For thousands of years various cultures have practiced fasting for religious or health reasons. Over the past decade or so, fasting has been gaining popularity again in the medical and fitness community. Intermittent fasting is not dieting; it is a life style and lots of people are using it to lose weight. Weight loss is not the only potential benefit of intermittent fasting, increase in growth hormone, reduction in blood sugar levels and better heart health are amongst some of the other health benefits.
Intermittent fasting – how does it work?
Intermittent fasting as the name suggests is skipping meals or avoiding food intake for a certain amount of time during a 24 hour period. This fasting and eating schedule is followed at set intervals during the week. There are many different intermittent fasting methods, and most people personalize their own approach, incorporating certain aspects from each method. There is no right or wrong way, it is about adapting an approach that fits your lifestyle and one that you can stick with.
Two common intermittent fasting methods:
1. Limiting your food-intake to a particular window of time:
With this method, eating is restricted to a specific window of time. The hours spent fasting are up to you, but they are usually somewhere between 14 and 18 hours out of every 24 hours. Which means that food can be eaten in blocks of between six and ten hours a day. For example, you could eat your first meal of the day at 11.00 am and your last at 7:00 pm. You are restricted to eating only during those hours and not over eating during your “feasting” hours. After your last meal at 7:00 pm, you wouldn’t eat again till the next morning at 11:00 am. So you will have fasted for a total of 16 hours. With this approach you will only miss one meal and that is breakfast. A lot of people prefer this method because it is less restrictive, and easier to follow without making significant changes in your lifestyle.
2. Fasting for a 24 hour period
This method involves fasting for 24 hours. For example, if you had your last meal at 7:00 pm today, you wouldn’t eat again until tomorrow at 7:00 pm. In a one week period most people do one or two days of fasting. It’s important to keep the same day(s) of the week for fasting.
Benefits Of Intermittent Fasting
One of the main reasons fasting works is because it can be easily incorporated into a busy lifestyle. It doesn’t require any special foods or cooking and doesn’t involve counting calories of every single thing you put into your mouth.
It can not only melt pounds of excess fat and remove cravings for sugar and snacks, research has shown that there are lots of other benefits of regular fasting.
- Improves human growth hormone (HGH) production. HGH, is also referred to as the “anti-aging hormone” and “fitness hormone”, and plays a massive role in powering up metabolism, increasing fitness and ultimately increases longevity. The fact that it helps with fat loss by boosting metabolism and at the same time boosts muscle growth is the reason why it’s so effective for losing weight without losing muscle mass. High Intensity Interval Training is the other natural method to boost HGH production.
- Helps normalize insulin sensitivity. Insulin resistance is one of the key problems contributing to all sorts of chronic diseases like heart disease, diabetes, obesity and cancer. Studies show that intermittent fasting can help improve insulin sensitivity resulting in better ability to manage blood sugar levels.
- Helps normalize production of ghrelin levels. Ghrelin is also known as “the hunger hormone” and increase in this hormone is what drives you to reach for another bite even when you are full.
- Help lower triglyceride levels and overall cholesterol to improve cardiovascular health.
- Has a natural anti-inflammatory and free radical fighting effect.
- Boosts brain power. Research shows that intermittent fasting, combined with regular exercise, can prevent the onset of Parkinson’s and dementia related conditions, such as Alzheimers.
- Ayurvedic medicine recommends intermittent fasting as a therapeutic method to enkindle digestive fire and burn toxins within the body. It is an important part of Ayurvedic treatment for various health problems and for maintaining good health.
Intermittent fasting is not a quick fix for losing weight or other health problems. It takes time to get used to fasting and making it a regular part of your daily routine. Fasting can be tough for some people, especially when done for 24 hours.
What To Look Out For When Fasting?
- It’s recommended that you slowly increase the fasting time. Start with skipping one meal, then two and eventually work up to a 24 hour fast. Make sure you keep yourself hydrated with warm water or tea while you are fasting.
- And just because you are fasting doesn’t mean you should over eat when it’s time to eat. You want to avoid overloading your digestive system after a period of fasting. Ideally, it’s best to eat light after you end your fast.
- Irregular eating can also cause erratic blood sugar levels, resulting in some people feeling light-headed, grumpy or tired. Slowly increasing the number of hours you fast will help you avoid any problems.
- If you are suffering from serious health problems check with you health care practitioner before you start an intermittent fasting plan. Those people who are hypoglycemic or suffering from chronic stress, women who are pregnant or breastfeeding should avoid intermittent fasting.
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