The Guide to Intermittent Fasting for Weight Loss
If you’ve heard of intermittent fasting, you aren’t alone, as it’s quite the hot topic in the health and nutrition world right now! But if you’ve heard of it, yet have no idea what it is, or how to do it correctly, you also aren’t alone. Many people who try intermittent fasting end up loving it and many experience awesome results, supporting the research that it can be a helpful tool in support of your overall health goals.
But if you don’t know much about this method of eating (and not eating), it can definitely raise a lot of questions such as… “Is it safe not to eat for an extended period of time?”, “Won’t I be hungry all day?”, and “Can you use intermittent fasting for weight loss?”
In addition, it’s important to note that intermittent fasting for men can look a lot different than intermittent fasting for women. In fact, women are encouraged to follow a less strict fasting schedule, and exercise caution if they notice any changes in their menstrual cycles. That being said, if done correctly, intermittent fasting can bring about great results for women as well.
In this article, we’re going to take a look at what intermittent fasting is, major intermittent fasting benefits, and how you can potentially use this type of eating schedule to improve your health and simplify your life. Let’s start at the beginning…
What Is Intermittent Fasting?
Intermittent fasting is an eating schedule where you only consume food (or drinks containing calories), within certain periods of time – and the rest of the time, you fast. This means that you don’t consume anything that adds calories into your body within the fasting time-frame. There are also different types of fasting schedules (which we’ll go into a bit later), and you have the freedom to choose the one that works best with your individual lifestyle and goals.
Even though intermittent fasting guides when you should and should not eat, there are no restrictions on what you can eat. Therefore, you can pair intermittent fasting with any type of eating plan you desire; But note that you will see the best results when paired with a clean, balanced diet and other healthy lifestyle practices.
Is Intermittent Fasting Difficult (And Safe)?
Though it may seem strange at first to go for an extended period of time without food, fasting is actually more of a natural practice, (going back to hunter-gatherer times), than it is to eat 3-4 meals per day.
In the past, food was not as readily available as it is today, so as humans, we’ve already evolved to be able to survive (and still thrive) without food for extended periods of time. It can also give the body a welcome break from the process of digestion.
Not only can intermittent fasting be completely safe, (as long as you’re a generally healthy individual and follow IF guidelines correctly), it typically can be much easier than you think. In fact, you’ve probably already done it before without realizing… for instance if you ate dinner then slept in the next day and didn’t eat until lunchtime.
While most people think they need to eat every few hours to feel good and energized, the body can typically adjust pretty well to a fasting schedule – with many people reporting that they feel less hungry, and more energetic while fasting.
Intermittent Fasting Benefits
So now that you know that you can fast, let’s talk about why you might want to do it. Based on the research, there are many potential benefits of intermittent fasting. Here are some of the major ones…
1) May Promote Weight Loss
Studies show that many people naturally lose weight when they start intermittent fasting (especially belly fat). This is most likely because it can help to reduce calorie intake, and may increase metabolic rate, helping to burn more calories.
The key here for success, however, is that within the window that you do eat, you don’t binge eat, (especially on unhealthy foods). Instead, you should focus on nutritious, clean foods in normal portions during the hours when you eat.
2) Supports Heart and Brain Health
Studies show that intermittent fasting may also protect your health in various ways, including two of the key areas – heart and brain health. The fasting period may help reduce bad cholesterol, blood triglycerides, and other risk factors for heart disease. In addition, it may also assist with the growth of new nerve cells in the brain, and support healthy memory as you age.
3) May Reduce Inflammation
According to research, following an intermittent fasting schedule may also help reduce inflammation in the body – which is one of the main culprits of many chronic diseases.
4) Supports Increased Longevity
Due to the fact that it can reduce inflammation and protect against disease, intermittent fasting may also potentially help you live longer. In studies, intermittent fasting increased the lifespan of rats by 36-83%.
5) Can Help Simplify Your Life
Probably the most functional benefit of intermittent fasting from a day-to-day standpoint is that it can help simplify your life. Less meals means less meal-planning, cooking and clean-up from those meals.
Types of Intermittent Fasting Schedules
To reap the potential benefits of intermittent fasting, there are different methods you can follow, outlined below. In addition, keep reading if you’re a woman, because in the next section we’ll discuss how these methods can be slightly altered to better suit a female's unique needs.
In addition, keep in mind that if one of these schedules doesn’t work for you, or you don’t think you’ll be able to stick to it all the time – that’s okay. Research shows that there are benefits to fasting in general, even if you don’t do it on a regular schedule. So, even if you only do it periodically when suits you, you may still reap some of the benefits.
Most Popular Intermittent Fasting Methods:
16/8 Method – With this fasting schedule, you only eat within an 8 hour window each day, and fast for the other 16 hours. Typically people skip breakfast and just eat lunch and dinner, but you could do whatever works for you. An example day would be an eating window of 12pm – 8pm. In this example, your first meal of the day would take place at or after 12:00pm and your last meal would have to be completed by 8pm.
Eat-Stop-Eat – This fasting method involves not eating for 24 hours (once or twice a week), and then eating normally the rest of the time. An example would be not eating from dinner one day until dinner the next day.
5:2 Diet – This method involves the restriction of your daily calories to 25% of your normal intake (which is about 500-600 calories total) for two non-consecutive days a week, (while eating normally the other five days).
Now, if you’re a woman, let’s take a look at what you should specifically keep in mind if you’re thinking about following an intermittent fasting schedule…
Intermittent Fasting for Women 101
If you’re a woman, and you would like to get in on the intermittent fasting extravaganza, you likely still can – with the approval of your doctor. And studies show that you can still reap the same benefits as men; However, it’s also suggested to go at it less aggressively than men…
This is because a woman’s body is much more sensitive to calorie restriction than a man’s. Basically, if you fast for too long or too often, it could potentially mess with hormones that affect your fertility, ability to have regular periods, bone health and more.
The bottom line is everyone’s body is different, and if you’re a woman that’s interested in intermittent fasting, you should follow some recommendations outlined below, while also using your own judgement.
If you try it and feel great, (and notice no difference in your menstrual cycles), then you should be able to proceed. But if you start to have irregular periods, than you should be even less aggressive with it, or stop it completely. Above all, we recommend you check with your healthcare provider before starting any type of intermittent fasting schedule, whether you’re a man or a woman.
Best Types of Intermittent Fasting Schedules for Women:
Crescendo Method – Fast for 12-16 hours for two or three nonconsecutive days during the week). For a 12-hour fast, this would look like eating from 8am until 8pm each day than not eating until 8am the following day.
Eat-Stop-Eat (24 hour fast) – This method is the same as described in the section above for men, except it’s recommended to start with a 14-16 hour fast and gradually build up.
5:2 Diet – This is also the same as the one for men, starting with slightly more than the standard 500-600 calories, 2 days a week and working your way to the lower calorie amount.
Modified Alternate-Day Fasting – Just like the 5:2 Diet except for this one you fast every other day.
16/8 Method: Just like the one mentioned above for men, except it’s recommended that women start with 14-hour fasts and gradually build up to 16 hours.
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