If you’ve read much about weight loss or weight management in the last few years, chances are you’ve come across the term ‘Intermittent Fasting’ or IF for short. Celebrities like Hugh Jackman credit this style of eating for his lean, muscled physique in the X-Men movies, but is it possible for you to do this diet too? And reap the benefits?
You don’t have to be all jacked like Jackman to benefit from the myriad of health bonuses that have been linked to intermittent fasting.
So, here’s the benefits, and here’s how you can include intermittent fasting into your lifestyle.
1 – Weight Loss
Hello number one reason why so many people turn to intermittent fasting, to lose weight, and more specifically, belly fat.
One of the big misconceptions is that with intermittent fasting, you eat less food. While this is true of some of the methods, the 16:8 style of fasting for example requires you to eat your normal caloric intake in a shorter eating window of time.
Current research suggests that intermittent fasting can be a way to manage weight and reduce overall body weight. It does this by reducing insulin levels, which fall when we are not eating, and allowing the body to use it’s stored fat as ‘fuel’ rather than a constant supply of carbohydrates for fuel that it would otherwise use if eating at regular times.
2 – Better Mental Clarity
Fasting is often referred to as ‘exercise for the brain’ and has proven and anecdotal ‘side effects’ of better mental clarity and a reduction in brain fog. Many people also report that they are less affected by their usual 3pm slump.
3 – More Productive
It’s known that intermittent fasting is good for the brain, but it also plays a role in how productive you can be too. When fasting you don’t have to think about food, it can increase your energy (great for productivity) and boosts your brain function. Many people attribute intermittent fasting to their increased levels of productivity.
4 – Less ‘Decision Making’
The idea behind less decision making is to simplify your life. This can be done in many ways, meal prepping, organizing yourself the night before or even wearing the same outfit every day like Steve Jobs.
Intermittent Fasting can also play a role in simplifying your life as you don’t need to think about when you’re going to eat as your meal window is set for you, and you can eat the same food each day and achieve amazing results.
5 – Lower Blood Insulin Levels (Reducing Risk Of Type 2 Diabetes)
While it is known that obesity is a key indicator of risk of Type 2 Diabetes and that intermittent fasting can help reduce overall body weight, where intermittent fasting really helps reduce the risk of Type 2 Diabetes is in the role it plays in reducing blood insulin levels.
Intermittent fasting has been shown in human findings to have major benefits for insulin resistance and lowering blood insulin levels. Evidence shows that intermittent fasting may be highly beneficial in protecting not only those at risk of Type 2 Diabetes, but also a potential for reversing the disease for those who already have it.
6 – Better Heart Health
Heart disease is a major concern for many people, especially those in the ‘at risk’ population, including those who are obese (and those who have Type 2 Diabetes).
Intermittent fasting has been shown to have a positive affect on many key cardiac health indicators such as lowering blood pressure, lowering levels of LDL cholesterol (the ‘bad’ cholesterol linked to heart disease and stroke), reducing blood sugar levels and reducing inflammation.
7 – Better Brain Health
Intermittent fasting has been shown to help the brain recover from significant events such as trauma or stroke, and has also been linked to reducing Alzheimers Disease.
8 – Reduces Oxidative Stress and Inflammation
Oxidative stress and inflammation are the precursors to chronic disease and a myriad of health concerns. Studies have shown that intermittent fasting can help reduce oxidative stress and inflammation in the body, and possibly increase the body’s resistance to it in the future.
Types of Intermittent Fasting (How You Can Do It)
Intermittent fasting isn’t as complicated as you may think, and there are different variations of it that are endorsed to still provide health benefits.
This means that it’s far easier to find something you can stick with, and has a greater chance of lifestyle inclusion than a restrictive diet such as no carb, or low calorie.
You may find that a mix of these styles works best for you:
1 – 16:8 Method
This is the style made popular by Hugh Jackman and requires you to fast for 16 hours at a time, and consume your normal amount of calories during an 8 hour ‘eating’ window.
Keep in mind, your ‘normal’ calories is considered your recommended caloric intake and should still be made up of healthy, nutrient rich foods.
An example of this would be if you were to have your ‘eating’ window from 12pm to 8pm and then fasted overnight until 12pm the following day.
2 – The 5:2 Diet
Created and made popular by Doctor Michael Mosley, this diet involves calorically restricting your diet on 2 days per week, and eating ‘normally’ for the other 5.
Dr Mosley also recommends using time-restricted eating in this process as well.
Originally this diet was recommended as a 500 calorie restriction – that is eating only 500 calories on your fasting days, and your normal recommended caloric intake on the other 5 days, however, he has recently updated this to extend to 800 calories on your fasting days with similar results.
3 – Alternating Days
This is a ramped up version of the 5:2 diet that calls for a fasting day, or calorically restricted eating day, followed by a normal day, and then continuing this pattern.
4 – 24 Hour Fast
Not for the faint heart, the 24 hour fast requires exactly as it sounds, no eating for a 24 hour period.
Some people choose to do this as a day on, day off fasting basis, but positive effects have been shown to take place in the body when fasting for one 24 hour period at a time, indicating you could do this once a week or once a month and still have some health benefits.
General Guidelines For Intermittent Fasting Success
During your fasting times, be sure to consume enough water and stay well hydrated. Often hunger is confused with thirst and our bodies become dehydrated quickly.
You can also consume black coffee during your fasting window in addition to water.
Be sure to pay attention to your body. When making big changes to your diet it is common to hit a few roadblocks. Listening to your body is more important than sticking strictly to a fasting time window.
You may need to build up your fasting times, starting off with a smaller window and building up to your goals. This is okay – a good, sustainable, healthy diet isn’t created overnight.
Most of all, create a positive relationship with food. It is not the enemy, it’s not used for punishment or reward. It if fuel for your body.