While the idea of not eating for long periods of time might sound miserable, the truth of the matter is that sustaining from eating offers numerous health benefits. In fact, this form of fasting has become quite popular in the fitness community and is typically known as intermittent fasting.
Intermittent fasting involves not eating for extended periods of time, and then eating all of your calories for the day in a short period of time. It’s been shown to carry a number of health benefits including increased weight loss, increased heart health, a reduction in the risk of diabetes, and more. There are a seemingly endless amount of positive intermittent fasting results.
This is far from a fad diet. It’s been used successfully for many years by people of all fitness levels. Capable of being carried out in a number of different variations, certain styles of intermittent fasting produce better intermittent fasting results for certain people. There is no one-size-fits-all version of intermittent fasting. It’s all about trying different variations of fasting and eating until you get one that works for you.
This article is designed to tell you everything there is to know about intermittent fasting, which ranges from its benefits and its different variations to fasting tips and more. Read on to learn about one of the most popular and effective diets currently in use.
Table of Contents
Benefits of Intermittent Fasting
There is no shortage of health benefits involved with intermittent fasting. Some of these benefits have been proven while others are only suspected. In either case, there are plenty of positive results to benefit from. Intermittent fasting:
Helps to lose weight – Perhaps the number one reason that people use intermittent
fasting is to spur on weight loss. Intermittent fasting results in weight loss for a number of reasons. The two biggest reasons are a reduction in overall meals and a change in hormone functioning.
In most variations of intermittent fasting, you’ll only eat one or maybe two meals a day. Provided that you don’t go above your daily maximum caloric intake in these one or two meals, you will be burning off more calories than you’re taking in. And, of course, burning off more calories than you’re taking in is the way that you lose weight.
The other way in which intermittent fasting results in losing weight is by changing your hormone functioning. Fasting has been shown to lower insulin levels, increase growth hormone levels, and increase adrenaline levels. By changing the ways in which these hormones operate, intermittent fasting is essentially speeding up your metabolism.
Perhaps the best thing about losing weight with intermittent fasting is that it doesn’t cause as much muscle loss as does typical dieting. This means that you’ll be burning off what you want to burn off; fat and not muscle.
Reduces risk of type 2 diabetes – Another important benefit that you’ll receive from
using intermittent fasting is a reduction in the risk of type 2 diabetes. In an age in which type 2 diabetes has become more and more prevalent, this is a huge benefit to have.
The reason that intermittent fasting results in the reduction of the risk of type 2 diabetes is that it helps to reduce overall insulin resistance. By reducing overall insulin resistance, it is able to also reduce overall blood sugar levels. Since high blood sugar levels are the primary cause of type 2 diabetes, it stands very little chance of developing.
Studies show that it reduces blood sugar levels by three to six percent, while it can reduce insulin levels by 20 to 31 percent. This is a sizable reduction, to say the least.
However, there is one caveat to this benefit: it tends to only be true for males. In most cases, women have seen no reduction in either insulin or blood sugar levels. But, that’s not to say that women shouldn’t try intermittent fasting. When used correctly, women can still still achieve great results.
Improves heart health – While it’s not for certain, there is some reason to believe that
intermittent fasting results in better overall heart health. Heart disease is the number one killer of human beings throughout the world, so it’s necessary to do as much as possible to counteract it.
Doctors, scientists, and nutritionists have seen evidence of intermittent fasting decreasing blood pressure, lowering cholesterol, reducing inflammation, and reducing blood sugar levels. Inflammation itself is a huge cause of many other diseases. So, by reducing inflammation, intermittent fasting also reduces the risk of a host of other health problems.
As of yet, there have not been a great deal of studies performed with humans to determine whether or not intermittent fasting results in positive overall human heart health. However, the studies which have been done, as well as studies which have been performed with animals, show that intermittent fasting does produce positive heart health benefits.
Again, even if heart health benefits do not come from using intermittent fasting, there are a number of other benefits which do. If heart health is improved by intermittent fasting, it’s just an added bonus.
Helps to reduce the risk of cancer – Several studies performed with animals have
shown that intermittent fasting results in a reduction of the risk of cancer. While no studies have yet been performed with humans, it is believed that intermittent fasting would have the exact same result on humans as it does on animals.
The reason that intermittent fasting results in this is that it promotes faster cell repair and increased metabolism. Both of these things have been shown to stave off cancer from forming in the human body. Cancer patients who have participated in intermittent fasting have seen reduced side-effects from chemotherapy and other cancer treatments.
