Fasting—the practice of abstaining from food for extended periods of time—dates back centuries. In fact, fasting is still common in many situations today. Patients fast before undergoing surgery to avoid complications from general anesthesia. Muslims fast during Ramadan as part of their religious observance. Now, people are beginning to fast as part of a healthier lifestyle.
Intermittent fasting (IF) is restricting the time you eat, either on a daily or weekly schedule. Time restricted eating can be a powerful weight loss tool due to hormonal hunger control, a lessening of blood sugar spikes and a propensity to eat fewer calories overall. In addition, Intermittent Fasting is simple, leading to sustainability. As more people turn to fasting for health, they’re also beginning to realize benefits beyond weight loss.
Sticking to an intermittent fasting regimen could have you experiencing improved focus and mental clarity, lower blood sugar and insulin levels, reduced inflammation, better cholesterol levels and much more.
On the surface, intermittent fasting is easy enough to understand. Not eating for long periods of time means not taking in calories while your body is expending them. Part of weight loss is a simple equation: fewer calories in and more calories spent means a calorie deficit, which can lead to weight loss.
But under the surface, intermittent fasting is much more complex. If done right, a person fasting intermittently will change their body’s metabolic processes.
When faced with fewer calories and a more controlled eating schedule, the body gets smarter about how it uses the calories it’s given. This means burning those calories for energy with as little waste as possible and, when necessary, dipping into fat stores to burn those calories. Over time, you’ll see weight loss, more energy, less lethargy and lower inflammation. Your body will start converting fat into energy!
You may have heard the term “ketosis,” popularized by the Keto Diet. The goal of intermittent fasting (and the Keto Diet) is to induce ketosis, optimizing the body’s metabolism of fat. When your body reaches ketosis, the true benefits of fasting start to kick in—improved focus, memory, mood and mental clarity.
Intermittent fasting only works if you stick to a consistent fasting schedule. To achieve ketosis and experience the full benefits of intermittent fasting, you’ll need a fasting schedule that works for your lifestyle longterm. Here are some of the most common:
These are the simplest intermittent fasting schedules, but by no means the only ones. Typically, ketosis sets in about 8-12 hours after your last meal. To develop your own IF schedule, plan to fast for more than 8 hours at a time and space fasts far enough apart to resume normal eating habits in-between them. For example, other common fasting schedules include alternate-day-fasting ,with fasts every other day, and feast-and-fast, which involves eating one big meal at night and fasting throughout the day.
The idea of abstaining from food for long periods of time can be a little scary. Will I get light-headed or pass out? Will I feel disoriented or sick? Can I still walk my dog or go to the gym?
These concerns and more are valid. Intermittent fasting takes a little getting used-to. The good news is, skipping meals a couple days a week won’t impact you as much as you’d think. As you adjust to the schedule, you’re likely to be a little cranky and at first, your energy levels might take a dip. It takes your body about two weeks to get used to fasting habits. After that, you should feel more energetic, happy and healthy!
Intermittent fasting sounds easy enough, but a surprising number of people cheat and prevent their body from entering ketosis. For the first few fasts, you’re going to crave food. Resist these cravings! Instead, give these tips a try:
If you’re trying to lose weight or want to explore some new opportunities for personal wellness, intermittent fasting is a great option. Most people can do it, so long as you stick to your fasting schedule. That said, everyone should consult a physician before fasting. Some groups of people may need to take special precautions, like those with Type 1 or Type 2 diabetes or anyone taking prescription medications.
Intermittent fasting is more than a weight loss trend, it’s a lifestyle shift with so many benefits beyond weight loss!