What is Intermittent Fasting?
Intermittent Fasting (IF) if the practice of maintain overall caloric intake throughout the day/week whilst consuming those calories in fewer meals or in reduced time windows throughout the day. The goal of intermittent fasting should not always be about weight loss, although this is often the primary motivation for people do it. The ultimate purpose of IF is to create conditions of fasting in the body that actually lengthen a human life.
What are the different kinds?
5:2 or alternate day eating
The 5:2 or alternate day fasting involves eating normally for 5 days of the week, while restricting your calories to 500-600 on two days of the week (3-4 if you want to do it alternate days). The restrictive days would typically contain 2 small meals of 250-300 calories.
Eating within a 8, 10, 12 hour window per day
Every day you restrict your eating to an 8-12 hour window. E.g. 12pm to 8pm. This tends to suit people who normally like to skip breakfast but it’s important to make sure that you still eat healthily during the eating window.
24 hour fast/Eat-Stop-Eat
This involves a 24-hour fast either once or twice a week. Water, coffee and herbal tea are allowed during the fast but no solid food. This can be a very difficult style of fasting but you don’t have to go all-in right away. Start with 14-16 hours and make your way up.
Delay breakfast by 90 minutes and eat your last meal of the day 90 minutes earlier than normal. This naturally decreases you eating window by 3 hours, allowing more fasting hours throughout the day. This protocol can be one of the easiest to implement.
Increase the gap between meals (4-5 hours)
By increasing the time between meals you are less likely to snack which can reduce your overall caloric intake. It is also possible that extended daily fasting periods enables the body to undertake repair and maintenance mechanism that would be not occur under continuous exposure to food.
What are the suspected benefits?
Research has linked intermittent fasting to a number of health benefits including:
- Weight loss
- Reduced levels of insulin and stabilised blood sugar levels
- Reduced risk of chronic health conditions (including heart disease & cancer)
- Improved brain health
Is it good for women to intermittent fast?
Unfortunately, the vast majority of research done on intermittent fasting has been conducted on either animals or men, and therefore we don’t have a very clear idea about how effective it is for women.
Like all diets, there isn’t a one-size-fits all answer to everybody’s health concerns and goals. Particularly when we have to consider the role of hormones. Therefore, women of reproductive age may like to err on the side of caution with fasting. The female body has unique characteristics and needs that cyclically change throughout the month and demand our full attention.
So if you are trying IF and you have seen little to no beneficial effects from it or experienced sleeplessness, anxiety, acne and/or irregular periods, best to apply a new fasting strategy (see above) or a new style of eating altogether.
Who should not do IF?
Individuals with the following conditions should abstain from intermittent fasting:
- Eating disorders that involve unhealthy self-restriction (anorexia or bulimia nervosa)
- Use of medications that require food intake
- Active growth stage, such as in adolescents
- Pregnancy, breastfeeding
- Adrenal fatigue
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