Think weight loss, and you will come across hundreds of diet plans and programs, each with its dos and donts. Diet plays a vital role in any weight loss program. While most diet plans focus on tracking your calories, how much you consumed via diet vs how much you burnt with physical activity. However, when you eat is as important as what you eat. This brings us to intermittent fasting, a diet plan known to cause weight loss. Additionally, helps manage blood sugar levels better, and benefit overall health and well-being. While our diabetes management programs offer customised diet, nutrition and fitness plans, let’s understand if intermittent fasting is worth all the hype.
What is Intermittent Fasting?
Intermittent fasting (IF) is a diet regime that requires one to fast for specific periods during the day or times of the week. A duration which there should be no food consumption or significant caloric reduction. These fasting periods are alternated with periods of regular eating.
The primary goal of intermittent fasting is to alter body composition through fat and weight loss, which are associated with better control of blood pressure and cholesterol levels. Prolonged intermittent fasting trains the body and adapts to the restricted calories. This prevents further weight loss.
There are different types of intermittent fasting, based on the approach you choose
- Time-restricted feeding: This type of intermittent fasting is followed every day, during which you can eat between a fixed six to eight hour period. The remainder of the day, you are fasting.
- Alternate-day fasting: As the name suggests, this type of intermittent fasting permits you to eat regularly one day, while on other days, your caloric intake is restricted to 500.
- 5: 2 approach (Periodic fasting): According to this type, you are allowed to eat regularly five days a week, but you must limit your caloric intake to 500 during the other two days.
While intermittent fasting does not emphasise the type of foods to include in your diet, it is essential to stick to healthy, nutritious food that helps in caloric restriction. During the fasting period, stick to water or zero-calorie beverages.
How Does Intermittent Fasting Work?
Various religions and civilisations have been practising fasting for better health. Studies state that fasting improves risk factors for certain diseases, lowers oxidative stress (when there are too many unstable particles called free radicals in the body that can cause diseases), and preserves learning and memory function.
Usually, your body gets its energy from the carbohydrates or sugars you consume. When you consume sugar in excess or fail to burn a sufficient quantity of it with physical activity, the body turns excess calories into fat and stores it in muscle tissue and the liver.
However, during fasting, the body runs out of freely available sugar and stored sugars for energy. It then begins to burn the stored fat for energy. As a result, you lose weight and excess carbohydrates and fats, and your metabolism gets a boost. This principle behind intermittent fasting is also known to lower blood sugar levels.
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What are the Benefits of Intermittent Fasting?
Intermittent fasting is popular for a good reason- it has several proven benefits! Here are some of the well-known benefits of intermittent fasting:
Helps in weight loss
There is ample research that shows intermittent fasting helps you lose harmful visceral fat (fat present in the abdomen). Though the exact mechanism is still being studied, restricting food intake (also called caloric restriction) is cited as the primary cause of weight loss.
Improves insulin sensitivity and lowers risk for type 2 diabetes
During fasting, the body switches its primary source of fuel, which in turn, increases insulin sensitivity and lowers your risk for type diabetes. Need help with blood sugar control? Speak to our experts to learn more about our diabetes management program!
Improves brain function
The various metabolic, cellular and circadian mechanisms that come into play during intermittent fasting improve brain function, sharpen memory and prevent brain-related conditions.
Protects your heart
Intermittent fasting lowers blood pressure, improves cholesterol levels and reduces overall inflammation in the body. All these protect your heart.
Some studies state that intermittent fasting improves the body’s sleep-wake cycle by limiting food intake in the evening and night. Another mechanism that has been stated for improved sleep in intermittent fasting is weight loss.
Weight loss has been shown to improve sleep parameters. However, more studies are required to establish the exact relationship between intermittent fasting and improved sleep.
Intermittent fasting is known to lower oxidative stress and inflammation in the body. For this reason, it may improve chronic inflammatory conditions like asthma and arthritis.
Intermittent fasting reduces cellular ageing and helps keep several diseases and health conditions at bay, thereby increasing lifespan.
Who Can Benefit from Intermittent Fasting?
If you are impressed with the many benefits of intermittent fasting and are wondering if it is for you, here’s what you need to know!
- You must evaluate your eating habits to determine if you tend to snack a lot. Intermittent fasting is a good way to keep tabs on your snacking habits.
- Evaluate your portions in each meal. If you overeat, intermittent fasting can help you reduce your portions.
Before starting intermittent fasting, consulting your doctor or a nutritionist is recommended. This is particularly important if you have a chronic metabolic condition like type 2 diabetes, hypertension, high cholesterol, or eating disorders or are pregnant or breastfeeding.
What are the Potential Risks of Intermittent Fasting?
While there are several benefits of intermittent fasting, you must also be aware of the common side effects of this dietary program:
- Can make you feel sick or weak: Depending upon the duration of your fasting period, intermittent fasting may cause headaches, make you cranky or cause irritation. Sticking to a fasting period you are comfortable with and gradually increasing may be a good idea.
- May cause overeating: The body naturally tends to overeat after fasting, thanks to the hormones and the brain’s hunger centre.
- May be risky with some medications. If you take medications for diabetes or other chronic conditions, consult with your doctor before starting intermittent fasting. People with diabetes may be at risk for low blood glucose levels with intermittent fasting.
Key Takeaway: What’s the Verdict?
Intermittent fasting is a popular and effective dietary approach, involving periods of food restriction alternating with periods of normal eating. It has been shown to offer numerous health benefits but is not suitable for everyone. With proper guidance and commitment, intermittent fasting can be a safe and effective way to achieve your health and wellness goals. Though intermittent fasting has its positives, many experts recommend using a diet plan that works and is sustainable for you.