Here’s What You Need To Know About Intermittent Fasting
If the word “fasting” sends you running to the nearest burger joint, just take a deep breath and hear us out for a second. There’s a reason why this dieting pattern has taken the health world by storm, so we might as well understand why people are choosing to go without food for long periods of time for the sake of their health.
Intermittent fasting typically comes in two forms: eat normally five days of the week and only consume 500 calories (or a quarter of a normal day’s calories) within a particular time window on the remaining two days. Alternatively, it can mean consistently restricting your eating time to a 8 to 12-hour window of the day. Both approaches have a fair number of pros and cons, but the general idea is that you end up eating less when potential mealtime is restricted to a smaller timeframe.
The science behind why it works focuses on how your body processes glucose (a.k.a. sugar). According to nutritional scientist Krista Varady, you work through your available glucose stores in about 10 hours, so once that’s spent, your body looks to your fat storage for fuel. This is why with intermittent fasting, 90 percent of weight lost is comprised of fat (instead of 75 percent as with most typical diets), leaving more muscle mass intact. And by retaining the muscle you have, your metabolism is protected from any unwanted damage.
Intermittent fasting is not necessarily the quickest way to lose weight, but there is some promising research regarding its health benefits. One study found that overweight adults who cut their calories by 20 percent every other day dropped 8 percent of their body weight over an 8-week monitoring period. Not too shabby. Additional research from the University of Illinois suggested that a person’s cholesterol, triglycerides, inflammation and blood sugar also improve when using the alternating fasting day method. And another study from the University of Florida concluded that intermitting fasting done the right way could help you live longer.
So instead of cutting back calories constantly and eliminating food groups, you just pay attention to the timing of your eating (and the amount two days a week if you choose to go that route). You’d think that digging into whatever food you want on non-fasting days or during non-fasting times would offset the deficit you create during fasting, but your stomach adjusts to consuming less for longer periods of time and therefore doesn’t need as much to feel full.
Now, all of this research isn’t suggesting that switching up your eating habits and adopting a fasting method is an easy thing to do. In fact, the difficulty level of this diet is pretty high. If you want to give it a try (and consult your doctor first), you’ll likely experience greater success — and feel better in the process — if you ease your way into the time restriction rather than go full force with the maximum fasting window option. So instead of working with just an 8-hour eating window, start with 12 hours, see how you feel, and shorten it slowly if you think it feels right for your body.
And even though this diet quickly hit fad territory, be smart about how you approach it. You know it’s never a good idea to binge on a ton of pizza, french fries and cake just because it’s eating time. Keep yourself honest (and healthy) and choose foods that will serve your body nutritionally in between those fasting windows. Otherwise, you’re just wasting your time and starving a couple days out of the week for no reason.