Intermittent Fasting: Benefits, Side Effects, Fasting Rules

The Internet is going gaga over this new way of fasting to get to your ideal body weight- Intermittent Fasting! It is also known as a 16:8 fasting cycle in which the individuals fast for 16 hours in a day and consume their share of calories in the remaining 8 hours. Millions of health-conscious individuals have made intermittent fasting a routine to lose weight and improve their lifestyles. But, is it not unhealthy to have a 16 hours long gap between your meals? Doesn’t it have adverse effects on the body? What is intermittent fasting benefits? Let’s not beat around the bush and head straight to an elaborate account of Intermittent Fasting and its functioning. 

Intermittent Fasting Benefits

What is the Concept Behind Intermittent Fasting?

In a lay man’s language, intermittent fasting is a pattern of eating where there is a long fasting window, usually of 16 hours, and a narrow eating window. This fasting concept is not about WHAT YOU EAT but primarily about WHEN YOU EAT. Common methods of intermittent fasting are 16:8, 24 hours twice a week, and 5:2 diet. 

Intermittent fasting is one of the most effective, natural, and popular ways of losing weight and implementing a healthy lifestyle. Following are the popular ways, benefits, and side-effects of intermittent fasting.

How Can You Implement Intermittent Fasting?

Given below are some of the popular ways of intermittent fasting:

  1. 16:8– This method is also known as lean gains protocols. Under this, the individual skips his breakfast and fasts for continuous 16 hours. There is a narrow eating window of 8 hours.
  2. 24 hours once or twice a week- This method involves 24 hours fasting which can be done once or twice a week. For instance, you fast from dinner one day until dinner the next day.
  3. 5:2 diet- Under this method, you can eat only 500 to 600 calories on 2 non-consecutive days and eat normally the other 5 days.

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Intermittent Fasting Benefits

Let’s understand how intermittent fasting is going to benefit your lifestyle-

1. Weight Loss

Intermittent fasting is primarily devised in a routine as it helps lose bodyweight without having to restrict calories. Here is how-

  1. Indirect relation between Insulin and Fat-burning i.e. decrease in insulin levels cause improvement in fat burning. Our hormone fat is stored in insulin. As we eat, insulin levels increase and the body starts storing fat. When the insulin levels decrease (while fasting) the body starts breaking down the stored fat
  2. Critical calorie intake. When there is a narrow eating window, people tend to consume fewer calories. Also, they become more critical of what they are consuming

2. Insulin Resistance- Good for People with Diabetes

Experts and professionals have been advising the use of intermittent fasting to reverse insulin resistance and control blood sugar levels. Intermittent fasting helps in lowering the blood sugar by 3-6% and fasting insulin levels by 20-31%. This helps in managing diabetes naturally.

3. A Healthy Way of Living

Mindful eating says that one should eat only when one is hungry. Intermittent fasting accentuates this feeling and helps in devising mindful eating. Also, it improves the eating experience because when you have a narrow window to eat, you eat more consciously and respectfully. This overall mechanism leads to a healthy and better way of living.

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4. Improves Brain Health

Intermittent fasting escalates the brain hormones and may help in the growth of new nerve cells. 

5. Positive Effect on Cholesterol Levels

Intermittent fasting can help in lowering bad cholesterol in the body which enhances heart health. This is also because of its ability to lower inflammation. It lowers insulin and high blood sugar which contributes to improved cardiovascular health.

6. Lowering Blood Sugar and Insulin

Intermittent fasting tends lowering blood sugar level and insulin in the body. This aids protection against neurodegenerative diseases. 

7. Repairing Cells

When you are involved in fasting, your body regulates cellular repair processes called autophagy. In this process, the cells digest and remove dysfunctional proteins built inside the cells.

Intermittent Fasting Side-Effects

Everything has pros and cons, and so does the much-hyped Intermittent Fasting technique. Fasting for about 16 hours is not favourable to everyone. Although there are no severe intermittent fasting side-effects, there are some associated risks you should know-

  1. In the initial stages of fasting, you might feel extremely exhausted, tired, weak, and hungry. This is a basic and most common side effect
  2. After the fasting window ends, some people tend to overeat and consume an excess of calories due to hunger. And, you might end up gaining weight because of overeating
  3. Not much consumption=less or no bowel movement. This implies that intermittent fasting can cause constipation
  4. Headaches, dizziness, heartburn, and muscle cramps are some of the common side-effects

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Are You Fit Enough For Intermittent Fasting?

We all have different body types and there are high chances that one person’s body reacts positively to fasting and the other person’s body does not. Experts have been advising that one should not practise intermittent fasting if one is-

  1. Underweight i.e. BMI less than 18.5 or has an eating disorder
  2. Pregnant. Pregnant women need to have extra nutrients for the health of their child. Hence, fasting is off the table
  3. Breastfeeding. If you are a breastfeeding woman, your body needs that extra nutrition. Thereby, say no to fasting
  4. Under the age of 18 years
  5. Having medical conditions like diabetes, liver disease, kidney disease, low blood pressure, or heart diseases
  6. On prescribed medication

Points To Keep In Mind Before Fasting

  1. Is it not starvation? No! Starvation is not voluntary and can lead to severe health issues or even death. On the other hand, fasting is a voluntary practice to control hunger for health purposes. Intermittent fasting does not cause suffering or health issues, and certainly never death
  2. One can consume up to 50 calories during the fasting period. Drinking cinnamon tea can help in suppressing the appetite
  3. Some people are of the view that they can consume as many calories as they wish during the eating window. However, even if you are fasting for 16 hours, you need to stick to a proper, mindful diet plan
  4. 1 cheat day is no harm. You can pick one day of the week to satiate your body and have a no fasting day. It is better to take a break on the weekend
  5. It would be a bad choice to exercise just before or during the fasting cycle as exercising can leave to de-energized and hungry
  6. Consuming water throughout the eating window will keep you hydrated and help during the fasting period
  7. Close your eyes when you see a food video or image. It is scientifically proven that watching a particular type of image/video can trigger similar feelings in the body
  8. Meditation is an excellent way of dealing with hunger pangs during the fasting window

You have just read an elaborate description of Intermittent fasting and its several health benefits. For all those who are willing to try this fasting technique, it is advised to not eat many calories during the eating window. This is a mindless eating practice which can suppress all the efforts you are putting in your fasting window. Intermittent fasting has no severe side-effects. In some cases, it may leave you a little weary and tired in the beginning but these are temporary effects.

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