Can a Little Fasting Help?

Learn if intermittent fasting is right for you

Calorie-restricting diets have been around for centuries. To lose weight it makes sense: the fewer calories you eat, the more weight you’ll lose. But eating too few calories can be dangerous for your health and makes it hard to keep weight off long-term.

So what should you think about an eating pattern known as intermittent fasting? More of a lifestyle change than a diet plan, intermittent fasting may help you lose weight, build muscle, and regulate blood sugar. While intermittent fasting isn’t for everyone, could it benefit you?

The Intermittent Workings

Fasting is skipping meals or eating a low-calorie diet. With intermittent fasting, you make a conscious decision about what meals you’ll skip and what time of day you’ll reserve for eating. The healthy way to fast is to choose one to three days of the week as your fasting days. There are several ways to go about this.

One form of intermittent fasting is to set aside certain hours of the day to eat. This may be an eight, six, or four-hour window. Many people choose to skip breakfast and only eat from noon until 8 in the evening, splitting their total calories between two meals.

Another type of fasting is to skip two full meals a day. This means you’ll go a full 24 hours without food. Eat dinner at 6 p.m. and then skip breakfast and lunch the next day.

Or you can fast by eating when you regularly do, only eating half or a quarter of the amount of calories you normally consume.

If a man has nothing to eat, fasting is the most intelligent thing he can do. – Hermann Hesse

Who Should Try It?

Intermittent fasting can be a powerful way to teach your body the difference between true hunger and mental hunger. Many people eat because it’s “dinner time.” Their bodies are set on a regular meal schedule, so they eat. Intentional, regular fasting can help you and your body learn to eat only when you’re truly hungry.

Some people eat when they’re bored, stressed, or depressed. They aren’t really hungry, but food satisfies a need they have for fulfillment. Intermittent fasting can help you learn to control your cravings and to redefine mealtime.

Though potentially helpful for some, fasting isn’t safe for everyone. Children, pregnant women or women thinking of getting pregnant, underweight adults, and people with certain medical conditions should not skip meals.

Possible Benefits

While more research is needed on this type of eating pattern, there are potential benefits of intermittent fasting. Skipping meals or reducing the number of calories you consume may help you burn fat more efficiently, normalize your insulin sensitivity, lower your triglycerides, normalize your hunger hormone, reduce inflammation, lessen the damage caused by free radicals, preserve your memory, and increase your human growth hormone (“the fitness hormone” that helps build muscle and boost your metabolism).

Timing Your Fast

How often you eat influences how your body treats food. After a meal, your body processes the food you’ve eaten and uses it to burn calories for energy rather than using stored fat as its energy. As a result, your fat just sits there. However, when you fast, your body doesn’t have immediate sources of energy in your bloodstream, and it’ll turn to its stores of fat for energy. Hence, the fast weight loss you can expect.

Eat the Right Foods

Just because you’re skipping meals or eating less than normal, you don’t have free reign to eat whatever you want. This would be counterproductive. Eating less frequently means you need to fill your body with foods that fill you up and give you the nutrition your body needs. Eat meals that are high in protein and fiber and low on the glycemic index.

If you find you experience a lack of energy and focus on the days you fast, you may need to increase your calorie intake. You’ll still lose weight. It’ll just take a little longer. And remember—fasting doesn’t work for everyone. You may want to give it a try, but don’t sacrifice health and wellness for a fast weight loss.

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