Intermittent Fasting: Dieting Simplified
Intermittent fasting is gaining momentum among those seeking to lose weight. It is an eating pattern which involves fasting at certain times and continuing to eat your normal diet at other times. As long as your diet is healthy, you continue eating the same food. Only your eating schedule changes. Since there are no special diets involved here, this is regarded as a more feasible weight loss method for some people.
You already fast every single day as you sleep. Intermittent fasting just extends the fasting period a little further. The main aim is to lose weight without involving any specific diet imposition.
This fasting technique has various methods where the days or weeks are split into periods of fasting and periods of eating. The most popular methods involve fasting for 16 hours daily or fasting for 24 hours twice a week. In the 16 hours fasting method, you skip breakfast, have your first meal in the afternoon, and eat your last meal by 8 p.m.
Intermittent fasting is growing in popularity as a way to shed extra fat without involving dieting. It helps you to retain body mass while you are getting lean and is a hassle-free strategy to cut down weight without trying hard to follow diets. This means that it is more likely to be simple enough for you to get started and get results.
Types of Intermittent Fasting
Intermittent fasting works by fasting for a period of time, then eating in the remaining period. During the fasting period, you can take a little or no food, based on the type of method you have selected. However, you are free to drink non-alcoholic calorie-free beverages including coffee, tea, and water. Be aware that caffeinated drinks can dehydrate you when your body is already depleted of energy though. Certain fasting techniques allow you to consume small quantities of low-calorie foods while fasting. Supplements are also allowable.
There are various types of intermittent fasting. All of these methods involve dividing your days or week into fasting periods and eating periods. You may initially feel hungry during the fasting period, but your body will slowly get used to it with time. Choose the one your body is comfortable with.
The following are some of the popular methods of this fasting technique:
1. The 16/8 Method
Also known as the Leangains protocol, this technique involves fasting for 14 hours for women, or 16 hours for men, and then eating in the remaining 8 – 10 hours. This protocol restricts the time in which you eat, during which you can take one, two, or more meals. Black coffee, sugar-free chewing gum, tea, coffee, and calorie-free sweeteners are allowed in the fasting period. This fasting method is easy if you skip breakfast after fasting overnight. People usually break their fast 6 – 8 hours after waking. Since this eating pattern is easy to adapt, most of the practitioners find this method comfortable.
Pros: This method is easy to follow, as all you need to do is ensure you only eat within the 8 hour period. Many people break this period into two or three healthy meals.
Cons: This method involves guidelines on which food to eat, especially when you are working out. Following strict nutrition guidelines and scheduling your meals around workouts can be little tough.
2. Eat Stop Eat
In this method, you go on a 24 hour fast once or twice per week. Fasting from lunch one day until lunch the next day, for example. This method of eating reduces overall calorie intake. Initially, start with a shorter fasting duration and increase it gradually to 24 hours. When combined with regular workouts, especially resistance training, this fasting method can help in successful weight loss.
Pros: This program is flexible in that you do not have to take food for 24 hours, which makes it suitable for those with busy schedules and no time to eat. Also, there are no restrictions on food or calories.
Cons: Fasting for 24 hours can be tough. Longer fasting periods requires stronger will power, as there is an urge for snacking in between. Extended fasting periods can also cause annoying symptoms including fatigue, headaches, or feelings of anxiety. Hence, this method is not recommended for people with adrenal fatigue.
3. The 5:2 Diet
This method involves eating 500-600 calories per day on any two non-successive days a week. On the other five days of the week, you are free to eat what you want. The idea is that restricting calorie intake will help in losing weight.
Pros: Since this method doesn’t involve a total fast, it can be helpful for people who cannot go without food for long periods.
Cons: You need to keep a watch on your calories on the dieting days, which can be tough, especially for people who travel frequently or who practice strenuous workouts.
4. The Warrior Diet
This method involves undereating during the 20-hour fasting phase with a 4-hour eating window. The technique here is fasting the whole day with small snacks and feasting at night. The 20 hour fasting period allows raw fruits, fresh juice, veggies, and a few proteins. This helps to boost the response of your sympathetic nervous system. The process promotes fat burning, alertness, and boosts energy. The remaining 4-hour window is the overeating phase during the evening. It maximizes the parasympathetic nervous system. This helps to calm and relax the mind, support healthy hormone secretion, promote digestion, and utilize the nutrients for growth and repair during sleep.
Pros: Many people are more inclined to the warrior diet because it allows small healthy snacks in the fasting period. Further, there are reports of successful weight loss and enhanced energy levels.
Cons: Though small snacks are allowed in the fasting phase, there are certain food guidelines to follow. It can also interfere with schedules and social gatherings. This diet can be tough for those who do not prefer large, late night meals.
5. Fat Loss Forever
This is a blend of the 16/8 method, the warrior diet, and the eat stop eat diet into a single plan. It includes one cheat day in a week, followed by 36 hours fasting. The remaining seven days are divided among following the various other fasting protocols. Long fasting days are recommended for busy days. The method also includes workouts and training programs for maximum fat burning.
Pros: Fat loss forever offers a seven-day fasting schedule which helps your body to adjust to the process, helping reap the full benefits from the fasting phase. It also comes with a cheat day.
