Intermittent fasting has been creating a lot of buzz, be it doctors or celebrities, are either advocating it or following it. It runs on the principle of fasting; that is not eating for a particular duration of time or not eating on particular days. Earlier fasting was done for spiritual reasons, but these days a lot of people do it for health reasons. The difference between fasting and intermittent fasting is that complete fasting can be done only for a few days but intermittent fasting can be made into a lifestyle as in intermittent fasting, only the eating window is restricted. You need not completely avoid food.
There are four main ways to do intermittent fasting, and one can opt for it as per their schedule, lifestyle and convenience:
- 16/8 method: In this method a person eats in the window of 8 hours and fasts for 16 hours, so supposedly you take your first meal at 9 am then your last meal will be at 5 pm, and the rest of the duration will be fasting. One can have water in the fasting period. It is one of the most comfortable patterns and can be incorporated in daily life.
- 20:4 method: It is also known as the warrior diet where you fast for 20 hours and eat only in a 4-hour window. It is not very easy to follow and beginners should not attempt it.
- 5:2 method: Here you eat normally for 5 days and fast on two non-consecutive days, for example, one can fast on Mondays and Thursdays and eat normally for the rest of the 5 days.
- Eat stop eat: In this method, you eat regularly but fast for 24 hours in between once or twice a week, so basically if you eat normally all three meals in one day, the next day u fast till dinner.
But intermittent fasting will only be successful if it is followed consistently, also just because your fasting in between or a few hours every day, it does not give you the ticket to eating whatever you want. For maximum benefit, one should eat a healthy high protein diet with a moderate amount of healthy fats and fibre rich carbohydrates. One should avoid eating junk and processed foods.
Following are a few benefits of intermittent fasting:
- Healthy brain: Due to regular fasting, the body starts metabolizing fat which leads to ketone production which is known to keep the brain healthy.
- Control over oxidative stress: Oxidative stress is caused due to free radicals which are the main cause for the signs of ageing. Intermittent fasting by default causes calorie restriction which gives the cells a chance to detox and recycles itself.
- Hormonal regulation: Long term benefit of Intermittent fasting is that it helps in regulating and improving various hormonal secretions such as insulin and growth hormone.
- Weight loss: Intermittent fasting has worked wonderfully well in breaking the weight plateau. Since we are so used to munching all day, intermittent fasting gives the body a break.
- Lowers the risk of diabetes type 2: A drop of 3-6% of fasting blood sugar and a 20-30% drop in fasting insulin levels has been seen in a study done on those who follow intermittent fasting.
But who should do it and who shouldn’t do it?
Who should do it:
- People who have a habit of munching or late night snacking, intermittent fasting is a blessing for them as it restricts the eating window.
- Those who have borderline diabetes, are overweight or tend to do emotional and stress eating the restricted time window helps in such a situation.
- People who are suffering from hormonal imbalance, intermittent fasting can be beneficial as the fasting period gives the body some time to restore the hormonal balance.
Who should avoid it:
- Those who have an aggravated Vata as it can lead to flatulence.
- Those who have the issue of constipation and acidity.
- Those who are pregnant and lactating.
- Those who have medical conditions such as diabetes, high uric acid, gallstones and other chronic diseases.
It is always advisable to do intermittent fasting under the guidance of a certified nutritionist.