Have you ever seen a celebrity, someone like Vivica Fox for example, who looks not more than 26 but is actually 57? We’re often wowed by how young-looking people are and desire to be like them. What’s the secret, we ask? Good genes, diet?

Well, it’s typically a combination of both. One of the most efficient dietary practices for maintaining such an ageless look is intermittent fasting. Intermittent fasting has been practiced for decades, centuries even. Here, we take a look at what it is, how to accomplish it, and its many benefits to athletes and non-athletes alike.

What is Intermittent Fasting?

Intermittent fasting is the modification of eating schedules by breaking them into a period of eating and fasting. It means that you eat for some hours during the day, while you stay without food for the remaining hours of the day. During your eating period, you consume all the calories you need for the day and other healthy meals while you completely abstain from food during the fasting hours.

Intermittent fasting is the go-to solution for weight loss, especially if you don’t want to try traditional or medical means. It is a habit that forces you to watch not just what, but also when you eat. During intermittent fasting, your body uses the fat stored in your body as fuel to keep the body energized; that way, you burn fat faster, thus promoting weight loss. Because you’re burning up more calories, there might be the temptation to load up on junk foods. However, you should ensure to eat healthy and wholesome foods to keep your body continually nourished.

Beyond losing weight and staying in shape, intermittent fasting has several benefits both to your physical and mental health. Intermittent fasting helps to improve your muscle and joint health, helps with depression, lowers your risk of heart diseases, cancer, diabetes, and metabolic diseases, and reduces your blood sugar and insulin levels.

Benefits of Intermittent Fasting

Intermittent fasting has numerous health benefits beyond its effect on weight loss. These benefits include;

  • Helps reduce inflammation
  • Improves cardiovascular functioning
  • Helps reduce cancer risk and slows cancer progression
  • Improves quality of life
  • Improves your mental health, reducing anxiety and depression
  • Improves quality of sleep
  • Improves immunity

Who Should Avoid Intermittent Fasting?

Intermittent fasting is not for everyone. Certain demographics and people with certain medical conditions should avoid intermittent fasting as it can cause complications in these people. The following categories of people should avoid intermittent fasting;

  • Pregnant and breastfeeding women
  • Young children and teenagers
  • Older adults, particularly those suffering dementia
  • People with eating disorders, whether past or present
  • People with immunodeficiency
  • People who have had a traumatic brain injury or post-concussive syndrome in the past

Apart from these, if you have a medical condition and you are currently taking medication, you should ask your doctor or healthcare provider if it is safe for you to practice intermittent fasting. You don’t want to risk you experiencing any complications or side effects, so it’s safer that you consult your doctor.

Also, suppose you have started intermittent fasting, and you are experiencing serious adverse effects. In that case, you might want to visit your doctor instead of putting yourself at more risk or danger. Intermittent fasting’s side effects include extreme hunger, nausea, fainting, headache, fatigue, and irritability.

Intermittent Fasting Types

Types of Intermittent Fasting

There are different types of intermittent fasting. The methods vary in the number of days and the calorie intake.Below are the popular plans that you can choose from. However, ensure to consult with your doctor before picking any particular plan.

The 16:8 Diet Method

This type of dietary plan reduces the eating period to eight hours, between 9 a.m. to 5 a.m. or 11 a.m. to 7 p.m. Meanwhile, you get 16 hours of fasting which would include the hours you spend sleeping.

In this plan, your eating window would end around early evening because it is at this time that metabolism slows down. It is also massively beneficial that you don’t eat any food two to three hours before you sleep. This will allow your digestive system not to be overworked while you sleep and also allow your body to rely on fatty stores for energy during this time. .

Steps

16/8 intermittent fasting is simple and easy. You can start by picking an eight-hour window and limiting your food intake to that period.

