What Is Intermittent Fasting and Should You Try It for Weight Loss?
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Are you struggling to lose the dreaded “quarantine 15?” If you put on unwanted pounds with the pandemic’s stress and restricted activity, you’re not alone. Still, carrying too much weight puts you at risk of various health conditions.
Some people swear by restricting their caloric consumption between certain hours. So what is intermittent fasting? Is it safe, and should you try it to lose weight?
What Is Intermittent Fasting? Different Methods
The term “fasting” refers to restricting food intake for a specified period. In the spiritual sense, it refers to giving up something distracting, but of value to you, to renew your faith and to seek a sense of purpose or direction. However, please don’t plan on spending 40 days and nights wandering the desert — the results could turn deadly.
What is intermittent fasting? It refers to going without solid foods during predetermined hours or days. The idea is to allow your body to lower insulin levels and inflammation.
One study from the University of Alabama investigated the technique on obese, prediabetic men. They found that those who restricted their food intake to an 8-hour window daily lowered their insulin levels, sensitivity and blood pressure more than those with a 12-hour eating span.
There are several methods of intermittent fasting you can try. The most frequently used techniques are the 16:8 method and the 5:2 method.
In the former, you restrict your eating to an 8-hour time frame each day, preferably earlier in the day. While you might choose to go from noon to 8 p.m., you shouldn’t include the overnight hours — unless you are a shift worker.
In the latter, you eat normally five days per week but fast for two, consuming no more than 500 to 600 calories on those days. While the diet’s founder established different guidelines for men and women, you may need to adjust depending on your activity level.
Other methods include the following:
- The alternating day method: In this method, you eat normally every other day while restricting your intake on alternating days.
- The eat-stop-eat method: This method is similar to the 5:2 technique except that you may opt to fast only one day per week.
- The warrior diet: In this plan, you subsist on light fruit-and-vegetable snacks until dinner, when you eat a hearty meal.
- Spontaneous meal skipping: Have you ever worked through lunch without so much as a snack at your desk? You may have unintentionally used this method for a day. There’s no rhyme or reason, although you can make a chart to vary the meals you skip from day to day.
Is Intermittent Fasting Safe?
In general, intermittent fasting is considered safe. It more closely resembles early humans’ eating patterns, who may have gone for hours without a snack.
However, the process can prove problematic for some people. If you have diabetes, you may need to manage your blood sugar. Those who are hypoglycemic or have low blood pressure may likewise face increased risks of adverse effects. If you want to try intermittent fasting safely, avoid the following behaviors:
- Fasting too long: You shouldn’t go longer than 24 hours without food.
- Not checking with your doctor: Make sure you have no underlying health conditions that could leave you woozy if you try this technique.
- Ignoring your body’s signals: Even if you consider yourself healthy, you need to listen to your body. If you start to feel dizzy or confused, it’s a sign your blood sugar is crashing, and you should eat.
Tips for Giving Intermittent Fasting a Try
Do you want to give intermittent fasting a try for weight loss or improved insulin control? Heeding the following three tips can help you to achieve success.
1. Identify Your Biorhythms
When do you feel most hungry? For some, they feel famished after a morning workout and can’t imagine skipping breakfast. Others may have no problem subsisting on coffee until noon but refuse to give up a later dinner hour.
2. Evaluate Your Family’s Habits
If you have a partner and kids, they’ll understandably grow upset if you announce, “Sorry, no dinner tonight. I’m fasting.” Plus, you’ll miss the camaraderie and together-time if you come together over the supper table.
3. Consider Your Work Schedule
If you work the 11 p.m. to 7 a.m. shift, there’s little point in telling you to restrict food intake after 8 p.m. You’ll end up with only a tiny waking window to eat. Trying to power through a traditional workday without so much as a snack can impact your productivity.
What Is Intermittent Fasting? Try This Method to Shed Unwanted Pounds
Now that you know the answer to the “what is intermittent fasting?” question, you can decide if this method may work for you. Add this technique to your weight-loss arsenal to see if it accelerates your efforts.