You may have heard about it – it’s the latest diet craze in the fitness community around the world. But what does it mean and what are the benefits? Can fasting be dangerous? Here are a few basic facts that will help you understand what IF is all about.
The basic concept of Intermittent Fasting is to fast (consume no calories) for a number of hours and consume all your daily calories within an eating window. The most popular protocols are 16:8 (16hr fast, 8 hr eat), 18:6, 20:4 and 23:1. There also exist other variations such as:
– Eat-Stop-Eat: This involves fasting for 24 hours, once or twice a week, for example by not eating from dinner one day until dinner the next day.
– The 5:2 Diet: On two non-consecutive days of the week, only eat 500-600 calories. Eat normally the other 5 days.
Generally the length of your eating window should be thought through and depend on your goals and expectations.
What’s the point?
Firstly, Intermittent Fasting enables dieters to limit their number of calories consumed by having shorter eating windows. It’s important to remember the IF alone is not a weight loss tool – you can use it for that by reducing food/calorie intake. Your body learns to cope with hunger and regulates your blood sugar which helps you control cravings. More importantly, it has been proven that several things happen in the body during a fast. For example, your body changes hormone levels to make stored body fat accessible.Your cells also initiate important repair processes, and change the expression of genes. Your body initiates these valuable processes:
- Increased Human Growth Hormone – enables muscle growth and fat loss
- Insulin Sensitivity Improves – leads to easier fat loss
- Cellular repair
- Gene expression – changes in the function of genes related to longevity and protection against disease
These changes in hormone levels, cell function and gene expression are responsible for
the health benefits of intermittent fasting
The concept is based upon the belief that our ancestors didn’t have food easily accessible and they sometimes fasted for days, maybe weeks at a time. It is believed that their bodies were able to efficiently regulate and use stored fat for energy to keep them strong and fit at all times.
Giving it a go
Fasting can be a great, cleansing experience for your body and mind. In most cases Intermittent fasting is quite safe. If you want to try it out – go easy at first. If still unsure, consult your physician.