Intermittent fasting (IF) is one of the world’s most popular fitness trends that people are using to lose weight, improve their health and simplify their lifestyles.
Intermittent fasting is an eating pattern that cycles between periods of eating and fasting. There are many different ways of going about intermittent fasting, and all of them involve splitting the day or week into eating and fasting periods. The most common methods include:
The 16/8 method: Also called the Leangains protocol, this method of intermittent fasting is the most popular and easiest method to stick to and involves skipping breakfast and restricting the daily eating period to 8 hours, such as 1 p.m. to 9 p.m. followed by fasting for 16 hours. During fasting hours, one may consume beverages such as water, coffee or tea prepared with very little milk, green tea and buttermilk especially in hot and humid weather.
Eat-Stop-Eat: This involves fasting for 24 hours, once or twice a week.
The 5:2 diet: This method involves consuming only 500 to 600 calories on two non-consecutive days of the week, but eating normally on the other five days.
By following any of these fasting methods one should see some weight loss as long as one does not compensate by eating more during the eating periods.
Fasting has several benefits as many positive changes happen in the body on the cellular and molecular level. During fasting the level of the Human Growth Hormone (HGH) increases while the insulin level decreases. This causes the body to burn more fat and gain muscle. Fasting causes the body cells to change the expression of genes and initiate important cellular repair processes. Research studies conducted on intermittent fasting in both animals and humans have shown that it has many health benefits for the body and brain and may also help one live longer. There is also some evidence that intermittent fasting may not be as beneficial for women as it is for men.
While there is nothing dangerous if healthy and well-nourished individuals do not eat for a certain period of time, individuals with certain medical conditions should not undertake intermittent fasting. This includes people who are underweight, those with a history of eating disorders, those suffering from diabetes or problems with blood sugar regulation, those who have low blood pressure, those taking medications, a woman who is trying to conceive, a woman with history of amenorrhea, and pregnant or lactating mothers.
Although intermittent fasting has positive effects on health it has some side effects, hunger being the main one. Hunger can lead to overeating during the non-fasting hours which is not desirable. One may also temporarily feel weak and the brain may not perform as well as it used to. This happens because the body takes some time to adapt to the new meal schedule.
To be continued. . .
(Writer is a consultant nutritionist with 19 years of experience, practicing at Panaji and can be contacted on firstname.lastname@example.org)