Picking through diet and nutrition plans is often overwhelming. Many diets aren’t maintainable in the long term, and they can be difficult to stick with.
If you’re looking for something easy to adhere to, intermittent fasting is an excellent option.
What Is Intermittent Fasting?
Intermittent fasting (IF) involves having set windows of time to eat. Outside of that time frame, you are otherwise fasting. Many methods exist, depending on preferences.
IF has several advantages over other popular diets and supplements.
IF is a highly-customizable option. You get to choose how long you fast and on what days. Keep in mind that it takes around 12 hours for your body to enter the fasting state and reap the benefits.
You can also choose what times to eat. If you allow yourself 8 hours to eat, you can choose to eat from 8 A.M. to 4 P.M., or at any other time.
Many people prefer to schedule their eating time during social hours in case they want to grab a bite with their friends.
Eat What You Want
While nutrition is still important, intermittent fasting doesn’t tell you what to eat. You aren’t required to cut any of your favorite food from your diet or eat food that you don’t enjoy.
No Intense Calorie Restrictions
Most weight loss involves strict calorie restrictions that leave you feeling hungry and miserable. Intermittent fasting can lead to a natural decrease in calorie intake. As you adjust to fasting, you may start eating less without thinking about it.
Less Prep and Effort
Since you don’t have to eat specific foods or restrict calories, IF is fairly effortless. There’s no need for meal prepping or planning unless you prefer to do that. You can spend less time preparing and more time going about your day.
Determining If Intermittent Fasting Is Right for You
Like any other diet, intermittent fasting isn’t ideal for everyone. Spend some time evaluating some of the factors below while making your decision. Much of it comes down to your goals and health.
Does It Fit Your Goals?
Take a moment to consider what you hope to achieve with intermittent fasting. Intermittent fasting has plenty of health and weight loss benefits. If you think it won’t meet your needs, consider adding an appropriate exercise and nutrition plan.
Your Lifestyle and Health
Do you have any medical conditions? Some conditions, such as hypoglycemia, may make fasting dangerous. Also, assess your physical capabilities without causing self-doubt. Make sure you feel capable of adhering to IF, but remember that you are capable of more than you think.
Consult Your Doctor
Consulting your doctor is especially important if you have a history of medical conditions, or if you take medications. Women who are pregnant, trying to conceive or breastfeeding should verify the safety of IF. Your doctor can offer valuable insight and advice, as well as monitor you.
Ask Others That Use Intermittent Fasting
When in doubt, seek those with experience. If you don’t know anyone that tried IF, look for blogs or forums. While you may have a different experience than others, they can still give you a solid foundation to build from.
Is Intermittent Fasting Effective?
IF causes the body to burn fat. Once your body enters the fasting state, it no longer has glucose and carbs to fuel itself. This forces it to seek out the excess glucose stored inside fat cells, leading to increased fat loss.
Some also theorize that IF also boosts our immune system. This is because of the stress that fasting places on your body, which causes your immune system to kick into gear.
The Health and Fitness Benefits of Intermittent Fasting
When IF targets fat cells, weight loss is achieved without affecting muscle mass. Athletes that consume high-protein diets find that they can even gain muscle easily.
Fasting also increases the production of Human Growth Hormone (HGH), which plays a vital role in muscle growth. IF is popular among those trying to lose weight or athletes trying to improve their body composition.
Lower Blood Sugar and A1C
Studies show that intermittent fasting naturally leads to lower blood sugar and A1C levels. This can lead to a reversal of insulin resistance and type 2 diabetes.
Intermittent fasting is proven to lower blood levels of inflammatory markers, such as monocytes. Reducing inflammation can lower the risk of inflammatory health conditions.
Fasting can reduce your levels of triglycerides and the bad form of cholesterol. This can improve your cardiac health and reduce the risk of heart disease.
Cell Health for Anti-Aging and Longevity
IF promotes the removal of waste from our cells in a process called “autophagy.” Optimal autophagy improves cell health and balances cell regeneration.
Since we are made up entirely of cells, our entire body benefits from autophagy. Cell health is important to youthful skin and functional organs.
Possible Cancer Prevention
Since IF promotes cell health and reduces inflammation, it may have an impact on cancer prevention. Evidence also shows that IF might lessen some common chemotherapy side effects.
Choosing Your Intermittent Fasting Method
Intermittent fasting has several methods and variations. The most common is the 16:8 Method (Leangains) in which you fast for 16 hours and eat for 8 hours. If you are struggling to choose, start with these steps.
- Determine Your Goal
Set a clear goal for yourself. Are you trying to lose weight? Improve your body composition? Be healthier? S.M.A.R.T goals are a great way to get started.
- Analyze Your Schedule
Try to figure out when you prefer to eat. Take your job schedule, social hours, and sleep into account. Start with a long eating window. You can always shorten it later.
- Give Yourself an Adjustment Period
Allow yourself at least a month to adjust. It may be uncomfortable at first with symptoms such as hunger pangs, fatigue, brain fog, and headaches.
- Listen To Your Body
Your body will tell you if your chosen method isn’t working. If you experience unusual side effects after your adjustment period, stop fasting. Don’t resume until you speak to a doctor.
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