What is Intermittent Fasting?

What is Intermittent Fasting, image of timer on newspaper

Intermittent fasting (IF), or Time-Restricted Feeding, is a pattern of scheduled eating. They are both categorized as “Intermittent Fasting;” even though there are slight differences. With Time-Restricted Eating, you eat during a specific period of time and fast for the remaining. When fasting intermittently, you alternate from restricting caloric intake and eating normally. Usually, Time-Restricted Eating is a daily occurrence, while IF tends to be an extended fast that can happen a few times a week or month. Note that Intermittent Fasting is not necessarily a “diet” because It doesn’t change what you eat, but when you eat your meals. Although for the record, I’d advise transitioning to a low carbohydrate eating plan or  keto diet, If you have more than 15 pounds to lose or have a metabolic-dysfunction, such as prediabetes or hypertension, both have awesome benefits. Even if you don’t change what you’re eating, IF will help you stay healthier longer.

Why Do It?

It’s a great way to get lean without having to go on a restrictive diet, or drastically cut down your calories. Intermittent fasting is also a good way to keep muscle mass while losing fat. And probably most importantly, it is one of the simplest ways to extend longevity.

What are the benefits of Intermittent Fasting?

Intermittent Fasting helps you lose body fat
Your body uses glucose from food, i.e. carbs, for energy. When you fast, your body uses up available glucose, and then starts burning your fat for fuel. Once this happens, you are in ketosis, a fat-burning state.  Intermittent fasting has shown to help resolve insulin and leptin resistance, which in turn aids in burning fat.
Removing cellular waste
Cells naturally accumulate waste and other damaged proteins and byproducts over time. This debris can interfere with cellular function. Intermittent fasting has been shown to promote autophagy. In the absence of food for a period of time, this is a process in which the body eats and disposes of damaged cells, in order to regenerate newer, healthier ones. The result is a more efficiently working organism. 
Intermittent Fasting helps you live longer
Scientists have long discovered that restricting calories lengthens life. When your body goes periods of time without food, it also goes into survival mode, thus responding to stress, this is actually a healthy response that we have lost over time.  Intermittent fasting activates many of the same mechanisms for extending life as calorie restriction. In layman’s terms, you don’t have to starve yourself to live longer. Just incorporate IF for at least 16hrs to reap these benefits.
Reducing Cancer Risk and Improving Metabolic Disease Risk
Early studies connecting cancer and fasting are promising. For example, there is This study of 10 cancer patients that suggests that fasting before chemotherapy helps greatly diminish its side effects. This discovery is also supported by another study in which cancer patients used alternate day fasting before chemotherapy resulting in fewer deaths and better cure results.
Finally, this comprehensive analysis of many studies on fasting and disease has concluded that fasting appears to not only reduce the risk of cancer, but also cardiovascular disease.
Intermittent fasting is easier than following a diet and helps simplify your day
When fasting intermittently, you skip a meal- usually breakfast or dinner. Consider that one less meal to worry about. During eating hours, you are able to eat normally. This means you don’t have to be restrictive, just eat what you normally would. Even without a caloric deficit, the time spent in fasting is activating its benefits.

Types of Intermittent Fasting

Time-Restricted Eating
The most popular fasting schedule involves a 16–hour fast followed by an 8–hour eating window. It is well-liked due to its simplicity to follow. Most of us are asleep for 8 hours of time which makes this very easy for most people.  It doesn’t matter when you start your 6 to 8–hour eating period. You can start at 9am and stop at 5pm. Or you start at 1pm and stop at 9pm. It is up to you. The benefit of this form of daily intermittent fast is that it soon becomes part of your daily routine. Most of us eat around the same time every day. Whether you eat in an 8 hour or 6 hour window- try to eat 2 solid meals, with no snacking. You don’t need to reduce calories, just eat in the window. Getting into the habit of eating on this schedule soon becomes part of daily life. It is very safe to make this part of your lifestyle. To adjust to this, simply push your breakfast off an hour or two each day moving it to the window you want to eat. Once you adjust to this you will find your energy rises and you enjoy the feeling of not worrying about eating as often.
Weekly or Biweekly Intermittent Fasting
If you are weary about committing to a daily fast, consider a weekly fast.  The occasional fast has been shown to lead to many of the benefits listed in this article, so even if you don’t use it to cut down on calories consistently, there are still other health benefits of fasting. So, example, let’s say you decide to intermittent fast mid-week. Lunch would be the last meal of Wednesday until lunch on Thursday. Note that this 24-hour fast aids in autophagy, but not consistent enough to lose a significant amount of body fat.  Start this like Wednesday and Friday or Monday and Thursday.
Alternate Day Intermittent Fasting
Alternate day intermittent fasting integrates longer fasting periods on alternating days throughout the week.
For example, you’d eat dinner on Monday night and then fast until Tuesday evening. However, on Wednesday, you’d follow a normal eating schedule until Wednesday night’s dinner- then the 24 hour fast would start again. It may be slightly more difficult than the schedules listed above, but beneficial nonetheless. 
In conclusion, intermittent fasting may be the easiest way to recharge our cells, reduce aging, lose fat and help correct inflammation and dysfunction. The majority of it is mental.  Getting past the idea of needing to eat every few hours reaps more benefits than not. Having the self-control to divert that need is extremely worthwhile. In my opinion, the ease of intermittent fasting is the best reason to give it a try. It provides a wide range of health benefits without needing a massive changing in lifestyle.
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