Most people prefer eating between noon and 8 p.m., which means you’ll only need to fast overnight and skip breakfast but can still eat a balanced lunch and dinner, along with a few snacks throughout the day. Others may eat between 9 a.m. and 5 p.m., allowing plenty of time for a healthy breakfast around 9 a.m., a normal lunch around noon, and a light early dinner or snack around 4 p.m. before starting your fast.

5:2 Intermittent Fasting Method

This is a dietary plan that allows you to normally eat for five days of the week and restrict calories for two days. Eating normally implies you can eat to get the average calories that you need within that period of five days. Meanwhile, on your fasting days, you limit calorie intake to about 500-600 cal/day

This method allows you to consume high-protein and nutritious food to promote healthy living and maintain weight. During this fasting, you should stick to plain water or beverages with zero calories. Examples of zero-calorie beverages are herbal tea and black coffee.

There are three schedules you can choose from for the 5:2 diet plan.

  • You can restrict calories on Monday and Thursday in a week.
  • You can also restrict calories on Tuesday and Thursday and normally eat for the remaining days of the week.
  • Friday and Sunday are the other days you can restrict your calorie intake.

If you have any medical issues related to diabetes, this type of intermittent fasting is not for you. Also, if you have any history of the disorder in eating or have nutrient deficiencies, you should not consider this type of intermittent fasting.

Eat Stop Eat Method

The eat-stop-eat method is an almost brutal, but very effective method of intermittent fasting. It involves completely abstaining from food for one or two non-consecutive days. On the remaining days, you can eat whatever you like. However, best to stick with sensible, healthy choices and avoid eating more calories than the bod actually needs.

Keep in mind that you need to drink more water when you are on the Eat Stop Eat method. You are also allowed to consume different types of calorie-free beverages like sweetened coffee or tea.

The Warrior Diet Method

The basic idea behind the method is that the body is re-programmed to follow life cycles that improve our survival. This method is in three phases, and it takes place over the space of three weeks. Each phase is done within a week. The first phase is aimed at improving your body’s capacity to discard toxins. The second phase enables your body to utilize fat for energy. Finally, the third phase aims at improving your body’s ability to convert carbs to energy.

Steps

Your eating window can be either during the early evening or late evening. You can fast all day and eat between 4 p.m. and 8 p.m., and fast for the rest of the night after. You can also fast during the day, eat between 6 p.m. and 10 p.m., and fast until your next eating window.

Guidelines to Follow During Intermittent Fasting

During intermittent fasting, there are guidelines to follow that can help you stick to your fasting plan. You can easily stick to this diet method if you follow these tips:

  • Drink cinnamon tea during your fasting window. It will help reduce your hunger
  • Drink water regularly all through the day
  • Practice mindful eating when you are eating
  • Exercise before or during your eating window
  • Meditate during your fasting period, especially when you are hungry
  • Watch less television. Watching television increases your inclination to eat.
Intermittent Fasting and Exercise

Exercise and Intermittent Fasting

Incorporating exercise into your intermittent fasting routine helps your body stay healthy and achieve your fitness goal. However, you cannot do just any exercise. You have to listen to your body and focus on exercises that do not put much stress on the body. These exercises may include walking, yoga, pilates, light jogging, etc. You can typically exercise any time within your schedule, but exercising just before your refueling period is super beneficial since your insulin levels are highest around then and your body is able to burn more fat during workouts.

When exercising during intermittent fasting, you should ensure to stay hydrated and get enough micronutrients. This will help you build muscles better and recover faster after workouts. You should avoid high-sugar drinks and keep the intensity of workouts fairly low.

Conclusion

Intermittent fasting offers a wide range of benefits to the body. It helps the body stay fit and is effective in losing weight. Combining intermittent fasting with exercise can help you achieve your fitness goals faster and lose weight quicker. You should avoid intermittent fasting if you have or are predisposed to certain conditions. Furthermore, intermittent fasting is a healthy habit that should be practiced in moderation. Taking it to the extreme is not advised and may hold severe dangers to you.

References

Intermittent fasting 101- The ultimate beginner’s guide

How to exercise safely during intermittent fasting