So many people these days tout intermittent fasting in churches, gyms, pubs, at work, and even on the streets. This has gone to an extent where there are intermittent fasting groups on Facebook, Whatsapp, and other social media. It’s now like a weight-loss religion. However, does intermittent fasting work for everyone? This and many other questions gyrating in your mind about intermittent fasting are answered in this article.
- What is fasting?
Fasting is the act of voluntarily abstaining from some or all food and/or drink – with an exception for water – for a specific period of time.
“Water fasting” on the other hand (i.e., drinking only water and nothing else), is when one abstains from any foods, but drinks plenty of pure water as needed to prevent dehydration.
Some people consider fasting as the voluntary abstinence from all food for a specific period of time and recitation of prayer.
Most individuals, need to break this fast with some sort of drink or meal before their body begins to starve and die from lack of necessary sustenance. In general, a single day’s fasting can be done safely by anyone in excellent health, even if one is accustomed to heavy physical labor.
The difficulty comes when fasting more than several days – doing so may make it difficult to get sufficient energy for everyday work or constrain daily activities. Exceptional people are capable of very long fasts (longer than two weeks) without discomfort, whereas others cannot bear half-day without considerable hunger.
Thus, fasting can be undertaken as part of an approved therapeutic regimen or as a personal spiritual practice.
- What is intermittent fasting?
Intermittent fasting can be defined as an eating pattern with time frames such as, but not limited to 16 hours of “eating window” and 8 hours of “fasting window.”
The intermittent fasting diet is a diet that involves periods of short-term calorie intake, followed by long segments without caloric intake. This technique has been shown to have greater positive outcomes for the human body. There are many religions that follow this diet, along with ultramarathon runners who use this approach because they believe it helps save their glycogen stores without having to stop while running. But can intermittent fasting also help you lose weight? A recent study found that the participants who intermittently fasted lost 10 pounds more than those who didn’t.
Intermittent fasting is a big buzz in the world of health and fitness lately. A lot of people are starting to talk about it and it’s being praised for its positive effects on weight loss, increased energy levels, risk reduction factors, lower incidence of heart disease, diabetes, etc.
Intermittent fasting is as old as time itself! Primitive societies around the world have had 1-2 days each week where food was not allowed at all times before noon. In Judaism humans are required to fast from dawn until breaking (see Eid al-Fitr), Islam requires fasting during Ramadan (see Islamic Calendar), Christians can fast on Ash Wednesday, Good Friday, or Advent Sunday (Roman Catholic) etceteras.
The premise is that since carbohydrates are stored as glycogen in the liver and muscle cells, the body will be able to start burning fat instead once there is no glucose leftover from carb intake. In other words, intermittent fasting causes your body to switch from relying on carbohydrates for fuel (glucose) and therefore losing weight from the excess fat they store easier. It also claims that it may lead to a longer life because of this same reasoning.
- How do you do intermittent fasting?
There are a few different ways to do intermittent fasting, but most fasting programs involve restricting the times of day that you eat food. The most popular way to do this is by skipping breakfast and only eating within an 8-hour window, typically from noon until 6 pm. So if you eat at noon, then your last meal will be at 8 pm. During these eight hours (called the “fasting period”) no food or calorie-containing beverages are consumed except water or other zero-calorie natural drinks like tea or coffee.
Some people also find it helpful to ban all physical activity during these eight hours as well as TV, internet surfing, and other inessential activities that might distract contemplation on God’s Word throughout the fast.
The first time you try it, start by incorporating a 16-hour fast with the remaining 8 hours as your normal routine. The goal is to strengthen your hunger signals and spur fat burning going into the night.
For example, if you are a person that wakes up at 6 am, eat from noon to 6 pm and then stick with water/coffee/tea until 6 am. At midnight get back on a 16-hour routine where you don’t eat anything junk food or processed while also maintaining a healthy diet during feed periods (no cake, no cookies, etc)
So for example Noon-6pm Normal Schedule: Dinner from 6 pm to 12 pm next day.
One reason research has shown intermittent fasting can be beneficial in that it reduces the influence of cortisol on insulin levels. This means that eating food every 8 hours, for example, can lead to elevated levels of insulin in between meals and increased sugar cravings. An intermittent faster would simply have one or two breakfast, lunch, or dinner throughout the day and then fast about 16 hours (i.e., stop eating at 6 p.m. and start again at 10 a.m.).
