New year, new you... right? New decade, new ways to tackle your resolutions. By this time of year, you’ve probably heard of all the freshest health kicks, or maybe you’ve tried one of them out for yourself.
The loudest and fastest buzz around is all about intermittent fasting, and there are many reasons why it’s becoming the most popular form of weight loss this year. It not only helps you lose weight, but also improves your overall health. Here is your 2020 guide for anything and everything about intermittent fasting.
What is intermittent fasting?
The idea behind this new type of dieting is by not eating for longer periods of time, your body starts shaking up the chemistry of your hormones. This change in the way your cells are functioning causes a number of benefits to your health, such as weight loss, reducing your risk of life threatening diseases, and relieving stress.
There are five different ways to approach intermittent fasting. One of these methods paired with a clean, nutritious diet and exercise routine is bound to help you achieve your 2020 body goals. Let’s go down the list.
#1 The 16:8 Approach
Made popular by Martin Berkhan, this approach is the process of fasting for 14 to 16 hours and only eating within an 8 to 10 hour period each day. During the eating period, you can enjoy two, three or more meals. This method is otherwise known as the “Leangains” protocol, which is the same basic concept paired with exercise and some dietary restrictions.
An example of the 16:8 method is finishing your last meal of the day by 8:00pm and starting your fast. Your next meal wouldn’t be until 12:00pm the next day. It’s recommended to make your first meal of the day your biggest, and your last the smallest.
What happens when you use this method of intermittent fasting?
While you’re not eating anything, your body naturally assumes it’s in starvation mode. It then boosts the blood flow to fat cells, increases epinephrine and norepinephrine concentrations, and speeds up your metabolism. These reactions combined with lower insulin levels and a quick release of fatty acids for energy are a perfect recipe for weight loss.
#2 The 5:2 Approach
While the 16:8 protocol is a routine you must follow everyday for results, this other approach is one you only have to worry about two days a week. Following the 5:2 pattern, you have five days out of the week in which you keep your diet relatively normal and two days on which you limit your meals to provoke a fasting period. You can pick whichever two days, but it seems to be most common to choose the second and fifth day.
Also known as the “Fast Diet” made popular by British journalist Michael Mosey and talk show host Jimmy Kimmel, this dieting pattern requires you to restrict your daily intake on your two fasting days to 500 to 600 calories. It is recommended for women to aim for the lower end of the calorie spectrum, sticking to 500 calories or so, while men can eat up to 600 calories.
The word is that the 5:2 method is an easier way to try intermittent fasting. There are limited studies, however, regarding this specific pattern of fasting and it’s health benefits.
#3 Alternate Day Fasting
This approach to intermittent fasting is a ratio of 4 normal eating days to 3 moderate to extreme fasting days. On the three non-eating days, the goal is to consume zero calories, but if this sounds too difficult, you can try simply cutting back to only a few hundred calories.
This on and off approach can be deemed extremely challenging for a lot of people. It’s certainly not for everyone. If you think you would have a hard time dealing with hunger pains three out of seven days of the week, you might have more success with one of the other methods of intermittent fasting.
When you’re consistent with an alternate-day fasting schedule, you’re taking in fewer calories and boosting your metabolism at the same time. This creates a perfect balance of push and pull. Of course it’s also important not to over-do it on your normal eating days by indulging too much or too many unhealthy foods. Again, it’s all about the balance.
#4 The Slightly More Intense 5:2 Approach
With the same weekly structure as the 5:2 method we’ve already touched on, this approach has just one major difference: restricting your calorie intake to zero calories on your two fasting days. This method is similar to the alternate day approach with one extra day of eating per week.
It’s probably worth mentioning that on zero calorie days, coffee, tea and other non-alcoholic beverages are allowed. You’re welcome.
#5 The Fast and Feast - Warrior Diet
Last but not least, we touch on the Warrior Diet you probably have heard about from author and fitness pro, Ori Hofmekler. This form of intermittent fasting works on a daily basis and entails only consuming small amounts of fruits and vegetables throughout the day and enjoying one rather large meal in the late afternoon or early evening.
The logic behind this fast-all-day, feast-at-night system, which is based on the eating habits of ancient warriors, is a direct connection to intermittent fasting at its core. Consuming lighter, low-calorie foods such as fruits and vegetables and non-alcoholic beverages like coffee, tea and of course water keeps your body in a fasting state.
Fruits and vegetables that are rich in antioxidants and high in fiber, such as strawberries, plums, spinach and dates, are great options to include in your diet while your body is in it’s fasting mode. Medjool dates are a nutritious snack that will curb your sweet tooth without increasing your blood sugar levels. These delicious caramel-like treats are great while on intermittent fasting.
