Intermittent fasting (IF) is one of the most popular eating protocols that people can use to lose weight and maintain consistent energy levels.
I’ve personally used intermittent fasting many times — probably for 2-3 years total combined.
Intermittent fasting has helped me lose fat quickly, and I also find I’m way more productive while fasting.
The concept of fasting probably sounds terrible and even unhealthy to you, but keep reading because fasting is surprisingly good for our health and longevity. It can also make weight loss a lot easier for many people.
What is Intermittent Fasting?
First, I should start by saying what intermittent fasting is not…
- Intermittent fasting is not a diet.
- Intermittent fasting is not starving yourself.
- Intermittent fasting is not only for weight loss.
Intermittent fasting is a style of eating, or you can think of it as an eating schedule, that consists of short periods of eating followed by longer periods of fasting.
The most common approach is an 8-hour eating window with a 16-hour fast. For example, you might eat between noon and 8 pm while fasting the rest of the day.
The premise of this eating method is based on the thousands of years during human evolution where humans were hunter-gatherers and often fasted for hours or days at a time until they could acquire their next food source.
As unconventional as it sounds by today’s standards of quick and easy access to food 24/7, fasting is actually healthy, and it’s something many cultures regularly practice. In fact, the three major religions — Christianity, Islam, and Buddhism — all incorporate fasting in their doctrine.
Now that you have a basic idea of what intermittent fasting is, let’s take a look at some of the reasons why you might want to do it.
The Benefits of Intermittent Fasting
There is a lot of scientific research that backs the health claims touted by intermittent fasting advocates.
It’s surprising how healthy fasting is.
The Health Benefits of Intermittent Fasting
- Improved brain health — IF increases brain-derived neurotrophic factors (BDNF), protects the brain from Alzheimer’s, and assists with the growth of new nerve cells. (Sources 1, 2, 3, 4)
- Cancer prevention — Research has shown that IF may help prevent cancer in animals. (Sources 5, 6, 7, 8)
- Anti-aging effects — Research shows that IF extends lifespan in rats. (Sources 9, 10)
- Improved heart health — IF can lower the risk for heart disease by reducing LDL cholesterol, inflammatory markers, blood triglycerides, insulin resistance, and blood sugar. (Sources 11, 12, 13)
- Decreased inflammation — IF reduces inflammation markers which lowers the risk of many chronic diseases. (Sources 14, 15, 16)
- Improved insulin resistance — IF can help prevent type 2 diabetes by reducing insulin resistance and fasting insulin levels.
- Fat loss — IF makes it easier to lose weight with less restriction on calories. (Sources 17, 18)
- Increased human growth hormone (HGH) — IF can increase HGH levels by as much as 5x, which assists with muscle growth and fat loss. (Sources 19, 20, 21, 22)
The Psychological Benefits of Intermittent Fasting
Intermittent fasting makes your daily schedule a little simpler.
I typically like to do an 8-hour fast from 2 pm to 10 pm — that means I don’t have to worry about breakfast or an early lunch.
This allows me to get straight to work and to get a lot of stuff done before I take a break at 2 pm, which is a good time for me to take a break from work anyways.
Also, many people find that intermittent fasting makes dieting much easier because you don’t have to count calories.
This works because people tend to eat less food overall during their eating window than they do on a day where they aren’t fasting.
If you eat above your caloric maintenance level, you will gain weight whether you do intermittent fasting or not.
How to Get Started with Intermittent Fasting
There are three primary ways to do intermittent fasting:
- The 8-Hour Eating Window — Fast for 16 hours each day and eat during an 8-hour eating window.
- The 5:2 Diet — Eat as normal for five days of the week and then fast for two consecutive days with one meal each day.
- Eat-Stop-Eat — Fast for 24 hours once a week.
I prefer the first one.
I like the 16/8 split, but when I’m really trying to lose fat with intermittent fasting, I’ll shorten the eating window to 6 hours for an 18/6 split or even a 20/4 split for the most dramatic results.
Does Intermittent Fasting Have Side Effects?
The first thing I want to mention is that women might want to avoid intermittent fasting. The benefits of intermittent fasting are less prominent in women, and women’s bodies tend to operate better on more frequent meals than a fasting protocol.
That’s not to say that women can’t do intermittent fasting, but it just might not be worth it.
Anyone with an existing medical condition should definitely talk to their doctor before doing intermittent fasting as you might be taking medication that requires a different eating schedule.
Other than those things, the main side effects are hunger and some people feel weak or sluggish. However, these side effects usually subside after a few days to a week.
I feel like my mind is sharper while fasting and you would be surprised at how quickly your appetite adjusts.
What Can I Consume During a Fast?
You can pretty much have anything with zero calories in it.
This includes water, coffee, and tea.
I like to drink BCAAs all day while fasting because they taste good and they keep my muscles saturated with nutrients without breaking my fast.
BCAAs also help prevent muscle loss while dieting and using intermittent fasting.
Intermittent fasting isn’t the miracle diet that some make it out to be, but it can be an effective tool for weight loss or simply having a more convenient eating schedule.
I don’t do intermittent fasting on a regular basis, but I still throw it in the mix when I’m dieting sometimes.
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What do you think? Do you agree, disagree or have any thoughts to add? Let me know in the comments below.
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