Intermittent fasting is a simple eating plan that involves fasting for 16 to 18 hours a day, followed by a 6 to 8-hour window where you eat all of your daily calories. It has become one of the most popular eating plans, and for good reason! Once you see what it can do for you, you may just find that it’s your next choice of healthy diets.
The Methods of Intermittent Fasting
There are a few options for intermittent fasting. First is the 16:8 method, the most commonly used intermittent fasting method. With this plan, you fast for 16 hours a day (only drinking water), then eat all of your calories within the 8-hour eating window. With the Eat-Stop-Eat method, you fast for a full 24 hours at least once a week, but no more than twice a week. On the Alternate Day Fasting method, you fast every other day, but instead of full calorie restrictions, you simply limit yourself to 500 calories on a fast day. And, finally, the 5:2 method, where you fast two non-consecutive days in a week, limiting yourself to 500 calories on those days, but eat normally the rest of the week.
How Intermittent Fasting Helps Your Body
The idea behind intermittent fasting is that limiting your food intake on certain days or within certain time periods will force your body to tap into stored calories. Not only that, but it’s intended to improve lipolysis (fat burning) to make your body more effective at turning both dietary and stored fats into calories. However, intermittent fasting can also stimulate the production of growth hormones, which will improve insulin sensitivity and decrease body fat levels. Fasting can also lead to a decrease in insulin, which makes it easier for your body to burn stored fats.
Intermittent Fasting and Exercise
One of the most complicated parts of intermittent fasting is timing your meals around your exercise. This can be tricky if you need a lot of energy first thing in the morning, but you only work out in the late afternoon or evening. Ideally, the largest meal of your day should be consumed after you work out, and it’s a good idea to have something light (200-300 calories) before your workout. However, it is possible to work out in a fasted state, and though you’ll experience decreased endurance, there will be much better fat activation because it’s the only source of energy available to your body. For those looking to build muscle, though, it’s better to avoid working out in a fasted state, as that will lead to muscular breakdown rather than growth.
What You Eat Matters
When you eat is important, but the “what” matters just as much. If your diet is nothing but junk food, your body won’t be able to compensate for it, no matter when you eat it. Your goal should be to eat food that is as healthy, balanced, and rich in nutrients as possible throughout your entire eating window. Balancing your macros (protein, carbs, and fats) and micronutrient (fiber, vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants) is crucial for a healthy body, and it becomes even more important if you’re depriving your body of calories at certain times of the day or week.
Watch for Danger Signs
If you start feeling dizzy, extra fatigued, or weak, it may be time to give intermittent fasting a break. It’s okay to occasionally break the fast if your body is showing danger signs, and you can have a few calories to give your body energy to keep going until your next meal.