermittent Fasting
There are many benefits of intermittent fasting, from weight loss to longevity. So if you’re considering a new eating schedule, keep these reported benefits in mind:
- No crash diets here! Intermittent fasting can help you lose weight and belly fat without succumbing to a trendy diet or meal plan.
- Studies have shown that sticking to an eating schedule can reduce markers of inflammation, which lessens your chance of some diseases.
- Following a fasting schedule may help reduce LDL cholesterol and blood triglycerides — risk factors for heart disease.
- Intermittent fasting may protect against Type 2 diabetes, as it reduces insulin resistance, lowering blood sugar by 3-6% and fasting insulin levels by 20-31%.
- Fasting increases the brain hormone BDNF and helps aid new nerve cells. There are also studies that have reported it may protect against Alzheimer’s disease.
What Happens During a Fast
Several different things happen in the human body when it fasts. When taking a break from eating, your body adjusts its hormone levels to make stored body fat more accessible to burn. Other important changes occur when fasting:
- Levels of Human Growth Hormone skyrocket, which has fat loss and muscle gaining benefits.
- Insulin levels can drop dramatically, which makes stored body fat accessible.
- Cells initiate important reparative processes like autophagy, where cells remove old dysfunctional proteins.
- Genes related to longevity and protection against disease begin to change.
Methods of Fasting
While every method of intermittent fasting can be effective, you may find that you prefer one over the others. Here are some of the most popular plans to try:
The 16/8 Method
Breakfast skippers, you’ll love this one! This method, also known as the Leangains protocol, involves fasting every day for 14-16 hours with an eating window of 8-10 hours. If 14-16 hours sounds like a long time to go without food, it’s actually as simple as not eating anything after dinner and skipping breakfast! If you love breakfast, you may struggle with this a bit at first. But keep in mind that you can drink water, black coffee and other zero-calorie beverages, which can help curb hunger until lunchtime.
This plan involves fasting for 24 hours once or twice per week. You can eat freely for the other 5-6 days of the week, but it’s recommended to eat well — no junk food! For your fasting day, you’ll also want to make sure you’re staying hydrated. Also note that if you have a history of disordered eating, you may not want to go with this plan.
The 5:2 Method
If the thought of going without food entirely for a prolonged period of time makes you nervous, you may want to try the 5:2 Method or Fast Diet! This involves eating as you normally would for 5 days of the week and then restricting your calorie intake to 500-600 calories for 2 days of the week.
The Warrior Diet
Popularized by fitness expert Ori Hofmekler, this schedule involves “fasting” with small amounts of raw fruits and vegetables during the day and then feasting on a large meal at night within a four-hour eating window.
This method is pretty straightforward — you will fast every other day. While a full fasting day isn’t recommended for beginners, there are other versions of this plan that allow for about 500 calories during the fasting days. It’s also worth noting that you may end up going to bed very hungry several times per week. So if you’re the type to get hangry, you may want to try another plan.
If you prefer to skip the structure and eat more intuitively, you can also just skip meals from time to time when you’re simply not hungry or too busy to eat. Skipping meals when you wish is essentially a small spontaneous fast.
Who Should Avoid Intermittent Fasting?
If you have a history of disordered eating or are currently underweight, it’s not recommended for you to fast. And remember, it’s always best to consult with your doctor or a health professional before making any major changes to your diet.
Planning on switching up your eating schedule and skipping coffee? We have some amazing matcha recommendations for you to try!
Allison is a writer, Bruce Springsteen enthusiast, and sixth-generation Texan living in Denton, Texas.