Intermittent Fasting has been gaining popularity in recent years but is it actually good for your body?
What Is Intermittent Fasting?
Intermittent Fasting is an eating pattern rather than a diet.
With Intermittent Fasting, you eat during specific windows and fast outside of these.
Common examples include:
● The 16/8 eating pattern – This style of Intermittent Fasting limits eating to a window of 8 hours of the day, with the remaining 16 hours acting as a fasting window. This is the most popular type of Intermittent Fasting.
● The 5:2 plan – This type of Intermittent Fasting involves eating fewer calories on two non-consecutive days of the week and eating normally the rest of the week.
● 24-hour fasting
If you’ve ever eaten dinner, had a good lie-in the next morning and not eaten again until lunchtime, you’ve done Intermittent Fasting without intending to.
Intermittent fasting is based on the idea that our ancestors often went for extended periods when food was scarce. They learnt to adapt to this.
What Benefits Can It Have For Your Body?
Intermittent Fasting aims to encourage the body to move into fat-burning mode. Instead of using glucose as fuel, it begins to use ketones instead. This is known as ketogenesis.
This has major effects on the cellular signalling that’s linked to health and ageing. It can help the body to protect itself against oxidative stress and repair or remove cells that have been damaged.
The effects of ketogenesis can go far beyond the fasting period and can continue to affect blood sugar and inflammation levels. Over time, this can help your body improve physical and emotional health. It also has the potential to reduce the risk of disease.
Research has suggested that doing Intermittent Fasting can help avoid diabetes or reverse existing diabetes symptoms. There is also some evidence that it can improve cardiovascular disease.
It may also help improve sleep patterns, boost gut health, reduce inflammation and lower “bad” LDL cholesterol levels.
If you find yourself overeating in the evenings, doing Intermittent Fasting can avoid this. Because you’re restricting the window for eating and commonly stop eating after dinner on the 16/8 eating plan, there’s far less potential for overeating after the eating window ends.
What Happens To Your Body When You Fast?
For most of us, the food we eat is broken down in the gut and quickly turned into sugar. This is then used by our cells for energy and fuel. Any excess that we don’t use is stored within cells as fat, with the help of insulin.
In between meals, insulin levels will decrease and the sugar that’s been stored in fat cells can be released and used for energy. But if you’re snacking between meals, this doesn’t happen.
Intermittent Fasting aims to reduce insulin levels enough to trigger fat-burning mode. This is why Intermittent Fasting can support weight loss. Going into ketogenesis also encourages metabolic changes in the body.
Eat Plenty of Vegetables
Vegetables are naturally low in salt. Fresh vegetables are your best bet but frozen and canned vegetables also tend to be low in salt.
Check the labels to make sure that salt hasn’t been added, though. Some canned vegetables can be higher in salt.
Roasting vegetables such as peppers, sweet potatoes, courgettes, tomatoes, and parsnips can enhance their natural flavour without the need for salt. You can also drizzle in olive oil and herbs for an extra taste boost.
Things to Consider
When you’re not fasting, the food you eat needs to be highly nutritious. Think lean protein, whole grains, nuts, seeds, fatty fish, fruits and vegetables.
It can be difficult to adopt a new style of eating, especially if you’re used to eating three meals a day plus snacks.
Not everyone will find it sustainable to commit to Intermittent Fasting and that’s okay. If you don’t feel comfortable with the idea of Intermittent Fasting, ditching snacks, doing a “mini fast” between meals and not eating in the evenings may work better for you.
If you’re working on eating plenty of nutritious whole foods, moving your body regularly and getting enough sleep, Intermittent Fasting isn’t something you have to do to be healthy.
There’s some evidence that Intermittent Fasting has fewer benefits for women, especially with blood sugar control.
Who Shouldn’t Do Intermittent Fasting?
Intermittent Fasting isn’t recommended for some people, especially without medical guidance.
If you fall into one of these categories, speak to your doctor before starting Intermittent Fasting:
● You have underlying health conditions, especially diabetes
● You have low blood pressure
● You’re underweight
● You take prescription medications
● You’re trying to conceive
● You have (or have previously had) issues with your menstrual cycle
● You’re pregnant or breastfeeding
● You have a previous history of eating disorders