What is intermittent fasting?
Intermittent fasting is not a diet. It is a timed approach to eating. Unlike a dietary plan that restricts where calories come from, intermittent fasting does not specify what foods a person should eat or avoid. Intermittent fasting may have some health benefits, including weight loss, but is not suitable for everyone.
Intermittent fasting involves cycling between periods of eating and fasting. At first, people may find it difficult to eat during a short window of time each day or alternate between days of eating and not eating.
How effective is intermittent fasting
Fasting has several effects on a person’s body. These effects include:
- Reducing levels of insulin, which makes it easier for the body to use stored fat.
- Lowering blood sugars, blood pressure, and inflammation levels.
- Changing the expression of certain genes, which helps the body protect itself from disease as well as promoting longevity.
- Dramatically increases human growth hormone, or HGH, which helps the body utilize body fat and grow muscle.
- The body activates a healing process doctors call autophagy, which essentially means that the body digests or recycles old or damaged cell components.
Fasting dates back to ancient humans who often went hours or days between meals as obtaining food was difficult. The human body adapted to this style of eating, allowing extended periods to pass between food intake times.
Intermittent fasting recreates this forced-fasting. When a person undertakes an intermittent fast for dietary proposes, it can be very effective for weight loss. In fact, according to one study, most people try intermittent fasting to help lose weight.
Other research backs up the claims that fasting can help a person lose weight. For example, a review of studies shows that many people who fast see a higher loss of visceral body fat and a similar to slightly less reduction in body weight compared with people who follow more traditional calorie reduction diets.
For a healthy, well-nourished person, intermittent fasting offers very few side effects.
When a person first starts fasting, they may feel slightly physically and mentally sluggish as their body adjusts. After the adjustment, most people go back to functioning normally.
However, people with medical conditions should consult their doctor before beginning any fasting program. People particularly at risk from fasting and who may require medical supervision include:
- women who are breastfeeding
- women who are pregnant
- people who are trying to conceive
- people with diabetes
- people who have difficulty regulating sugar
- people with low blood pressure
- people on medications
- people with eating disorders
- people who are underweight
Effects on exercise
For healthy individuals, intermittent fasting should not affect their ability to exercise except during the period when the body is adjusting to the new eating schedule. After the adjustment period, a person should not feel any ill effects from fasting on their exercise routine.
Those worried about losing muscle while fasting should be sure to consume enough protein during eating periods and participate in resistance training regularly. By keeping protein intake up, a person is less likely to lose muscle mass from fasting.
Fasting is a natural part of the human life cycle. Most people have fasted unknowingly throughout their lifetimes by eating an early dinner and skipping breakfast the next day. More structured approaches may work well for some people.
However, it is important to keep in mind that although a person does not need to exclude certain foods from their diet, they should still aim to eat a balanced diet rich in protein, fiber, and vegetables. Remember to drink plenty of fluids, too.
Finally, though the average person will likely experience no or minimal side effects, people with certain medical conditions or who are taking certain medications should speak to their doctor before trying a fasting plan.
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Resource: www.medicalnewstoday By Jenna Fletcher Reviewed by Natalie Butler, RD, LD