There are a number of diets that come and go throughout the years, but only a few diets have survived long enough to become the golden standard of weight loss and lifestyle changes. One of those would be intermittent fasting, a regimented style of eating that may have been utilized since the time humans were hunters and gatherers or those seeking enlightenment. If you are looking to control your weight or drop a few pounds, intermittent fasting might be for you.
What is Intermittent Fasting?
Also abbreviated as IF, intermittent fasting is the practice of eating within a set period of time, or window, while abstaining from food consumption for an equal or longer window of time. During the period where you aren’t consuming anything, the body swaps burning glucose for fat—flipping a metabolic switch, so to speak—because it needs a different kind of fuel. The fatty acids that are absorbed produce ketones, which, in turn, become a source of energy.
There are several types of intermittent fasting, including:
- 12/12 Method – You might be doing this style of IF without realizing it. Basically, you eat within a 12 hour window then fast for another 12 hours. For instance, if you finish eating at 7:00 PM the day before and have breakfast at 7:00 AM the next day, you successfully fasted for 12 hours.
- 16/8 Method – Similar to above, the 16/8 is about restricting your eating time to 8 hours instead of 12 hours. This means you will be eating 2-3 larger meals in a day. You will likely finish your meals around 7:00 PM the day before and eat the next day’s first meal around 9:00 or 10:00 AM.
- 20/4 Method – This is a more intense style. You only have 4 hours to eat food and fast for 20 hours.
- 5:2 Diet or Cycling – Also known as Alternate Day Fasting (ADF), the 5:2 means you severely restrict calories on 2 days a week (about 500 calories max) then eat whatever you want for the remaining 5 days. Some people also cycle their caloric intake, having high and low days that consist of various IF methods.
What are the Benefits of Intermittent Fasting?
- Less Caloric Intake – The main reason people start intermittent fasting is to restrict their caloric intake. Since you have a cut off time, you can prevent binge eating and other unnecessary snacking. One study even found that IF is not only effective in helping you cut calories; you can also keep your lean muscle mass!
- Fat Burner – According to a study from Cell Research, using IF for 16 weeks or longer can prevent obesity. The researchers noted that IF increases fat burning by generating more body heat, since the body starts burning more fat. This could also help with preventing heart conditions and metabolic syndromes, such as diabetes.
- Longer Lifespan – A study conducted at Harvard found that IF lengthens the energy production period of your cell’s mitochondria. This could increase your lifespan by warding off the natural decrease of mitochondria in your cells as you age. Having more mitochondria when you’re older means that your body will be able to function better than those who lack these cells. This could also help with keeping your mind sharp!
While many diets have come and gone, intermittent fasting is a great way to restrict calories and get your health back in your control. Because IF is more or less about limiting calories to create a fat-burning environment rather than limiting types of food, it is great for those with dietary restrictions as well.