What is Intermittent Fasting and How Does it Work?
Intermittent fasting, an eating plan involving alternating periods of fasting and eating on a regular schedule, has gained attention for its potential to manage weight and potentially reverse certain diseases. The concept revolves around when you eat rather than what you eat.
With intermittent fasting, individuals adhere to specific eating times.
Research suggests that fasting for a set number of hours each day or consuming only one meal a couple of days a week can offer health benefits.
Neuroscientist Mark Mattson from Johns Hopkins, who has studied intermittent fasting extensively, points out that our bodies evolved to withstand extended periods without food, as seen in prehistoric times when humans were hunters and gatherers.
In modern times, lifestyle changes, such as prolonged screen time and constant access to entertainment, have contributed to unhealthy eating habits, leading to increased obesity, diabetes, and heart disease.
How does it work?
Intermittent fasting works by extending the time between consuming calories, allowing the body to deplete sugar stores and initiate fat burning—a process referred to as metabolic switching.
There are various approaches to intermittent fasting, including daily time-restricted eating, such as the 16/8 method, and the 5:2 approach, involving regular eating for five days and limited caloric intake on two non-consecutive days. Longer fasting periods, exceeding 24 hours, may not be advisable.
It’s crucial to consult with a doctor before starting intermittent fasting. The adjustment period to this eating pattern may cause initial discomfort, but adherents often report feeling better once acclimated.
What should I eat when doing intermittent fasting?
During fasting periods, water and zero-calorie beverages are allowed. When eating, a balanced and nutritious diet is recommended, with a preference for the Mediterranean diet, emphasizing leafy greens, healthy fats, lean protein, and whole grains.
Benefits of Intermittent Fasting
Research indicates that intermittent fasting offers benefits beyond fat burning, influencing body and brain health. Studies show improvements in memory, heart health, physical performance, and potential benefits for type 2 diabetes patients.
However, intermittent fasting may not be suitable for everyone, including children, pregnant or breastfeeding women, individuals with type 1 diabetes, and those with a history of eating disorders.
Individual responses to intermittent fasting can vary, and it’s essential to seek medical advice if unusual symptoms occur.