- Does sleeping count as fasting?
The popular idea that sleeping is fasting, and this idea has been verified by some doctors, does not make any sense. We are always forgoing food as the body goes into a continuous state of healing during sleep, it is just on a long-term basis.
No. As humans, we have evolved with two separate states of rest that reflect what our bodies need – “catching up” or “repairing”. The more time we spend in the repair state overnight means that our bodies can do more work while preserving function until we finally awake refreshed. Studies show that blood sugar levels drop faster when you first wake up than before you go to sleep so apparently there’s already some type of fasting going on every day!
While sleeping 8 hours is not fasting, it can have many beneficial effects on the body. A quick transition from a fairly inactive and blood-sugar-elevated state to the more relaxed “rest-and-“digest” pattern of body functions needed when sleep occurs can alleviate symptoms of hypoglycemia as well as certain other metabolic irregularities caused by excessive sugar consumption.
The body will release growth hormone which has anti-aging properties in order for your cells to get back into a resting state. This in turn will lower stress levels and boost all-day energy levels so that those who are having difficulty maintaining weight loss are able to rise up once again while still retaining muscle mass with this renewed sense of determination and verve.
For the best sleep, it’s important to have a meal/snack beforehand that has protein and fiber in it – this suppresses ghrelin and naturally causes drowsiness afterward. This will also help keep blood sugar levels constant so you shouldn’t wake up groggy from brain fog or an empty stomach.
- Why is intermittent fasting good?
According to a study done by the Salk Institute and the University of California San Diego, fasting overnight lowers proteins that can age you from inside the cell.
Higher levels of one protein observed during aging in animals are associated with surprisingly high amounts of frataxin. Fasting reduces frataxin production because it blocks its ability to carry oxygen like an iron-containing enzyme should be doing. Reduced risk for heart disease was also found in studies on fasting mice – their hearts became less inflamed than regular ones when deprived of food for three days.
Fasting also has some pretty wild effects on blood sugar, insulin, appetite hormones, and other metabolic processes that could lead to all sorts of health benefits or health problems down the line.
Intermittent fasting is great, but not when done to extremes.
Excessive intervals in between meals or a series of starving days will make it difficult to eat enough food on the following day. What this does is cause the person to have an abnormally low metabolic rate which may lead them to overeat and put on weight later down the line, creating problems that weren’t there before.
It also makes it more likely for someone who has gone through a fast and their metabolism crashed like this to binge eat once they resume their normal eating habits leading to binges states and disorder. It could also make losing past weight gains more difficult as well since you’ll be harder pressed to consume enough calories from fat cells after extreme starvation.
i) Intermittent fasting is not bad. As a matter of fact, it’s good for you. Just because some people find it tough to do doesn’t mean that everyone who wants to partake in intermittent fasting considers it “bad”.
ii) Some people may find intermittent fasting difficult because the body has a natural response, or defense mechanism, which goes hand-in-hand with its natural desire to survive and thrive in an agricultural society. It takes at least 10 days for the body’s fat cells to lower their set point and shift gears from sugar/starch burning mode into fat-burning mode. That’s about how long it takes the body to adapt successfully without starving or feeling deprived.
Intermittent fasting is good because it provides benefits to your body that you would miss out on if you were constantly eating.
This means that intermittent fasting allows the body to have a much-needed rest period. Most people believe there are many health benefits associated with giving the digestive system and organs a break from food, but this theory has not yet been tested extensively.
That being said, luckily for us, our bodies like efficiency and we will return back to anything in about 2 days no matter what we’ve tried when we’re done doing it (if it’s healthy). This makes something worth trying if you want to give up food forever or just focus more on relaxation while dieting.
It’s not always the case that breakfast is necessary, and intermittent fasting has a number of benefits including lower cholesterol and reduced risk for cardiovascular disease.
It is also important to note that periodic fasting also helps optimize hormone production which in turn can help with weight maintenance. In this fashion, it would be frequently recommendable (if at all) to consider periods of intensive exercise as a means of compensating for one’s caloric intake during periods when eating may be compromised.
