Intermittent Fasting: The Complete Beginner’s Guide

Intermittent Fasting: The Complete Beginner’s Guide

Feb 06, 2024

If you want to watch your weight drop, you can practice intermittent fasting - an eating pattern that alternates between periods of eating and fasting. Intermittent fasting, which is trending in the health and fitness world, is adaptable, allowing people to choose a program that fits their lifestyle. Whether driven by weight loss aims or a desire for metabolic flexibility, this concept has gained popularity as a comprehensive and adaptable approach to healthy eating.

What is Intermittent Fasting?

It is a nutritional practice that focuses on alternating times of eating and fasting, offering a new perspective on when rather than what we eat. Intermittent fasting differs from regular diets in that it focuses on timing rather than food kinds.

This strategy does not prescribe specific foods but rather promotes alternating times of eating and fasting. 

Common fasting patterns include the 16/8 method, in which one fasts for 16 hours and then eats for 8 hours, and the 5:2 approach, which involves eating healthy for five days every week with two non-consecutive days of severe calorie restriction.

The secret lies in the body's reaction to this deliberate fasting, during periods of no food intake - insulin levels drop, pushing the body to dip into stored fat for energy. This metabolic flip not only helps with weight loss, but it also has potential health benefits such as improved blood sugar control and decreased inflammation.

The Working of Intermittent Fasting

Intermittent fasting is based on the notion of alternating between times of eating and fasting, which influences the body's metabolic processes and results in various health advantages. When you eat food, your body produces insulin to balance glucose levels. During intermittent fasting, insulin levels decline, causing the body to switch from using glucose as its major energy source to burning stored fat.

Fasting times can range from 16 hours (as in the 16/8 method) to longer cycles, such as the 5:2 approach, which entails two non-consecutive days of low-calorie consumption. This transient state of calorie restriction promotes the body to use its fat stores for energy, resulting in weight loss.

In addition to weight control, intermittent fasting has been associated with enhanced metabolic health. The fasting intervals may improve insulin sensitivity and reduce the incidence of type 2 diabetes. Furthermore, the process triggers cellular repair mechanisms including autophagy (self-eating), which helps the body clean up damaged cells and improves overall cellular health.

Intermittent Fasting Methods

1. 12-hour fasting: 

A 12-hour daily intermittent fasting programme involves limiting your food to a 12-hour window, such as 8:00 am to 8:00 pm, and then fasting for the remaining 12 hours. This easy strategy is suitable for beginners and can result in benefits such as better insulin sensitivity and potential weight management. Simply focus on nutritious meals throughout your eating window, remain hydrated while fasting, and establish a routine that fits your lifestyle. It's one of the easiest methods to get started with intermittent fasting.

    2. 16 hours of fasting:

    One popular option is the 16/8 method, which divides the day into 16 hours of fasting and 8 hours of eating. This strategy is typically useful for people who want to forego breakfast and focus on their meals later in the day.

      3. 2 days/week fasting:

      It consists of five days of normal eating followed by two non-consecutive days of severe calorie restriction, usually ranging from 500 calories for females and 600 for males. This strategy allows for intermittent fasting while yet permitting some calorie intake on fasting days.

        4. 24-hour fasting:

        It is also known as the Eat-Stop-Eat method, including 24-hour fasts once or twice a week, in which people avoid eating anything from eating from dinner one day to dinner the next day. This extended fasting phase is used to reset the body's metabolism.

          5. Alternate-day fasting:

          Alternate-day fasting alternates between days of usual eating and days of severe calorie restriction or full fasting. This method combines the benefits of intermittent fasting with some regular eating days for balance.

            6. The Warrior Diet:

            The Warrior Diet consists of eating little or restricted amounts of raw fruits and vegetables throughout the day and one huge meal at night. This strategy emphasises under-eating during the day and feasting in the evening, which corresponds to the body's circadian rhythms. It is considered one of the extreme forms of intermittent fasting. 

              The Effect of Intermittent Fasting on Your Cells and Hormones

              Intermittent fasting has a tremendous impact on cellular function and hormone homeostasis. During fasting periods, numerous critical processes might take place. 

