A Beginner’s Guide To The Intermittent Fasting

by Dr. Ahmed Zayed
Published on May 1, 2019

The dieting industry is worth over $70 billion (1). More guides, supplements, training videos, and programs are now available than ever before. Still, over 650 million people around the world are obese (2), and more than a billion more are overweight – slowly on their way to reaching a BMI that would also classify them as obese.

One of the major problems faced by the obese and overweight population would be an overload of information, guides, and even supplements promoted to burn fat fast – these products are found everywhere. Whether a person decides to visit a local store or take their search online, most people are faced with contradictory information that makes them unsure about what is real and what does not truly work for effective weight loss.

Intermittent fasting is a term that has been thrown around a lot recently – and this has caused some confusion. Many people think that intermittent fasting refers to a diet when it rather refers to a pattern of eating – the “pattern” or method can be used with any diet and is commonly combined with the Ketogenic diet to achieve improvements in weight management, as well as an enhancement of overall health.

What Is Intermittent Fasting Really?

One of the first things to be noted when it comes to intermittent fasting is that this is not an actual diet. Rather, intermittent fasting is a way of eating – a way of adjusting your schedule and then placing your meals carefully in a certain timeframe during the day in order to achieve specific results. You can follow intermittent fasting and any diet that you prefer, whether it is the preferred Ketogenic diet, the Mediterranean diet, or even a highly customized meal plan.

Intermittent fasting places the body into a fasting state for the larger part of the day. People already fast naturally when they go to sleep – so this way of eating really isn’t something new for the body at all. When following an intermittent fasting program, however, the fasting window that naturally occurs during sleep is usually extended to reach a longer period of the day.

In the majority of cases with intermittent fasting, a person would only be allowed to consume food during a small window of the day – the rest of the day and night, the individual would be fasting. With most types of intermittent fasting programs, a person would still be allowed to consume water while they are in a fasted state, but there are some varieties of this method that does not allow the consumption of water during the fasting window of the day.

The Different Types Of Intermittent Fasting

Intermittent fasting refers to adding a window of fasting during the day and often involves a smaller window of feasting, or the allowance of food consumption. There are, however, many different ways that intermittent fasting can be implemented into a person’s life – some of these methods or types are more restrictive than others and may be more difficult to stick to.

The 16/8 intermittent fasting is by far the most popular option that most people tend to opt for, especially when only starting out with intermittent fasting. The method involves 16 hours of fasting every day. The fasting period is then followed by an eight-hour window of feasting.

This particular method is usually easy to implement and does not cause too much of a restriction in the time where food consumption is allowed, which is why most people are comfortable with having an eight-hour eating window during the day. The method can also be implemented according to the individual’s lifestyle and their schedule – some may prefer to start their eating window in the morning, while others would rather start at noon or later in the day.

This, however, is not the only type of intermittent fasting program that a person may be able to utilize if they wish to give this method of eating a try. Other popular methods that can also be followed include (3):

  • Alternate Day Fasting: A relatively popular method that goes like this – one day the person fasts, the next day they do not, and the next day they would fast again. Some people choose to fast completely on their fasting days, while others would consume a small number of calories – about 500 calories – during the fasting days.
  • Eat-Stop-Eat: This option is often referred to as the 24-hour fast since it involves completely fasting for periods of 24 hours on one or two occasions during the week. This is not a preferred option among beginners since many people would find that going without any food or anything that contains calories for 24 hours can be difficult. Some people start by building up their tolerance – perhaps start with a 16-hour fast, then 18-hour fast, gradually adding more time until they can last 24 hours without food.
  • 5:2 Intermittent Fasting: Another relatively popular option is the 5:2 intermittent fasting plan. With this method, a person would consume their normal meals for five days of the week and then fast for two days. For some, this method is similar to the 24-hour fast or the eat-stop-eat method, since some people tend to prefer to fast for 24 hour periods or sometimes even 48-hour periods with the 5:2 program.
  • Warrior Diet: The Warrior Diet has also become quite common among people who want to follow intermittent fasting. The diet focuses on minimum food consumption during the day and then loading up on calories at night. Small snacks are preferred during the day as only a few calories may be consumed. One exceptionally large meal is then consumed at night.

