Let’s dive into the world of intermittent fasting and check out why it’s the hot topic in the arena of fitness. We bring to you a complete intermittent fasting guide with factual data which will leave you well informed to make a gradual shift into the fasting culture.
What Is Intermittent Fasting?
Let’s start with some good news. If you were wondering what intermittent fasting was, well, you’ve been doing it every single day of your life! Intermittent fasting is conscious consumption of food in a fixed window of time and remaining without food when outside the window. For example, you must’ve participated in a fast for religious purposes where you go one whole day without eating. Intermittent fasting allows you to eat in a time frame that you choose for yourself. You’ve been doing it every night. Wonder how breakfast got its name? It’s the first meal of the day after a night of fasting.
Health Benefits Of Intermittent Fasting
No trend must be followed blindly, so let’s see some benefits to intermittent fasting and figure out why it’s so widely liked.
1. Fat Burning
Our insulin levels fall while intermittent fasting, allowing our fat cells to release their stored blood sugar levels to act as energy. If we allow our insulin levels to drop, we lose weight. Many people have seen drastic changes when they adapted this weight loss technique. The whole point is to allow insulin levels to drop low enough and for long enough that fat is burned off. Not to forget the obvious cut in calories due to restricted eating plays a big role in fat cutting.
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2. Higher Human Growth Hormone (HGH) Levels
Fasting promotes the production of HGH in our blood which stimulates fat burning and also muscle mass growth. People trying to gain lean muscle while keeping a fat mass low, must take this benefit from intermittent fasting.
3. Cellular Repair Preventing Chronic Diseases
Intermittent fasting triggers a “waste removal” process called Autophagy. Many diseases like heart diseases, Cancer and Alzheimer’s can be prevented due to the breakdown of dysfunctional protein that piles up in our cells over a period of time. This process helps re-cycle our cells, giving us a fresh slate to build out fitness goals on.
4. Pumps Brain Activity
Interesting animal studies revealed that eating in windows proves to help with age-related cognitive and metabolic problems. As age progresses, memory declines in rats the same way it does in humans. An intermittent regime proved to strengthen the memory in rats, research showed. A similar study conducted at King’s College, London showed promising results. It is speculated that similar results are seen in humans, although a study is still in the works to prove that.
5. Puts A Stop On Junk
If you’re fitness-oriented but just can’t let go of your favorite unhealthy snacks, this game-changing fasting routine is for you. When in the eating window, you’re sole focus is on your primary meals. The window will leave very little time for you to succumb to your unhealthy cravings since your eating habits will follow a strict routine and you’ll have to prep your meals according to your window.
6. Signs Of Improved Longevity
A 2007 study looked at oxidative stress and inflammation markers in ten overweight adults. The subjects used an alternate day fasting method in which they consumed less than 20% of their regular caloric intake every single day. Participants demonstrated a significant downfall in oxidative stress markers (protein carbonyls, nitrotyrosine, and 8-isoprostane) and a hike in the antioxidant uric acid after two months. Attendees not only lost 8% of their body weight but showed improvements in their cholesterol, triglycerides, and inflammation markers. As you can tell, the benefits are many.
Scientists and experts acknowledge that we can significantly slow down the aging process by limiting free radicals and increasing antioxidant content in the body (thus reducing oxidative stress).
Intermittent Fasting Plans
Intermittent fasting can be done with different ratios of eating and fasting time. It is advisable, to begin with, a wider eating window and if comfortable, you can gradually reduce the eating time. Let’s look at some options starting from beginner level to advanced level.
1. The 14:10 Intermittent Fasting Method
If you’re a beginner going from eating full time into the intermittent world, try this method out. If you’re habitual of going long periods without eating, then you can skip on to the new method. This time window will help you relax into the fasts. Try this for a week to ease into skipping meals and hop on to the next method when you’re feeling comfortable enough.
