Intermittent fasting (IF) has become a popular method of weight loss recently. As great as that is, there are so many other benefits of IF.
This article will discuss all you need to know about IF:
- What is intermittent fasting?
- What happens to the body during a fast?
- What type of fast is right for me?
What Is Intermittent Fasting?
Fasting has been practiced for thousands of years, dating back to the 5th century BCE. People abstained from eating or drinking, usually for religious or ethical reasons. However, food scarcity links fasting back to the hunter-gatherer days. Humans are wired to cycle between periods of feasting and fasting.
The term intermittent fasting refers to the cycle of eating and fasting on a regular schedule, with an emphasis on when to eat, not what. This term gained popularity in recent years as people searched for ways to lose weight without giving up their favorite foods; all they had to do was eat them during certain times. Is IF a diet craze? Is it a fad that will eventually fade as other diets become more popular?
To answer that, we must look at the science behind IF, so…
What Happens To The Body During A Fast?
There are amazing things that happen within your body when you don’t eat any food. The minute right after you stop eating is generally considered the start of your fast. The following will be a breakdown of what happens to the body during the fasting period.
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13 Hours-Increase of Growth Hormone
Growth Hormone (GH) is produced by the pituitary gland and is responsible for regulating fluids, muscle and bone growth, metabolism, and heart function. GH increases the longer you fast.
The body creates ketones around the 12-13-hour mark. When the body is low on glucose, the liver makes ketones from fat and sends them into the bloodstream. Ketones fuel the brain and the central nervous system.
15 Hours-Autophagy Kicks In
Autophagy means “self-eating”. The body now starts to realize that blood sugar is low and there is no food being consumed. This forces the cells to work more efficiently. The body will then clean and recycle (or kill off) damaged cells in order to preserve the body, thus detoxing the body.
18 Hours-Autophagy Is At Full Force
This is where the adverse side effects of fasting can kick in. Some of these side effects include swollen joints, weight gain, brain fog, and hair loss. This is the result of the detoxification of the body due to autophagy being at full force.
You can prevent this by eating nutrient-dense foods to meet your nutrient needs during the feasting period, especially protein. Eating a low-carb high-fat diet will also help prevent brain fog.
24 Hours-Production Of Stem Cells Increases
With the blood sugar slowly going down, the 24-hour period is when the body starts to initiate the growth of stem cells in the intestines, repairing the gut.
48 Hours-Significant Improvement With Autoimmune Conditions
Prolonged fasting studies have shown that the body will use the fasting period to kill off any damaged cells and use the refeeding period to rebuild and generate new cells. Fasting has been used to alleviate and possibly reverse autoimmune diseases including Rheumatoid Arthritis, Diabetes, and Multiple Sclerosis.
72 Hours-Immune System Fully Regenerates
Fasting in general will lower your white blood cells. This then triggers the immune system to generate more white blood cells to fight infection. Fasting can also protect cancer patients from the toxic effects of chemotherapy. In fact, fasting for 72 hours can reset the entire immune system.
Now that you know the general timeline of fasting and its benefits to the body, the next thing to consider is the types of fasts to choose from.
Types Of Intermittent Fasts
These are some intermittent fasting (IF) variations to fit your lifestyle:
- Time Restricted Fasts-13 hour, 16:8, 18:6, 20:4
When you are first experimenting with IF, it is best to start small. Your first goal is to try to go 13 hours without food. It’s not about skipping breakfast or dinner, but rather to eat your necessary calories within the 11-hour feasting period. You are allowed to drink water, tea, and black coffee during the day.
Once you have successfully and consistently completed the 13 hours fast, then the next goal is the 16:8 fast, and so on. Once you continually decrease your feasting period, you will find that it can be difficult to consume so much food in such a short time.
Try to eat bigger meals so you don’t have to eat so often. For example, if you do a 18:6 fast, eat your meals at noon and at 6 p.m. You will eat two meals instead of three, and you will eat more calories at each meal. Then you will fast from 6 p.m. to noon the next day.
- One Meal A Day (OMAD)
Once you have mastered the time-restricted fasts, you can try OMAD. You will fast for 23 hours and eat during the last hour. What time you choose to eat is up to you-whatever fits your lifestyle.
It is imperative that you do not reduce your calories. Although it may be difficult to eat a lot of calories in one sitting, you can achieve this by eating high fat (high caloric) foods to keep you full and low carb foods to avoid a rapid spike in insulin.
- 5:2 Fasting
For this fast, you will eat your normal meals and number of calories for 5 days. On the other two fasting days, you only consume 500 calories max. It is best not do two fasting days in a row, so stagger them throughout your week.
- Alternate Day Fasting (ADF)
ADF is similar to the 5:2, except that you will eat on alternate days consistently. You can modify this fast by consuming 500 calories max on the fasting days.
- 3 Day Fast
The 3-day fast is for the hardcore dieters who have experimented with other fasts and have had success with them. Generally, people who choose to do prolonged fasts like the 3 day fast have a desire to reap the benefits of gut health, anti-aging, and even more fat loss.
If you choose to attempt this fast, no food will enter your body for 3 days! You are allowed to drink water, tea, or coffee on this fast. While exercising at low, moderate, and high intensities during the above fasts is allowed, it is not recommended that you do any rigorous exercises during the 3 day fast. You probably will be low on energy and will not be able to perform as well. You want to keep the exercise very low impact, like walking for 30 minutes.
- Dry Fast
The dry fast is abstaining from all fluids and food for an extended period of time. It is not recommended for long periods of time. Start out with 12 hours of dry fasting.
Why on earth would anyone want to do this? It turns out that dry fasting has several benefits, including lowering inflammation, growing new brain cells, balancing cholesterol levels, lowering glucose levels, and preventing osteoporosis.
What Foods Should I Be Eating After IF?
When you are ready to break your fast, you will want to consume nutrient-rich foods that will be gentle on the stomach. Here are some example of foods to consume:
- leafy greens
Sources: Fasting Hour By Hour, NIH, The Source