What Are The Benefits Of Intermittent Fasting

Intermittent fasting has been associated with quite a large number of health benefits and even improved longevity. One of the major benefits that the diet is often associated with would be weight loss – most people find that they are able to reduce their daily caloric intake without necessarily having to count calories when they switch to an intermittent fasting plan, regardless of the particular meal plan that they might be following.

According to one particular scientific paper (4), the caloric restriction that comes into play with the use of intermittent fasting provides benefits that go far beyond the weight of the person. Added benefits would include improvements in triglyceride levels, a better balance in cholesterol, a reduction in low-density lipoprotein cholesterol in the body, and improvements in blood pressure control.

In one scientific paper (5) compiled by researchers at the Federico II University Hospital in Italy, the effects of intermittent fasting were compared to the potential effects of a calorie-restricted diet in terms of weight loss. A total of eight different clinical trials previously performed were analyzed in this paper to provide an accurate overview of how the two strategies compared.

The scientists who compiled the paper found that there is a similarity in the amount of weight loss on average by participants in studies where both of these methods were used. Since calorie-restricted diets can lead to excessive hunger, the use of intermittent fasting, which stills allows for a more significant amount of calories to be consumed, may be an effective approach to producing effective weight loss results.

A clinical trial (6) by the Victoria University in Melbourne, Australia, analyzed the effects of intermittent fasting, combined with exercise, on the prevention of excess weight gain, as well as other factors. The study found a significant reduction in LDL cholesterol in the subjects, providing evidence that intermittent fasting can balance cholesterol and perhaps help to reduce the risk of cardiovascular diseases.

Furthermore, improvements in insulin secretion and overall insulin sensitivity in the bodies of the study subjects were also identified.
Insulin resistance is a significant problem throughout the world and greatly contributes to the high prevalence of obesity. Insulin resistance also predisposes the body to type 2 diabetes, which may lead to a number of life-threatening complications in an affected patient.

With the improvements in insulin sensitivity, the risk of insulin resistance and its further development could potentially be prevented.
In one study (7), published in the Journal of Advanced Research, scientists also linked the use of intermittent fasting strategies to improvements in cognitive function and performance. Additionally, the study also found that intermittent fasting might help to improve functionality in subjects where a decline in cognitive function is noted. The major benefits mentioned in this study is that the intermittent fasting strategy helps to reduce systematic inflammation – including inflammation that affects the brain.

Getting Started With An Intermittent Fasting Program

Many people consider intermittent fasting difficult – the idea of having to restrict their food intake to just a small window during the day seems impossible. This is especially a great concern among people who are having problems with binge and stress eating, and those who are unable to control their appetite effectively.

The first step would be for a person to determine what type of intermittent method they would like to follow. For those getting started for the first time, the 16/8 method is usually the preferred option and is generally easy to implement.

Once a method has been decided on, it is important to consider how the program will fit into the individual’s daily schedule. Personal preferences need to be taken into consideration here. If a person rather prefers to eat breakfast, then they might decide to start their eating window at 7 AM or 8 AM in the morning. Their eating window will then end at around 3 PM or 4 PM – which is when they can have their last meal for the day.

Many people find it more convenient to start their fasting period with sleep and then continue to fast in the morning, breaking their fast at around 2 PM in the afternoon and then ending starting again at 10 PM at night.

Regardless, it is crucial that the entire day’s calories be fitted within that eight-hour eating window that is allowed during this method – or the specific period allowed on the intermittent fasting method chosen by the individual.

Some people may find that it is difficult to reach through the fasting window without opting for a snack. Hunger can strike, but should not be the cause for the person quitting their program. Instead, a person may wish to opt for a cup of coffee – without any added sugar, sweeteners, or creamers. Sparkling water is also a good option.

Conclusion

Intermittent fasting offers a number of benefits and can easily be combined with different types of diets to help a person achieve their weight loss goals faster. Studies have confirmed that the use of intermittent fasting is highly effective for reducing body weight and compared to results of restrictive calorie diets. While there is a lot of confusing information found online, getting started with an intermittent fasting program should really not be complicated.

References

(1) http://businessresearcher.sagepub.com/sbr-1946-105904-2881576/20180305/the-diet-industry
(2) https://www.who.int/news-room/fact-sheets/detail/obesity-and-overweight
(3) https://perfectketo.com/types-intermittent-fasting/
(4) https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6128599/
(5) https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6304782/
(6) https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5872764/
(7) https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5608558/

Recommended

Read Next
What's harder than losing weight? Maintaining it! Learn how to…