One does not need food every single minute they are awake; intervals between binges throughout the day can often work better in terms of blood sugar control, hunger levels and energy levels as these things have been observed to fluctuate from hour to hour.
It’s beneficial because the body has less time to try and digest food when not eating, so it then starts using resources for certain other areas of the body. Basically, there can be a beneficial physiological adjustment or adaptation to intermittent fasting that will make it easier on your digestive system in its natural cycle.
While there may seem to be some potential drawbacks – such as tiredness from lack of energy – they might actually NOT exist if you are surrounded by people who eat at similar mealtimes and routines as you do. This includes friends at work, family members who live nearby, or even relatives around the corner.
An example is that elders have a high incidence of what we call “sleep-wake disturbances”.
- Can I drink during intermittent fasting?
Yes, you can drink during intermittent fasting.
Some methods of intermittent fasting keep in mind that it’s quite normal to have water and even juices during certain times as long as they’re outside your daily feeding window. The only one that would prohibit drinking is if you do Eat Stop Eat which recommends no food or liquid at all for 24 hours twice a week, but in this case, you wouldn’t be consuming anything during the fast so it doesn’t really matter when or what you do. But other than that, absolutely.
But if you are trying to follow a lifestyle of drinking less and avoid coffee or energy drinks then it is not advisable because your body will already be starting into withdrawal mode and may feel overly agitated as the day goes on. If this doesn’t concern you or coffee/energy drinks are necessary for your work/lifestyle then by all means go ahead! Just know that drank before breaking the fast might make breaking the fast more difficult.
- What is a 16:8 fasting schedule?
A 16:8 fasting schedule is where you eat in an 8-hour window and therefore fast for 16 hours each day.
The most common fasting time is 8 hours. This can be timed any way because the body’s natural circadian rhythms will make sure it switches to fat-burning mode during the night from suppertime onwards. That way, your breakfast would start at 10 am or 11 am, lunch at 12 pm or 1 pm, and dinner at 5 pm or 6 pm.
The idea behind this type of intermittent fasting, in particular, is that alternate days of fasting allow the cells to repair themselves on off days by regenerating well-rested muscles and replenishing vital stores of glycogen without storing excess glucose as fat.
What this routine is NOT…
- A rigid regimen of severe calorie restriction that leaves your feeling famished much of the time.
- Meal plan or diet that will help you lose weight in a week (2lbs or more).
- An excuse to binge eat at night. Those who have attempted this will tell you that they feel like they cheated themselves by starving their bodies all day and then overeating all their calories in one sitting at night!
- What should I eat after intermittent fasting?
Intermittent fasting is not a diet. It’s about allowing your body time to become accustomed to a smaller number of calories, without changing the types of foods you consume. In short, I recommend that people do intermittent fasting by taking an eating window in which they can eat very few calories (such as 500 or 600).
The goal is for people on intermittent fasting to increase the amount they fast until it’s at least 1 day per week and preferably 3-4 days per week each month. The idea is that over more and more years our bodies will program themselves to be happy with less food every year. That being said, I also recognize that this change will not happen overnight for most people.
After you resume eating, make sure to be eating protein-rich food and some carbohydrates.
It is suggested that after fasting, the body will have depleted glycogen stores and need glucose for fuel — so they recommend carbs to refuel the energy. Additionally, try going back on a ketogenic diet as soon as possible. The lack of insulin will encourage stored fat from the liver (to turn into ketones) and increase your metabolism. This is likely due to hormones being more inclined to trigger fuel production when glucose is low.
You should eat high-fiber, low-sugar vegetables, and fruits for easy digestion. Nuts or seeds such as almonds, walnuts, or cashews eaten either in moderation (5 to 10 a day) or as a meal when you’re hungry are also good post fasting food.
Oatmeal topped with fresh fruit is an excellent whole grain breakfast choice to start off the day with lower levels of inflammation. Water is best since it has no calories but should not be consumed too much before exercising since it can cause hyponatremia — from the rapid shifts in water concentration from our cells into our bloodstream after prolonged physical exerting. Iced tea with lemon and honey helps you drink more fluids throughout the day and keep yourself hydrated.
- Can I lose tummy fat with intermittent fasting?
Intermittent fasting is one of the easiest and least restrictive forms of weight loss, with many health benefits.
