Here’s the skinny on intermittent fasting

Of late, intermittent fasting has become a popular talking point among health and fitness buffs all over the world. This trend is said to aid weight loss, as well as holding a number of other health benefits.

Here’s all you need to know.

What is intermittent fasting?

Intermittent fasting is based to a large extent on the way our hunter-gatherer forefathers – who didn’t have access to food all-year round, and didn’t have any means of preserving the food they did have – used to eat.

It involves refraining from eating in order to reap the benefits that this eating pattern is said to have.

There are different intermittent fasting methods:

  • Eat-Stop-Eat involves refraining from eating anything for 24 hours once or twice a week.
  • The 16/8 method (also referred to as the Leangains protocol) has people skip breakfast and restrict their daily eating period to eight hours, for example from 13:00 to 21:00, with a 16-hour fast in between.
  • The 5:2 diet sees participants eat normally for five days of the week, with two non-consecutive days of restricting one’s calorie intake to just 500 to 600 calories sprinkled between them.

The benefits of intermittent fasting

Proponents of intermittent fasting claim that it doesn’t just help to lose weight, but also affects the body on a cellular and molecular level.

This may include changes in the levels of human growth hormone (HGH) which in turn helps to lose weight and gain muscle; an improvement of insulin sensitivity, leading to greater accessibility to stored body fat; better cellular repair, and changes in the function of genes related to protection against disease and longevity.

When to avoid intermittent fasting

Speak to your doctor before starting to practice intermittent fasting, and especially if:

  • You are underweight or have a history of eating disorders
  • You have diabetes or problems with blood sugar regulation
  • You are on medication
  • You have low blood pressure
  • You are a woman with a history of amenorrhea (regularly missing periods)
  • You are pregnant or breastfeeding
  • You are a woman trying to conceive

Unlike other diets, intermittent fasting pays little attention to exactly what one eats (provided a person still sticks to a nutritionally-rich diet) and rather concerns itself with when one eats.

If you are interested in intermittent fasting, perhaps kick it off with the most popular method, the 16/8 method. This eating pattern is, of course, not for everyone. While you can expect to feel hungry, any other side effects, like a heavy light-headedness, should be a sign to stop fasting and have something to eat.

Have you ever tried intermittent fasting, and did it work for you? Let us know.

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