This 20-hour fasting period combined with a short period of feasting promotes weight loss, brain health and reduces risk of disease.
Intermittent Fasting TipsNow that you know all of your options when it comes to intermittent fasting, it can be easier to wrap your head around this new health phenomenon. If you’ve come this far and think it’s worth a good ol’ college try, here are some tips to help you stick to it.
- Pick the right method
- Drink plenty of water
- Drink coffee and/or tea
- Follow a low carb diet in between fasting periods
- Don’t binge after fasting
- Focus on short-term goals
It’s important to take some time before you begin to weigh the pros and cons of each approach and choose what is right for you. This will prevent you from slipping up along the way.
Chug-a-chug-chug! Water will help curb your appetite on the really difficult fasting days and work to clean out your system while the fasting process is breaking down cells. Drinking coffee and/or tea will help to relieve a little hunger pain during the more difficult fast days.
Another crucial tip is to resist the urge to stuff your face after a long fasting period. Practice control.
And lastly, don’t rush into this drastic lifestyle change. Give yourself a short-term goal of one month or maybe only three weeks at first, and grow from there. Be sure to pat yourself on the back after every short-term accomplishment. Intermittent fasting can be rough!
The Benefits of Intermittent FastingNow that we’ve covered the different ways to approach intermittent fasting and how to stick it through the process, let’s discuss the beneficial factors that make this style of dieting more than just a great way to go down a few pant sizes.
Weight and Fat Loss
It seems obvious why fasting would be connected to weight loss. If you’re eating less, you’re consuming less calories and as we all know, that usually causes our bodies to shed a few pounds. We also know when we consume less calories and also increase the rate that our bodies are burning calories by exercising, we lose even more.
When you fast, you’re not only reducing your overall calorie intake, but you’re doing so over a longer period of time than usual. This speeds up your metabolism by 3.5 to 14% and the growth hormone increases in the bloodstream. This results in your body burning fat at a more rapid pace. You not only drop pounds this way but your overall body composition changes.
Lower Risk of Type 2 Diabetes
Another great benefit of intermittent fasting is that it reduces your risk of developing life threatening diseases such as Type 2 Diabetes. When your blood sugar levels are high and insulin resistance is present, the chances of becoming diabetic are higher as well.
When you start intermittent fasting, your blood levels of insulin drop significantly, and so do your blood sugar levels. Since insulin and blood sugar levels are the direct connection to Type 2 Diabetes, these changes are preventative steps one can take to protect you from the disease.
Stress and Inflammation Relief
We are all aware that stress has a strong effect on how we age and our receptiveness to chronic diseases. Specifically oxidative stress can be detrimental to our health.
The imbalance of free radicals and antioxidants inside the body, or oxidative stress, damages cells and tissue by reacting with protein and DNA molecules. An excess breakdown of cells through oxidative stress can cause the body to age more quickly and less gracefully. It also can lead to certain common diseases.
Intermittent fasting is helpful in enhancing the body’s anti-aging powers and resistance to this kind of cell destructive stress. On another positive note, it fights against inflammation in the body which is also a way to take preventative measures to avoid chronic disease.
Improve Heart Health
Not only does intermittent fasting help you shed pounds, protect you from type 2 diabetes and slow down aging, it can also have an indirect effect on your heart health. The majority of heart diseases are due to a number of risk factors, such as blood sugar levels, blood pressure levels, cholesterol and inflammation.
Intermittent fasting has been proven to reduce the levels of these risk factors, which can possibly improve overall heart health. Although the connection between fasting and the heart has only been tested on animals thus far, and requires more human testing to be certain.
Autophagy: Cell Waste Removal
Through the process of “autophagy”, our cells clean out the old to make room for the new. It is a way for the body to remove and recycle broken down cells that are taking up space and energy so that new, healthy cells can grow and function properly.
When our bodies enter a fasting state, autophagy takes place and the cells that got to go are cleared out. An increase in the growth hormone also occurs when we fast that causes the body to generate new cells to replace the old. This process rejuvenates the body and is a major component in the prevention of cancer and Alzhiemers disease.
Of course we can’t forget to mention how this dieting style affects the brain. The combination of all of the above has a major effect on our brain health.
Intermittent fasting also may have some extra added bonuses related to the brain. It can produce new nerve cells and increase levels of the brain hormone called brain-derived neurotrophic factor, or BDNF. These reactions can assist in improving overall mental health and other brain functions.
As we enter this new decade with hopes of improving our health and breaking old habits, a major change might be what we need to push us to reach our goals. Intermittent fasting is not only a great way to reach that magic number on the scale, but has been proven to have several other positive outcomes regarding our health.
If you’re over the same fad diets and you’re willing to step out of your comfort zone, intermittent fasting might be the right lifestyle change for you.