Think intermittent fasting (IF) is another fad diet…
Hold up – it might be more beneficial than you think.
While you may have dismissed this increasingly popular diet as a “craze”, you might be surprised to learn that it actually could support your wellbeing…
In fact, when we actually look at what IF actually involves, there’s no cutting out food groups, no supplements and no other gimmicky products involved. It’s simply cycling through varying lengths of eating and fasting – simple!
If you find that calorie restriction and counting is too rigid for you or causes you to fall into obsessive food tracking, then IF might be perfect for you…
Whilst people often start a diet for aesthetic reasons, it’s important to note that there are many other benefits by making a positive change when it comes to nutrition.
Studies have shown that IF could potentially benefit you in the following ways…
One of the most commonly sought after results when it comes to dieting is weight loss. Even if dropping some pounds isn’t the reason for switching up eating habits, it’s usually a welcome bonus (particularly in a world where obesity is a growing concern). Therefore, it’s reassuring to know that there is a good amount of research that links IF with weight loss.
The science behind this is pretty straight forward:
When we eat, we provide our body with the fuel (glucose) it needs to support a wide range of important processes, allowing us to carry out our everyday lives and routines. However, if we delay the delivery of glucose to our body by fasting, the body has to turn to alternative sources to continue functioning correctly.
If you haven’t guessed already, that alternative fuel source is fat (1)!
High blood pressure, cholesterol and blood sugar are just some of the body’s ways of indicating that the heart is under stress. The good news is that studies have shown IF can reduce these markers, therefore potentially reducing the risk of heart related diseases (2).
You might think of inflammation in regards to skin flare-ups, like rashes. However, your body can also experience inflammation and too much can have devastating effects. Chronic inflammation can ultimately lead to life changing conditions such as heart disease and diabetes.
Our blood contains inflammatory markers which can be tested to tell if we are in a flared up state. However, a study carried out on people observing Ramadan (a religious period of fasting) showed that many common inflammatory markers were reduced when compared to their levels before and after the run of fasting (3).
While it’s always a good idea to keep our brains active with stimulating material and challenges, research indicates that IF could also improve brain function and potentially reduce the risk of developing Alzheimer’s (1).
A study found that IF ‘promotes the growth of neurons, aids in recovery following a stroke or other brain injury, and enhances memory performance’ (4). That’s some serious brain power boosting benefits from a simple shift in your diet!
(It’s important to note that there are limited studies on humans, with most research involving rats or primates. However, the results are impressive and many people who intermittently fast can vouch for feeling and looking better.)
Intermittent fasting comes in different forms. Whilst they all share common benefits, some will suit you more than others.
Here are the 4 most popular ways to intermittently fast:
One of the most popular methods of IF is ADF. The basic principle is one day you eat around 125% of your daily recommended calorie intake and the next you have around 25% of that – easy!
There are no rules regarding times you should consume your calories as long as you stick within the clear 24 hour cycling windows. You can also have unlimited calorie free beverages on fasting days (4)!
You’ve probably heard of this diet, but did you know it’s actually a form of IF?
The basic principle is you eat normally for 5 days a week and then on the other 2 you restrict your intake to 500-600 calories (depending on factors such as gender and your basal metabolic rate). You can choose whichever days you like as your fasting ones, as long as you don’t do two in a row (5).
If you like to follow a similar routine daily, then the 16:8 method of IF will suit you perfectly. The idea is to fast for 16 hours and then eat in the following 8 hours window (making up a full 24 hour period). You include sleep as part of the fasting time, which ultimately makes the fasting period easier to observe.
A simple way to think of it is you could eat between 12pm and 8pm everyday and restrict calorie consumption between – ideal for those who struggle to find time for breakfast in the mornings.
This plan is a little more complicated compared to the previous form. It’s based off the eating habits of ancient warriors; light grazing through the day and a feast at night.
The ins-and-outs are a bit more complex to explain, so if this method interests you find out more here.
Evidence points towards IF being a potentially effective way to improve overall health, without the need for a huge overhaul. No expensive supplements, powders or superfoods and no huge time commitment – in fact, the opposite is likely true.
While the premise of IF isn’t to eat junk food during feasting periods (or to be super lazy with it), the lack of calorie counting and nutrient tracking make this an easier “diet” to follow. In fact, with our modern day, busy lifestyles, having set windows in which to eat may suit a lot of us better than many other eating plans out there.
Give it a go and see how your body benefits from the power of intermittent fasting!
Practice Intermittent Fasting With Caution. None of this constitutes as medical advice and you should consult your physician before undertaking any type of new diet – particularly if you have any existing medical conditions.