It’s possible to lose tummy fat with intermittent fasting, but the effect is mostly related to what a person eats while they’re not fasting.
Furthermore, intermittent fasting has also been shown to decrease fat mass and increase lean body mass, decelerate the loss of bone mineral density, and lead to improvements in several cardiometabolic risk factors such as blood glucose levels, insulin sensitivity (as seen in animal models with mice), various inflammatory markers (such as TNF-a and IL-6), high cholesterol levels, etc.
- Does lemon water break intermittent fasting?
If you drink lemon water, it may be more difficult to feel satisfied with your meal because the acidic taste will suppress food cravings, which can lead to over-eating later on. However, since intermittent fasting only requires abstaining from eating at specific intervals throughout the day or night and not actually by using triggers like hunger (i.e., skipping breakfast), caffeine (very common trigger), or lack of sleep (can’t sleep so I’ll grab a midnight snack) then drinking fruity beverages during a fast is okay if these maladies don’t affect you when trying to go without food for an extended period of time.
Lemon water does not break intermittent fasting. Lemon water contains a lot of electrolytes that provide the body with natural energy. We recommend drinking some lemon water before working out or after you’ve completed your workouts to replace any electrolytes lost in sweat and to help replenish the nutrients needed for muscle recovery!
The ideal time for your drink would be 15-30 minutes before or during a workout if you are on an Intermittent Fasting schedule – which could also depend on what type of workout you’re doing. Some people do it by having coffee first thing in the morning then waiting until lunchtime to have their first meal but we don’t recommend it.
Although lemon water does not break the fasting, it might alter your insulin response because of the citric acid.
Intermittent fasting often referred to as intermittent calorie restriction (ICR), seems to have a host of benefits for longevity and general health. One study also found that ICR improved kidney function and ameliorated chronic kidney disease in rats.
This was probably largely due to increased autophagy resulting from amino acid restriction during periods without food intake which led to decreased protein aggregation within cells when these cells were exposed again to food. Therefore some people’s answer is that YES you are breaking your fast with lemon water if you plan on drinking it throughout your fasting window which could hinder some of the health benefits.
- Does diet Coke ruin intermittent fasting?
Large amounts of caffeine suppress the feelings of hunger and thirst, so diet soda can decrease your desire to eat or drink anything (since feeling hungry and thirsty are cues that it’s time for food and water).
Quitting sugar-sweetened diet drinks is one way to help reduce our dependence on insulin signaling pathways that promote aging because when you drink a Diet Coke, the flavor lasts only ten minutes; then our body senses all those artificial sweeteners we’re using.
Artificial sweeteners play “hijacking” tricks with the body’s natural hormone signaling pathways by blocking real sugar from entering cells causing more cravings for sweets an hour later resulting in increased levels of hunger hormones like ghrelin.
One possible scenario is that intermittent fasting will provide very desirable effects to those who are against diet coke in general by reducing their intake of sugar and artificial sweeteners completely.
Some people need the caffeine kick just to get through their morning or afternoon slump, so the sweetness becomes an added bonus for them. But if you’re trying to cut out all those kinds of foods and drinks from your diet and only drink water or tea, it’ll probably be pretty difficult – even though coffee has its benefits…there are also drawbacks to drinking it.
Researchers have found that Diet Coke can reduce our resting metabolic rate by 11% and increase hunger levels by 73%. In plain English – Diet Coke will make you hungrier at a faster rate and higher intensity than say, water would. If your goal is weight loss, this might not be the best idea to consume. Alternatives to low-calorie drinks during fasting include black coffee or tea (herbal teas such as rooibos have no calories).
- Can I chew gum while fasting?
It’s best to avoid chewing gum while fasting because it can create problems with digestion and can release gas. Gum becomes a source of food in the absence of dietary energy sources, so it will cause depletion of the body’s reserves. Chewing gum also stimulates an appetite for sweets, which might lead to overeating between fasting periods.
Additionally, while this is not always true for everyone, some people have difficulties digesting anything except liquids when fasting because their stomachs will be too empty (low on acid). The digestive enzymes in saliva help break down food so that it can be digested more readily in other places also geared towards supplying enzyme production. Without water, there is insufficient fluid in the mouth to activate these enzymes.
