In recent years, intermittent fasting has gained tremendous popularity among people trying to live healthier lifestyles. However, a closer look reveals that it has been around for a very long time. In fact, since the 1900s, it has been used to treat health problems such as obesity and epilepsy among others.
Basically, the program entails sticking to an eating schedule where you alternate between periods of fasting and eating. That means setting a time window during which you are allowed to eat anything you want and then fasting the rest of the time. It’s really more about when you are supposed to eat rather than what you are supposed to eat.
With so much information out there, it is very easy for one to be confused about what abstaining from eating for a specified time all about and the health goals it can help you achieve. Before you consider giving it a try, it is important to take some time to fully understand its ins and outs. This way, you won’t have to set unrealistic expectations once you start.
Here is everything you should know about intermittent fasting:
It’s not hard to implement
Fasting is not as difficult as some people make it out to be. In fact, it is something that is very easy to fit into your daily routine. One of the reasons why this particular eating schedule is so easy to implement is the fact that you are not compelled to sacrifice certain foods that you probably enjoy. It’s just about choosing certain times where you are free to indulge in food and staying off it once those times are over.
It reduces the risk of cancer
Studies conducted in animals have indicated that restrictive diets, including fasting, can play a role in delaying the onset of different tumors. At the same time, it reduces the risk of obesity which has been shown to increase the risk of various cancers. For people with a history of eating disorders, staying without eating can end up exacerbating their abnormal eating patterns, whether it’s binge eating or abundant food intake disorder.
A balanced diet is important
If you want to enjoy the benefits of intermittent fasting, eating a balanced diet is absolutely critical. A balanced diet helps you maintain your energy levels and also lose weight. That means that your focus shouldn’t be on how much calories you take but also where those calories are coming from. A qualified dietician can give you some great guidance on what foods are most suitable.
The first few days can be quite challenging
Although the body does eventually adjust to your modified eating cycle, you can expect it to be a bit challenging earlier on. In addition to feeling very hungry, you might also experience low energy levels, headaches and constipation. During this period, you should drink plenty of water and avoid exercises that are too strenuous.
Effects on your body
As you fast, your insulin levels will drop and your growth hormones will go up. These two effects will cause your body to start using its fat reserves. The change in growth hormones will also cause an increase in your metabolic rate. As long as you are not overeating, your calorie intake will reduce. All these factors will lead to a decrease in your body weight.
Watch your stress levels when fasting
Sometimes, fasting can put an additional strain when you already have other external stressors that you should be concerned about. As you fast, you should be monitoring your stress levels very keenly to avoid things going sideways.
It slows down aging
Aging is a huge concern for most people. Studies have shown that allowing your digestive system a break reduces oxidative damage, improves insulin sensitivity and decreases blood pressure. All these factors play a role in enhancing your health and promoting longevity. During fasting, the body is able to clear out dead cells and regenerate damaged proteins.
It promotes self-control
When you fast, you are able to engage your self-control muscle. This is because you are making a conscious decision not to eat, which means controlling your mind. Overall, your willpower will improve and you will find yourself being able to regulate other important facets of your life. In spiritual circles, fasting is an integral part of spiritual cleansing. It’s amazing that so many religions recognize fasting as one of the best ways to promote wellness.
It improves cognitive function
Fasting can improve your mental performance and boosts brain power. The fact that it allows the cells in your brain to recycle and also repair themselves means that one of the net effects is enhanced cognitive function.
How do I ease into the new eating schedule?
If you are practicing it for the first time, it is advisable that you take a step by step approach. For example, during the first two to four weeks, you can aim for a 12-hour fast every day. After that, you can start increasing your fasting window by one or two hours every two weeks.
Also, you want to have a steady schedule rather than an erratic one. This will increase your chances of success. Once your body gets used to the routine, your hunger hormones will adapt and fasting will become much easier.
Is intermittent fasting suitable for bodybuilding?
Many athletes who have practiced it say it helps them train better. A bodybuilder is more satisfied with bigger meals, which is what he or she gets after a period of fasting. Of course, as a bodybuilder, you also want to ensure that you maintain an optimum protein intake in order to maintain your muscle mass.
Your fast should include a protein intake that is evenly distributed throughout the day, especially on your training days. You may also want to implement supplements whenever the need arises.
When choosing any fasting program, you should take some time to consider your occupation and lifestyle so that you go for the most appropriate one. What is good for one person may not necessarily be good for another person. As long as you do it right, you stand to enjoy most of the benefits associated with intermittent fasting.