              • Fasting induces autophagy - a process in which cells eliminate damaged components. This cellular clean-up may increase longevity and lower the risk of several diseases.
              • Studies suggest that fasting causes a significant increase in Human Growth Hormone (HGH) levels. Interestingly, a recent research of 47 persons discovered that HGH levels increased fivefold during a 24-hour fast. Other previous studies have found that fasting for two or five days increases HGH secretion levels.

              In a nutshell, intermittent fasting causes the body to enter a state that promotes cellular repair, weight loss, and hormonal balance. It's an ongoing practice that promotes general health and well-being. Individual responses may vary, so it's important to discover an intermittent fasting strategy that works for your body and lifestyle. Before making any sort of dietary changes, it is recommended  to consult a healthcare practitioner.

              What to Eat During Intermittent Fasting?

              Incorporate a range of colourful fruits and vegetables to get your vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants in. Whole grains, such as quinoa and brown rice provide continuous energy and fibre. Include healthy fats like avocados, nuts, seeds, and olive oil to promote brain function and satiety. Dairy or fortified dairy alternatives are a good way to add calcium and vitamin D to your diet

              Intermittent fasting requires a balanced and nutrient-dense diet. Choose lean proteins such as poultry, fish, tofu, and eggs to promote muscle health. 

              Stay hydrated with water, herbal teas, and non-caloric beverages, particularly during fasting periods. To minimise quick blood sugar rises, limit your intake of processed foods, sugary snacks, and refined carbohydrates. Pay attention to portion sizes to avoid overeating, and experiment with different meal times to discover a schedule that works for your preferences and lifestyle. As usual, If you have particular dietary requirements or health concerns, speak with a certified dietician or a healthcare provider. 

              Benefits of Intermittent Fasting 

              Intermittent fasting (IF) has several health benefits within its limited eating window: 

              • Weight control is a significant advantage, as IF promotes both weight loss and fat burning by lowering caloric consumption. 
              • Improved metabolic health; lowers the risk of type 2 diabetes. 
              • Lowering blood pressure and improving cholesterol levels are among the heart health benefits. 
              • IF may also promote brain health by stimulating the production of brain-derived neurotrophic factor (BDNF). 
              • Furthermore, autophagy during fasting times promotes cellular repair and maintenance, which may have an impact on longevity.

              Who Should be Careful or Avoid Intermittent Fasting?

              Individuals with medical illnesses such as diabetes or heart disease, and people with a history of eating disorders should exercise caution when fasting intermittently. Intermittent fasting is not recommended for those with bulimia or regarded safe when indulging in a rigorous workout routine or plan. Moreover, Intermittent fasting during pregnancy or nursing may harm the baby's development. It is critical to maintain adequate calorie intake during these months to guarantee the baby's overall well-being and milk production. Intermittent fasting can reduce your calorie intake therefore pregnant or lactating women should avoid it. If you want to practise intermittent fasting, there are some additional considerations you need to pay heed to. If you persistently feel sensations of weakness, illness, no weight reduction, and difficulty concentrating are all signs that intermittent fasting may not be right for you.

              Furthermore, children, teenagers, and older individuals may have unique nutritional requirements that necessitate care. To sustain performance, athletes and anyone who engages in a lot of physical activity should carefully manage their fasting intervals. 

              Lastly, consulting with healthcare specialists is essential for personalised assistance, ensuring that intermittent fasting corresponds with individual health concerns and reduces potential hazards.

              Side Effects of Intermittent Fasting 

              Side effects of intermittent fasting include irritation, weariness, and difficulties concentrating during fasting times. Some people may encounter hormonal changes, menstruation abnormalities, or intestinal problems. In rare situations, it may cause harmful eating habits. Individual responses must be monitored, and if undesirable effects continue, consultation with healthcare specialists is required.

              In conclusion, the evidence suggests that intermittent fasting should be viewed as a scientifically sound method for increasing well-being and longevity, rather than a passing trend.

              While intermittent fasting can help with specific health issues and promote weight loss, it is not a long-term cure for many conditions. A limited diet, such as intermittent fasting, should not be followed on a regularly rather than as a permanent lifestyle choice!