Almost every fast includes giving up a certain kind of food or drink. When it comes to chewing gum, the most important thing is that you don’t swallow anything once you start chewing it. Otherwise, your fast will include some swallowing and then we’re back to square one. So you cannot chew gum while fasting either for religious reasons or just because you won’t be able to keep from swallowing what’s in your mouth.
To answer the question in another way, “can I chew gum while fasting”, if by “fasting” you mean skipping meals, then yes (because not eating is part of regular fasting). If that doesn’t apply and instead includes only drinking water throughout the day (or taking a vitamins supplement).
- What breaks your fast?
When breaking your fast the most important factor is the number of calories consumed at a given mealtime post-fasting. The goal with breaking you’re fast should be to maintain as many of the benefits that fasting has given us over the course of our previous fasting period and to compensate for some of the negative effects that starvation has had on us during this same period. Geriatrics often need more carbohydrates, while everyone else can benefit from eating healthy protein and fat options lighter on carbohydrates (think eggs).
- Can intermittent fasting be done at night?
Fasting at night will result in fat storage during the day which is not what someone looking to lose weight wants. Fasting on an empty stomach will also result in a very quick drop of blood sugar levels and putting a person into hypoglycemic shock when they wake up and have no food ready for consumption.
Fasting late at night is totally unadvisable, unfortunately – it would prevent people from participating in their daily routines as normal, and adopting this pattern of eating could make it difficult for people to operate under pressure (like driving home late at night) if they don’t feel well.
It’s honestly better to fast earlier than later anyway: fasting early allows you to enjoy breakfast without having consumed calories all morning.
However, there are a couple of different ways to do nighttime intermittent fasting.
One is to make dinner your last meal, then skip breakfast in the morning and eat through the rest of the day until bedtime. For example: If people usually wake up at 7 am, they might go to sleep at 11 pm or 12 am and rise at first light at 6 AM in order to have a nice 8+ hour window without food.
Another way is basically piggybacking on an established routine that you follow during waking hours for dinner, like going from 4 pm-8 pm instead of 1 pm-7 pm and skipping breakfast just as if it were a standard daytime cycle rather than adding any new rules or changes.
As long as you’re not eating high glycemic index or demanding foods or engaging in prolonged periods of strenuous physical activity. Your body will enter a state that’s called “fasting” or “hibernation.” In this state, your cells are still repairing themselves and continue to metabolize fat for fuel even though there’s no food for them to digest.
Once the sun comes up, your metabolism catches fire, and your appetite returns with a vengeance. That hunger can be very unattractive alongside other natural forces such as sleepiness in the morning – so it’s best to break out of fasting mode before dawn.
- Is intermittent fasting for everyone?
Intermittent fasting is actually not for everyone. While there are huge benefits to intermittent fasting, it isn’t a perfect solution. If you have any sort of health problems like diabetes or an eating disorder, then fasts can do more damage than good.
Actually, I would argue that this applies to anyone who has a medical condition–the timing of when you eat is just as important as what you eat because your body needs sufficient time to process food for nutrients and energy.
For some people who don’t have the best diet or who use sugar substitutes all day long, this will be more difficult and they need guidance from their doctor – which again might look different than someone else’s meal timing if they’re vegan too.
The type of intermittent fasting, the length of time you do it, and your underlying health and fitness levels come into play as well.
If you consume excessive amounts of caffeine (a stimulant) or alcohol (a depressant), are pregnant or breastfeeding, have an eating disorder, have a history of disordered eating patterns, were significantly underweight or active in sports with weight manipulation practices then these types of fasting may not be safe for you to practice on your own accord.
Given that intermittent fasting is growing in popularity there has been more focus on how it affects people with different physical needs.
For many people, intermittent fasting may be too unnerving to maintain. People with low blood sugar levels or high anxiety may benefit from eating breakfast before they fast. Even for people who are used to them, the first few days can be difficult.
Fasting during pregnancy is not recommended because there isn’t much research concerning the long-term risks of fasting while pregnant but it does seem like its effects on weight loss won’t have a comparison during pregnancy. Fasting can also make you more susceptible to catching a cold when it is most likely going around due to lack of energy intake and decreased immune response which would lead back into an undernourished state.
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