The only way you could not have heard about intermittent fasting would be if you’ve been living under a rock. Everywhere you search about dieting and weight loss, you see people talking about it. Books have been written, and so many swear by it as a way to achieve your ideal weight. But is it just a new trend?
Not really, fasting is as old as humankind.
Our ancestors didn’t have grocery stores to pick up a snack when they felt hungry. People had to hunt animals, search for seeds and fruits. Life was difficult, animals weren’t sitting around the corner, waiting for the hunters to get them.
Humans had to move from place to place, searching for water and food every single day. Sometimes there were lucky, other times they weren’t so much. Breakfast, lunch, dinner, and snacks weren’t their routine.
So how did they survive?
Our bodies can cope with hunger much more efficiently than we think. We believe that hunger lasts forever, but in reality, it is a feeling that comes and goes.
If early humans were feeling weak and couldn’t go hunting after a day or two of not eating, we wouldn’t exist.
Fasting boosts brain function, focus, and alertness that is why early humans had the power to go in search of food even though they might not have eaten for days.
Most religions adopted fasting as a part of their ritual to promote self-control, health, and the process as a powerful experience.
Nowadays, food is everywhere, and we developed an abusive relationship with it. We eat whenever we feel bored before we even feel hungry and end up overeating without realizing it. Obesity has become an epidemic and is leading to many health issues.
According to the CDC: “Obese people compared to those with a healthy weight are at increased risk for many serious diseases and health conditions like coronary heart disease, stroke, many types of cancer, mental illness, high LDL cholesterol, high blood pressure, and the list goes on and on.”
According to the World Health Organization: “In 2016, 39% of women and 39% of men aged 18 and over were overweight, and 18% of children and adolescents aged 5-19 were overweight or obese”.
This is why it is crucial to maintain a healthy weight, not only to look good but to have a quality life. Implementing fasting into your daily routine can give you huge benefits that go beyond simple dieting.
However, many people think that fasting can harm them or that it is challenging.
Let’s clear some misconceptions about intermittent fasting.
Intermittent fasting is a diet plan
Fasting isn’t a diet plan; it is a method of eating. People might use fasting for weight loss, but it can be used for health benefits and weight maintenance.
It can help you focus, for example, on your work and not think about food all the time. You can choose to eat your meals at home and enjoy more quality food.
Additionally, by not snacking all the time, you can easily control your diet and calorie intake.
Intermittent fasting is a single thing
Intermittent fasting isn’t “one” thing or method, you can adjust it to your lifestyle. There are many ways to go on IF.
The 16/8 method
Fast for 16 hours, eat in an 8-hour window.
The 5:2 diet
Eat normally 5 days a week and fast for 2 with a max consumption of 500 kcal.
Alternate Day Fasting
As the name implies, you fast every other day and eat normally the following.
Eat Stop Eat
It consists of a 3-day eating method where you eat on day one, fast on day two, eat on day three and start all over again the 1-2-3 pattern.
The Warrior Diet
It is more extreme; the fasting window lasts for 20 hours and the feeding for 4.
Fasting is too difficult
If you feel that you cannot fast, think again. As you can see, there are many methods and styles of fasting, it won’t be difficult to find the one that will suit you. Intermittent fasting consists of two periods, a feeding window and a fasting window.
In the fasting period, you aren’t allowed to eat, and in the feeding period, you can eat your meals. A usual style of intermittent fasting is the 16/8 method, where you don’t eat for 16 hours and eat in the 8-hour time frame.
16 hours might sound a long time, but it isn’t, your sleep counts for this period. Let’s take, for example, a day. You get up in the morning and don’t eat anything before 12 o’clock, besides black coffee or tea.
Then your feeding window starts, and you eat from 12 to 8 o’clock your meals. After 8 o’clock you stop eating, then you go to sleep and repeat the next day. It isn’t that hard, but if you still struggle to keep this program, you can start with a 10 hour fast and work your way up.
IF will slow your metabolism and you will lose muscle mass
According to a study, there are findings to suggest that IF may be more effective for the retention of lean mass than simple caloric restriction diets. Preserving lean muscle is closely related to your metabolism.
This is why as we get older and lose muscle mass, our metabolic rate drops, and losing weight gets harder. Especially women shouldn’t be afraid of lifting weight thinking that they could get bulky.
It isn’t that easy for females t0 grow big muscles. On the contrary, weights can help you sculpt your body. You can really change your body composition by lifting heavy.
Your body will go into starvation mode
You shouldn’t confuse fasting with starvation, which can reduce your metabolic rate and prevent you from losing weight.
The latter is when you don’t eat and don’t know when you’ll eat again or like in anorexia you avoid food at all costs. Some studies suggest that metabolic rate increases with intermittent fasting.
Fasting consists of windows where you eat, and you don’t. All the nutrients your body needs will be absorbed when you eat. It isn’t a long-term process that could harm you.
Also, the amount of food you eat isn’t small, it’s just fitted into your feeding window.
You can eat as much as you want during the feeding window
Some people think that because they’re fasting, they can go to full party mode when their feeding window starts. Well, if you’re trying to lose weight, it doesn’t quite work this way.
You aren’t allowed to eat like it’s the end of the world. You can certainly eat more quantity because your meals are compressed into a smaller time frame, but you have to be careful and not overdo it.
Fasting isn’t a magic trick that can transform you into a calorie-burning machine. Even if you choose healthier foods, you have to keep track of how much you eat.
You can indulge in junk food
Another misconception about fasting is that you can eat forbidden food in large quantities. Eating healthy is the most important thing when it comes to weight loss and having a healthier body.
You shouldn’t eat empty calories even though they might fit into your daily caloric intake.
If you eat clean and your body takes all the nutrients it needs, you will win in the long-term by maintaining your diet. It is much easier to get carried away and eat more than you should when consuming junk food.
Your energy levels will drop
If you think that by fasting, you’ll feel tired all the time, you’re wrong. On the contrary, you’ll probably feel more focused, with higher levels of energy.
Eating all the time will make your insulin spike multiple times during the day, leaving you tired and exhausted.
When you work and have so many things to do, feeling lethargic can ruin your day and make you less efficient. It may take some time for your body to adapt and feel the benefits of fasting, but it can be worth waiting.
Every day we need as much energy as we can have and fasting can become a valuable tool. Imagine if you can hit the gym after a long day without feeling all that tired.
You can drink whatever you like, just not eat during the fasting window
Calories don’t exist only in solid food, but also in liquids. Your morning coffee might not be just a “coffee” but an entire meal, depending on how you drink it.
If it includes cream, syrup, toppings, sugar, and other ingredients, it will ruin your fast. You can have black coffee or tea instead if you want something to drink.
Another thing to keep in mind is that alcohol is full of calories and can add up without you realizing it.
When you consume alcohol, digestion inhibits the breakdown of nutrients and prioritizes alcohol metabolism, leading to the food consumed, turning into stored fat.
Intermittent fasting might work well for some people, but you have to test it and see for yourself. The benefit of using it is that you can implement it in whatever diet plan you choose.
You can be vegan, vegetarian, keto, paleo… it doesn’t matter since it is a method, not a specific eating plan.
However, people with eating disorders, underweight, pregnant, or breastfeeding women should avoid it. Also, people with health conditions should first consult their physician before attempting to try intermittent fasting.