The phrase intermittent fasting has undoubtedly popped up on your radar quite a few times in the past couple of years. But you’d be surprised by how ancient this practice actually is and how it could aid in cleansing both your body and your mind.
What is it all about? Why do some people willingly decide to regularly fast during large portions of the day? What are the benefits of refraining from one of the greatest pleasures of life – food – during certain periods?
What is intermittent fasting?
Nutrition coach Thomas DeLauer says that intermittent fasting
shouldn’t be considered a diet, but a meal timing plan. The whole
concept is actually very simple.
Intermittent fasting comes down
to switching between periods of eating and not eating, i.e. fasting. The
fasting window, in which you don’t eat food, is followed by the fed
window in which you consolidate your calories through eating food.
How does intermittent fasting work?
Dr. Monique Tello MD, from Harvard Health Publishing, says that
people have evolved to be in sync with the day/night cycle, i.e. a
circadian rhythm, during 24 hours. Our metabolism has adapted to
consuming food during the day and sleeping during the night. Switching
the roles, i.e. eating during the night time increases the risk of
obesity and diabetes (sadly, that also implies snacking on your favorite
crisps or popcorn while watching Netflix at 2 AM – We’ve all been
The food we eat breaks down into molecules such as simple
sugars, e.g. glucose, which our cells use for energy. We, of course,
need energy for normal daily functioning. However, problems arise when
the food intake is so large that our cells can’t use all ingested sugar,
which happens when we tend to overindulge. In these cases, the excess
sugar becomes stored as fat in our fat cells with the help of a hormone
Medical herbalist and nutrition coach Daniela
Turley says that when we fast, we bring our cells to a mild form of
stress. Unlike some of us, our cells deal with stress pretty well – they
adapt to it by enhancing their ability to cope. Fasting windows make
our bodies conserve energy, and our basal metabolic rate becomes more
efficient. During fasting, the lack of glucose and lowered insulin
levels cause the body to make its own glucose, and our fat cells
eventually release and burn their stored sugar which is then used as
energy. Tello adds that intermittent fasting lowers our insulin levels
for a period long enough to burn off fat, which makes us lose weight.
The benefits of intermittent fasting
Experts such as dr. Dana Cohen, Tello, and DeLauer mention numerous health benefits of intermittent fasting:
most obvious one is fat and weight loss, but intermittent fasting
doesn’t only make you slimmer, it also maintains or gains muscle and
increases muscle tone and density.
Blood and blood vessels may
also benefit from it. Intermittent fasting lowers blood sugar and blood
pressure and improves vascular function.
Everybody would love to
have a fast and effective metabolism, and intermittent fasting can help
you with that by activating and boosting its function.
long list of chronic illnesses you could beat more successfully by
practicing intermittent fasting. Namely, it decreases the production of
and damage from free radicals, which reduces cancer risk. It also
protects against diabetes and lowers inflammation, which helps with
arthritic pain and asthma.
Intermittent fasting also makes you
look younger – yep this could be the age-old secret to looking and
feeling great! It enhances cellular rejuvenation and autophagy (the
body’s natural recycling of old and damaged cells), which leads to
fresh-looking skin, nails, hair. Not only can you look younger, but also
you can live longer – intermittent fasting prolongs the overall life
Last but not least, apart from cleansing your body,
intermittent fasting cleanses your mind as well – it increases your
mental focus and brain function. Once you get used to it, you won’t be
thinking about what to snack on next, but rather concentrate on what
Intermittent fasting in its many forms
You can arrange your fasting and fed windows at any particular time
of day and night that suits your lifestyle while sticking to the
following combinations: - The 12-hour fasting involves a 12-hour fed window followed by a 12-hour fasting window.
The 16:8 fasting means eating for 8 hours and fasting for 16 hours. It
can stretch both the fasting and the fed periods for a few more hours at
the expense of the other window, e.g. 14:10, 18:6, 20:4.
5:2 fasting means 5 days of normal, ideally healthy eating, and 2,
ideally consecutive days of caloric restriction (500 calories for women
and 600 for men).
- The alternate method restricts your calories to 500 every other day.
Prolonged fasting involves full 24-hour to 48-hour fasts. Prolonged
fasting is recommendable once a month or quarter, but the eat-stop-eat
method is more radical and involves one or two 24-hour fasts every week.
- The warrior method is similar to the Paleo diet and includes
eating small amounts of unprocessed, raw fruits and vegetables during
the day and one larger meal in the evening.
- The spontaneous fasting involves spontaneously skipping a meal when you’re not hungry.
- Liquid fasting involves consuming caloric liquids, e.g. bone broth, to improve your digestion.
Dry fasting is an extreme type where you don’t consume food or water.
It’s effective in burning fat, but not recommendable to do more often
than once every 3 to 6 months.
What can be consumed during the fasting window?
Water, tea, and black coffee, all in their unsweetened forms, are more
than welcome during the fast. Any additions to these non-caloric
beverages, such as honey, coconut oil, or butter, would break the
fasting window, so you should refrain from them.
plus Could I do intermittent fasting?
Intermittent fasting brings a myriad of health benefits. However,
some may experience it as pretty extreme so it mustn’t be introduced
hastily. If you’re considering it, do your research and take it slowly.
course, everyone should consult a medical professional before making
any harsh changes to their diet. Although it may bring many benefits,
intermittent fasting shouldn’t be practiced without taking the necessary
precautions. Those who should not fast without close professional
supervision are pregnant and breastfeeding women, people with advanced
diabetes, or on medication for diabetes.