2. The 16:8 Intermittent Fasting Method
This method is known as the “Leangains protocol”. It involved an 8-hour eating window and a 16 hour fasting. This is the most widely adopted method. You can have 3 large meals with one snack in this period. This method instills the discipline of fasting in you. It will introduce you to the world of meal prepping and you can expect drastic results after dedicated efforts!
3. The 18:6 Intermittent Fasting Method
This method definitely climbs high in the chart as one of the more difficult regimes. You will have to get extremely creative with your meals since you’ll have to include all the necessary macros in a short eating window. This fasting method must be attempted only when you’ve perfected your eating patterns in the last methods.
4. Alternate-Day Intermittent Fasting Schedule (Warning – Dangerous)
This way is as extreme as it gets. It is not advisable for beginners who haven’t trained in intermittent fasting. This diet can be incredibly difficult to carry and can leave you feeling drained if not done properly. One day of dieting proceeds one day of eating pretty much anything at any time you’d like. If you feel fit enough to attempt this fasting cycle, make sure to consult your dietician before embarking on this journey. Try this for a week to see if this works for you.
What To Eat During Intermittent Fasting?
Intermittent fasting only restricts your diet window, not the variety of food you can consume as long as you’re making healthy food choices. You can even go for a pizza now and then but make sure to add some healthy veggies on the side. Let’s take a look at what’s advisable to consume during your window. Keep in mind that if you’re looking to lose weight, it’s a good idea to keep a track of your calories. Click here to see how many calories you should consume to lose weight. Try to break down your meals into an even number of calories to fill you up and keep you satiated.
Make a point to break your fasting period with some delicious fruits. Seasonal fruits are always a good choice since they provide you with a fresh boost of energy which is ideal to break your fast with. Take a small bowl with any fruits of your choice like bananas, oranges, papayas, watermelons, mangoes, or whatever suits your tastebuds. A proper breakfast can follow a while after with an abundance of carbs, fats, and protein. A healthy recommendation would be some overnight oats with protein powder. An additional topping of nuts and seeds can hike the nutritional value of the meal.
You can go traditional for this meal. If you’re homebound and your mouth is accustomed to Indian cooking, then go for it. Pulses can be a source of protein but a handful of soy chunks can add a significant among of protein to your meal. Spread a side of salad on your plate to balance your meal but make sure to boil your vegetables instead of frying them. Don’t forget to add healthy fats like ghee to keep your glycemic index low.
This will be the last meal of our day before your fasting begins. It’s preferable to keep these meals high on proteins and fats to keep you full for longer. The real test comes after dinner when the hunger pangs attack you, so it’s essential to face this test with a satisfied belly. Add protein to your meal in the form of tofu or paneer chunks. You can glaze them in butter to add a layer of fat. Peanut butter lovers can enjoy a spoonful with their dinner. Some complex carbs like daliya, potatoes, or beans can be added to whip up a complete and fulfilling dinner to keep your body fueled.
During the fasting state, your body might push you to wander from the fridge to kitchen cabinets looking for something to eat or drink. The goal during this period is to keep satiated through the fast and fortunately, we have ways of doing that. Try incorporating black coffee in your fasting period to cut your hunger. You can also try green tea to keep your tummy from rumbling but avoid it first thing in the morning. You can use green tea as an after-dinner drink to halt your hunger.
Who Shouldn’t Attempt Intermittent Fasting
Although all ages are eligible to take part in the intermittent fasting, you must not attempt this method if you come under any of these categories.
- Pregnant women must make no nutritional or calorific cuts from their diets to keep from hindering the growth of their baby.
- Individuals suffering from an eating disorder must stay away from these diets. They must focus on consuming their required calories and must eat any time they want.
- Type A diabetic patients must keep away from intermittent fasting.
- If you’re on medication that must be taken with food, intermittent fasting can be put on hold.
Intermittent fasting has many benefits in the world of never-ending shifts, excess variety of junk food, and reckless eating. It’s time to move back to the caveman times when food was only consumed when there was any available. We come from a history of fasters and their immunity has been passed on to it. We must respect this gift and follow in their footsteps!