Intermittent fasting is one of the most prominent dieting trends today. Its simplicity attracts anyone who wants to boost their weight loss results, manage appetite, and boost cognitive function. Is this a fad or a proper strategy?
We've asked our expert nutritionist Christine Ellis if fasting is here to stay.
What is intermittent fasting?
One thing is clear: fasting is not a recent trend. People have been fasting for thousands of years. Food scarcity was expected due to the poor harvest, unsuccessful hunts, or natural disasters—entire cultural traditions formed around the naturally extended periods of fasting and feasting.
Intermittent fasting today is an eating pattern that also asks you to cycle between these periods.
The only difference is that instead of fasting for 30-40 days of low-calorie intake as it was common back in the day, you would follow a way more manageable path.
Intermittent fasting patterns can be very flexible. Check out the options available:
- 12:12 fasting: eat and fast for 12 hours per day
- 14:10 fasting: fast for 14 hours per day
- 16:8 fasting: fast for 16 hours per day
- 20:4 fasting: fast for 20 hours a day (the Warrior diet)
- 5:2 fasting: fast for 2 days a week
- Alternate day fasting: fast every other day.
The general rule is that you would have a window that can last between 4 to 12 hours per day, and stay away from food after this window closes. Whole-day fasting can mean that you don't eat at all for 24 hours or do not go over the limit of daily 500 calories.
"Beginners, in general, would start with the 12:12 pattern, and slowly reduce their eating window until they find a routine that feels right. 16:8 is the most popular pattern, but some people swear by 5:2 or the Warrior diet," - explains Christine Ellis.
Experiment with different patterns, and you will learn which type of intermittent fasting works best for you.
Is fasting the same as starving?
Fasting is not new to us, not only because of food availability over the centuries and cultural traditions that came from it. After all, everyone fasts during the night when we sleep. This allows our body to rest, digest food, and get ready for the next day.
Intermittent fasting is not a diet per se. It's an eating pattern that regulates the time you consume the food, but it doesn't have a say into how much you eat, or what kind of foods you consume. You should always eat balanced meals and ensure that you cover your nutrient requirements during your eating window.
"Don't confuse fasting with starvation. While fasting is a natural process that we go through every day, starvation is not. It can lead to dire consequences, such as eating disorders." - warns Christine.
Starvation cuts off the food supply, and you are not eating enough calories to sustain your essential functions. Due to this, your cardiovascular, muscular, digestive, and other systems stop working correctly. Your body starts to break down muscle tissue to survive. It's very dangerous to your health. Don't try to lose weight by starving.
Our bodies have adapted to fasting, and intermittent fasting simply extends this period to accumulate the benefits and magnify the results.
How does intermittent fasting work?
It takes 3 to 6 hours for your food to move through your stomach and small intestine and take up to 36 hours to move through the entire digestive tract. Prolonged fasting helps your digestive system rest for longer, which allows you to efficiently manage your weight and ensure your gut health.
"After 10-14 hours of fasting, your body starts to burn fat for fuel instead of carbs, the typical energy source. This means that you lose weight faster. "- says Christine.
Fasting also helps to control your hormones that are responsible for weight loss. It impacts insulin, which regulates your blood sugar, ghrelin that is accountable for feeling hunger, and leptin that takes care of your body's energy balance.
Together, these hormones ensure that you manage blood sugar levels, feel full for longer, and not store your energy as fat.
Overall, research suggests that intermittent fasting can also improve your cognitive function and elevate your mood.
Why Intermittent Fasting works?
Everyone knows the principles of a healthy diet. Stick to plant-based foods and quality meat, focus on the least processed produce, and drink plenty of water. The problem with this is that the world today has plenty of distractions. Even if you tried to stick to a healthy diet, there is no guarantee that you wouldn't slip up.
"Healthy diet is powered by healthy habits, and intermittent fasting ensures that you don't slip up after hours. You still cover up your nutritional needs, but stay away from unhealthy night-time snacks without submitting to a restrictive diet. "- explains Christine.
Who benefits most from intermittent fasting?
- People that lead a sedentary lifestyle tend to overeat most of the time. A strict schedule helps them to keep to their recommended calorie intake.
- People that love snacking constantly go over their daily calorie budget. Fasting helps to eliminate at least one meal out of the day, which helps to reduce your calorie intake for 200-300 kcals and lose weight.
- People that have hit a weight loss plateau. Intermittent fasting is the perfect tool to kickstart your metabolism.
Intermittent fasting is not as restrictive as other diets. It allows you a considerable breathing room and helps to lose weight, eating what you love. Of course, you cannot eat pizza three times a day, but fasting makes you achieve better results faster and easier than a healthy diet alone.
Make the most out of your fasting.
Intermittent fasting can get even more effective if you combine it with a DoFasting box.
Swiftly go through the fasting period and forget the cravings. Add valuable fiber to your diet without breaking your fast. Stop those hunger pangs and lose weight faster.