Cons: This method involves the longest fasts. Also, the cheat days can encourage overeating. The plans in this method are also very specific, which can make them a bit confusing to follow.
6. The Alternate Day Diet
As the name suggests, this eating pattern calls for eating very little every alternate day. On fasting days, eat 500 or so calories. Eat normally on other days. When on this eating plan, it is wise to gym on normal days.
Pros: For weight loss goals, this diet works great. Cutting 20 to 35 percent of calories on low calories days can help you lose around two and a half pounds a week.
Cons: Though easy to follow, there is always an urge to overindulge on normal days. This can be checked by planning your meals in advance.
Health Benefits Of Intermittent Fasting
Fasting can have some interesting benefits. These include:
- Effective weight loss
- Reduced inflammation
- Reversed insulin resistance
- Improved heart and brain health
- Reduced risk of cancer
Though this fasting method offers several health benefits, some people need to consult a doctor before trying intermittent fasting. This includes people who are underweight, breastfeeding, pregnant, or trying to conceive, or who have eating disorders, adrenal fatigue, low or fluctuating blood pressure, low or fluctuating blood sugar, or diabetes.
Intermittent Fasting and Adrenal Fatigue
Everyday stress can sometimes leave you feeling fatigued. However, if you frequently experience excess fatigue along with symptoms such as anxiety, insomnia, difficulty in waking up, reduced concentration, irritation, salty food cravings, and brain fog, then Adrenal Fatigue Syndrome (AFS) can be the underlying reason.
You body is equipped with the NeuroEndoMetabolic (NEM) Stress Response, a natural self-regulatory system that protects the body from excess stress. During stress, your adrenal glands release anti-stress hormones including cortisol and adrenaline. Balancing these hormone levels is crucial for healthy body functioning. Intermittent fasting, however, can raise cortisol levels causing an imbalance which can worsen adrenal fatigue.
Several hormones jointly function to regulate your appetite, hunger, and satisfaction levels. These hunger hormones need to be in balance for the metabolic circuit of the NEM Stress Response to function well.
However, fasting can cause an imbalance in your hunger hormones. For example, insulin and leptin decrease hunger by signaling your brain to stop eating when you are full. If there is any disturbance in these hormones, your brain will not receive the signal of hunger satisfaction. People who fast may often experience fluctuations in hunger hormones and end up battling with an uncontrollable appetite.
Therefore, instead of full fasting methods, it can be a wise alternative to opt for a 10 – 12 hour eating window to reap the benefits of fasting without disturbing your hunger hormones.
Intermittent fasting is not recommended for everyone. Hence it is always advisable to consult your doctor before you begin fasting. Those with blood sugar fluctuations and diabetes should stay away from fasting as it may lead to hypoglycemia and blood sugar imbalance symptoms. If you suffer from adrenal fatigue, intermittent fasting is also not suggested.
Balancing blood sugar is a delicate process. In adrenal fatigue, low energy levels make this process all the more difficult. It is important to help your body out by balancing your blood sugar externally, with food choices and frequently eating throughout the day.
Fasting also increases your craving for coffee. Caffeine overdose stimulates your brain and signals your body that it is under stress. This results in cortisol secretion. High cortisol levels release glucose stores into the bloodstream causing spikes in your blood sugar.
Toxin accumulation can also trigger AFS. Though fasting can work as a natural detox, professional guidance is vital as improper detoxification can further deteriorate the condition. Aggressive fasting and detoxification can drain your body’s energy and raise toxin levels in your body. Gentle body detoxification under professional guidance can be good for mild fatigue conditions. Moreover, in most people with an advanced adrenal exhaustion, detox does not happen in a regular pattern, leading to re-toxification that worsens the symptoms of adrenal fatigue. Most detoxification programs can prove dangerous in cases of advanced adrenal fatigue. Hence, a more gentle approach and nourishment program can be a better idea.
Intermittent fasting is an eating pattern that helps in effective weight loss without involving strict dieting. When combined with healthy eating choices and workouts, this form of fasting can help lose weight and gain healthy body mass. Besides losing fat, there are other health benefits associated with this eating method.
There are various intermittent fasting methods that you can adapt based on your body’s needs. Having a low-calorie meal during the fasting period can be a good fit for many. However, it takes time for your body to adjust to the new eating patterns, so it is advisable to begin slowly with shorter fast periods, extending them gradually.
Keep in mind, though, that intermittent fasting is not for everybody, as everyone’s body is different. Fasting can cause cortisol dysfunction and other issues. This fasting technique is not advisable for people with AFS. Instead, a good blend of nourishment programs and a mild detox plan under professional guidance are more effective tools for those recovering from adrenal fatigue.
© Copyright 2017 Michael Lam, M.D. All Rights Reserved.
Dr. Lam’s Key Question
How can intermittent fasting affect your hormones and cells?
During intermittent fasting, there are numerous changes that occur in your body at various levels including on the molecular, cellular, and hormone level. Insulin levels drop considerably, making stored fat more accessible which results in weight loss. Growth hormone increases, helping in fat loss and gaining muscle. The body also initiates the cellular repair process in the fasting period, during which the build up of dysfunctional and old proteins can be better removed from cells.