Some health experts support the concept of fasting to improve overall wellness and help with weight loss. That sounds extreme – but it doesn’t have to be. Fasting means simply not eating for a designated amount of time. We typically think that to fast one has to go without food or water for a day or more.
But fasting can be whatever length of time it takes your body to burn fat or gain certain benefits by giving your body a break from food. That’s where intermittent fasting comes in. A regimen that has caught on in a big way, intermittent fasting can be thought of as simply scheduled eating.
Types of Intermittent Fasting
You can select from several different intermittent fasting (IF) schedules that suit you and your goals Before you start on any regimen, we strongly recommend you speak to a medical professional to discuss any benefits or customization required for your specific health needs.
Intermittent fasting can take many forms. Here are some basic intermittent fasting types:
Time-restricted fasting. Limit your eating to a certain amount of time. A common time-restricted fasting period is 16 hours. You could, for example, eat normally within 8-hours and stop after dinner.
Every-other-day fasting. On fasting days, you might not eat any food or eat a very small amount, keeping it under 500 calories. Then on non-fasting days, eat normally.
“Eat-Stop-Eat” fasting. Similar to every-other-day fasting, pick two days out of the week to fast for 24 hours. On the other days, you would eat normally. A variation of this type is to eat normally 5 days out of the week and make the remaining two modified fast days where you restrict yourself to around 500–600 calories per day.
24-hour fasting. Going without food or caloric drinks for 24 hours.
Extended fasting (sometimes referred to as “warrior fasting”). Eat small meals during a 20 hour period and then during the 4 remaining hours have a large meal. During the undereating phase eat lightly, including fruits, vegetables and plenty of fluids.
The operative words here are “intermittent” and “eat normally.” The idea is to incorporate fasting into your routine regularly, which might be daily, weekly, biweekly, or monthly. It’s important while you’re on your eating cycle to eat healthy meals; don’t use fast-breaking meals as an excuse to binge on junk food.
The other important component to healthy intermittent fasting is fluids. See more information below on the types recommended during an IF program.
Possible IF Benefits*
Let’s talk about what some say are the benefits of intermittent fasting. Why go to the trouble of putting yourself through these intense eating/fasting patterns?
Weight loss. The fasting benefit most of us think of first is weight loss. Obviously, a diet where you’re restricting calories will help you lose weight. But there may be more to intermittent fasting than just calorie restrictions. Not eating for at least 12 hours signals your body to start burning fat for energy (ketosis), because you’re tricking your body into thinking it’s starving. When you’re burning fat instead of storing it, you lose weight. Also, when fasting, you’re not consuming calories that can put on weight.
Blood sugar levels. Intermittent fasting may help to stabilize your body’s blood sugar levels by regulating insulin. Insulin is a hormone, which, if off balance, can lead to diabetes and other health conditions.
Inflammation. Some studies show that fasting can improve the body’s defenses against numerous health problems, including inflammation. Many medical conditions erupt out of the inflammatory process. Those conditions can worsen if inflammation goes unchecked.
Heart health. Fasting may help lower blood pressure. Keeping blood pressure low is key to a healthy heart.
Brain function. Fasting may raise the level of the human growth hormone (HGH). HGH is a hormone produced in the brain that increases the breakdown of fat, counteracts the effects of insulin, and stimulates the production of protein (helps build muscle). Recent research at a heart institute found that men who fasting for 24 hours had a 2000 percent increase in circulating HGH and women a 1300 percent increase.
Drinking and IF
While intermittent fasting, hydration is important. It will help keep your energy level up, since there’s a tendency to feel a bit tired while on the fasting cycle. Water is your friend on IF. Drink as much as you need and want, including carbonated water. You must drink appropriate fluids. Besides water, what are they?
Tea and coffee – maybe. Experts disagree on whether tea and coffee – which both contain caffeine and are stimulants – are okay to drink while fasting. Some say stimulants will trigger a rise in insulin. Others say they’re okay as long as you don’t add sugar or cream. And still others say a little milk in your tea or coffee is okay. You might have to experiment to which works best for you. If you do decide to keep your tea, Tejava is always a great unsweetened alternative.
Because of the sugar content, there is not agreement whether or not juices can be included in a fasting cycle.. The sugar content will raise your insulin. Also, if you are fasting for possible weight loss, adding high calorie liquids such as high fat soups and sugary juices may hamper the results.
Avoid soda while on IF, including diet soda. Sodas contain a lot of sugar and the artificially sweetened ones will also increase insulin. Also say no to alcohol while fasting for the same reasons as sugared drinks. Soup broth is good option while fasting. With broth you’re getting some nutrients while very little calories. To intermittent fast effectively, a good rule of thumb is to avoid high-calorie and sugary drinks and other liquids while fasting.
These are some basics on intermittent fasting. Talk to your doctor or dietitian to see if intermittent fasting is something you can benefit from, and ask them for help to put together a plan that works best for you.
*These may not be proven or generally accepted by the medical community. Please see sources used to develop this blog.
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