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Basic Principles of Intermittent Fasting

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In recent months, the concept of intermittent fasting has been gaining traction in both the media and within health circles. While fasting is not a new idea (this ancient yogic practice dates back thousands of years), intermittent fasting is quickly becoming one of this year’s most popular buzzwords.
What is intermittent fasting?

Intermittent fasting is a scheduled pattern of eating that cycles between fed and fasted states, or ‘feast and famine’. This method of eating more closely matches the eating patterns of ancestors, and there is a growing body of research that recommends it over the standard “three-square meals a day” pattern. While there are no hard and fast rules about the length of period that one should fast for, it generally agreed upon that no fast should exceed 36 hours. There are several proposed methods for the “right way” to do intermittent fasting, but the most basic pattern includes a 16 hour fast 5-7 days a week and an eating window of about 8 hours.

Benefits of intermittent fasting

The purported benefits of intermittent fasting are many, but the most well-documented benefits include:

  • Changes the function of cells, genes and hormones
    •    Insulin levels decrease significantly, facilitating fat-burning
    •    Human growth hormone increases up to 5-fold, which can facilitate fat-burning and muscle gain
    •    Your cells initiate cellular repair processes
  • Helps you lose weight
    o    Intermittent fasting helps you eat less calories and slightly boosts metabolism.
  • Reduces insulin resistance, and effectively lower your risk of type 2 diabetes
    •    The reduction of insulin levels and blood sugars can reduce the risk of type 2 diabetes.
  • Reduces oxidative stress and inflammation in the body
  • Beneficial for heart health
    •    Intermittent fasting can reduce the risk of heart disease by reducing blood pressure, cholesterol levels, triglycerides, and inflammatory markers.
  • Boosts brain health by increasing the growth of new neurons and protecting the body from damage
  • May be protective against neurodegenerative diseases, such as Alzheimer’s disease
  • May increase longevity

Do’s and Don’ts of Intermittent Fasting

DO make sure to stay well hydrated during the fasting period with water, green juices, herbal teas, and coffee.
DON’T over-do the coffee or lace it with cream and sugar. Instead, look into adding healthy fats (such as coconut oil or MCT oil) in your coffee.

DO fill your eating-window with nutrient dense foods such as colorful vegetables, dark leafy greens, lean proteins, and healthy sources of fat
DON’T consume processed foods and foods chock-full of refined sugar.

While intermittent fasting has many benefits, it is may not be suitable for those who have trouble controlling their blood sugar levels, have known thyroid and/or adrenal gland dysfunction and/or are pregnant. Individuals who undertake intermittent fasting should always pay close attention to their body and energy levels.

Disclaimer: The information in this article is for educational purposes only and is not intended to diagnose, prescribe, or treat. Optimal health is unique and it differs from person to person. Always consult with your primary care physician for advice on your wellness goals.