Intermittent fasting is a popular way of eating that doesn't quite fall into the category of "diet", despite its impressive weight-loss results.
With intermittent fasting, you can still eat whatever foods you like, and this is precisely why so many people love it! It can be an enjoyable way of eating that fends off unwanted weight gain and decreases the risk of cardiovascular disease in a relatively unrestricted manner.
The catch is simply that it involves periods of fasting—either with reduced food intake, or sometimes periods of no food at all.
There are several types of intermittent fasting, some more extreme and others less so, but the underlying feature is that restricting food consumption temporarily decreases overall caloric intake and can alter hormones into a fat-burning state.
Beginners intermittent fasting can expect to see results in as little as a few weeks.
The most common type of intermittent fasting is what's known as a time-restricted method.
This involves an eating window where you can consume any foods you'd like at any time followed by a period of fasting with no caloric intake.
It's still essential to consume calorie-free liquids during the fasting window to stay hydrated.
Water, black coffee, and tea are all allowed and encouraged.
The length of the fasting windows for this method of eating is completely up to personal preference, however, the most frequently used lengths are 16:8, and 14:10 hours of fasting to hours of eating.
This may sound like a long time to go without food, but the fasting window generally extends overnight when 7-9 hours already account for time spent sleeping.
Most intermittent fasters simply choose to delay eating their first meal by a few hours, or instead they may make sure to finish their food for the day a few hours before bed.
There are plenty of other intermittent fasting options, but the time-restricted method is the easiest to start with for a first-time faster.
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Switches Metabolism into "Fat-Burning" Mode
The main claim behind the hype of intermittent fasting is that it switches the body's metabolism from running on carbohydrates as an energy source to burning body fat for fuel.
This usually takes between 10 to 36 hours of fasting, depending on your individual glucose stores and the amount of energy you burn through metabolic activities.
Many people find this effect of intermittent fasting to be particularly helpful for stubborn-fat loss.
It's a slow and steady method for decreasing fat mass, so results may take some time to appear.
Another reason this eating strategy can be so beneficial is that it provides structure to one's eating schedule which can help instill healthier eating habits.
More specifically, it can minimize the risk of overeating at night or accidentally grazing on snacks throughout the day.
This can add an impressive amount of unintended calories and sabotage weight-loss goals.
Healthy eating efforts tend to come in sporadic periods of high motivation which is not a sustainable thing to rely on.
In the end, it's good habits that largely determine weight loss success, so sticking to an eating structure that doesn't rely on sheer willpower and instead instills good habits like intermittent fasting can help avoid the slippery slope of accidentally overeating.
Once you become accustomed to an intermittent fasting lifestyle, avoiding unnecessary snacks and treats during the fasting window will become second nature.
A third benefit of intermittent fasting is that it can help you become better attuned to your natural hunger cues. Hunger cues are your body's way of letting you know when you need food for energy, or when you need time to digest.
Unfortunately, it's all too common for most people to be completely out of touch with listening to what their body needs.
This can happen because of stress, constant overeating, or consuming foods that interfere with normal hunger cue sensitivity.
Intermittent fasting can help reset hunger cues and better allow you to recognize when you're truly hungry, or when you're simply eating mindlessly out of habit or for emotional reasons.
The final benefit of intermittent fasting extends beyond weight-loss goals and can have a major effect on overall health.
This benefit is the gut-health-boosting effects of intermittent fasting. Many people struggle with digestive issues in modern society.
It's become commonplace to experience chronic bloating, gas, and constipation so much that people tend to not even consider it to be out of the ordinary and worth addressing.
However, gut health plays a huge role in energy, mental health, metabolism, and more, so optimizing its well-being is well worth the time investment.
It's safe to say that most people's digestive tracts are not in the best shape and could use a break to begin repairing themselves. This is exactly what intermittent fasting does.
The period without food helps the body fully digest heavy foods, heal the gut lining, and even boost the gut microbiome. All of this contributes to more comfortable digestion, a healthier weight, and countless other health benefits.
Also Read: 27 The Best Diet Tips for Weight Loss
While there are clearly plenty of potential benefits from intermittent fasting, it's not a suitable lifestyle for everyone and there are always serious risks to consider before delving into any new dietary protocol.
Consulting a dietitian or a health practitioner first is always a good precaution to take, as well as staying attuned to your body's needs throughout the experience.
Individuals who have past struggles with eating disorders or a current tendency towards them should stay clear of any restrictive eating habits (with the exclusion of medical concerns), which intermittent fasting does fall under.
It's also unwise for children and teens who are still growing to try intermittent fasting since they need a regular adequate supply of nutrition to develop optimally.
Pregnant and breastfeeding moms should also prioritize proper nourishment and leave intermittent fasting to try at some point well past postpartum.
Even if you don't fall into those groups, intermittent fasting may still not be for you. Some people don't thrive with its restrictive nature and may experience low energy, general irritability, and other unpleasant side effects.
If this is the case, feel free to skip this style of eating and experiment with other strategies that work better for you. Intermittent fasting can be wonderful for some individuals.
You may just find it to be the simplest way to maintain a healthy weight, avoid overeating, and enjoy the foods you crave, all while reducing your risk of cardiovascular disease.
Experience is the best teacher, so keeping an open mind and paying attention to how your body responds to this eating strategy is the surest way to find out if it's a suitable lifestyle for you.
This website is an informational purpose only, contact a physician or specialist doctor for your health problem.
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