There is also evidence to suggest that intermittent fasting reduces the existence of IGF-1, a hormone that is often linked to cancer. In fact, doctors are currently trying to get intermittent fasting FDA approved so that they can recommend it to their patients.
While there is not yet any definitive proof of the cancer-reducing powers of intermittent fasting, there is quite a bit of evidence to suggest that it does play a part in reducing the risk of cancer. It’s certainly not going to hurt to do intermittent fasting, so you’d might as well give it a go.
Improves overall brain functioning – Perhaps the most beneficial aspect of intermittent
fasting is the positive effect it has on your brain. Because of its ability to improve various metabolic features, it takes much of the strain off of your brain, allowing it to relax more than it otherwise would.
Several animal studies have been performed which show that intermittent fasting reduces oxidative stress, reduces inflammation, reduces blood sugar levels, and reduces insulin resistance levels. By reducing all of these body chemicals, intermittent fasting essentially takes pressure off of the brain.
A number of different brain diseases can help be prevented by using intermittent fasting. These diseases include depression, alzheimer’s disease, and general inflammation. Intermittent fasting has also been shown to reduce the side effects of stroke.
By reducing certain body chemical levels, and by increasing certain others, intermittent fasting makes your brain much more healthy overall. Not only does it improve your overall psychological health, but it also reduces your chance of contracting any serious brain diseases.
Variations of Intermittent Fasting
There is no one-size-fits-all way of doing intermittent fasting. The diet can be used in a number of different ways. Everyone has a different variation that works the best for them. The key is to find the variation that not only produces the best intermittent fasting results for you, but that is also realistically sustainable over time. Now, let’s discuss five of the most common intermittent fasting variations.
The 16/8 Method
The first intermittent fasting variation we’re going to discuss is the 16/8 method. Invented by Martin Berkhan, this variation of intermittent fasting is designed to promote both weight loss and muscle growth. It involves fasting for 16 hours straight, and then giving yourself an 8-hour window in which you can consume your calories for the day.
This variation of intermittent fasting is fairly easy to carry out, allowing you to sleep for around half of the 16 straight hours that you need to fast. You can eat, for the most part, whatever you want within your 8-hour eating window. Of course, you need to try to stay at your maximum amount of calories, and also make an effort to eat food that is nutritious and healthy.
Let’s say your eating window ends at 9:00 PM. You will now have to fast from 9:00 PM until 16 hours later. This isn’t to say that you can’t consume anything at all. We recommend drinking plenty of water between your last bite of food and your bedtime. This will not only keep you hydrated, but will also help to keep you psychologically full while you’re not eating food.
Let’s say you went to bed on Monday night at 11:00 and wake up at 7:00 AM on Tuesday morning. At this point you’re still in your fasting window. In fact, you aren’t allowed to eat any food until 1:00 PM. 9:00 PM on Monday until 1:00 PM on Tuesday makes a full 16 hours. What you can do; however, is drink water, coffee, and other healthy, but filling beverages.
Once 1:00 PM rolls around, you can start eating. You will eat your largest meal at 1:00 PM, and then eat a few smaller meals thereafter until your fasting period starts back up at 9:00 PM. From there, you will repeat the process.
Things to Think About
You don’t have to stick to a ratio of exactly 16:8. You can play around with the numbers a bit until you feel comfortable with them.
If you’re incorporating exercise with your diet (which you should), you should train right at the end of your fast. You don’t want to burn off energy right once you consume it. You want to burn it off right before you’re about to consume more. This will produce the best results.
The next variation we’re going to talk about is eat-stop-eat. This variation has been proven to produce some fairly stellar intermittent fasting results. It’s a very simple variation to employ. You simply fast for 24 straight hours two times a week. On the other days of the week, you just consume a totally normal amount of calories.
Don’t overeat on eating days in order to try and make up for calories missed on fasting days. You can drink all of the non-caloric beverages you want, but the entire point is to not intake any calories on fasting days. You can pick any two days to fast that you like.
Let’s say you finish your last of Monday at 9:00 PM. You plan on fasting for 24 hours. You will now eat nothing from 9:00 PM on Monday until 9:00 PM on Tuesday night. You are free to drink water and other non-caloric beverages as you wish.
You will fast all day until 9:00 PM. Starting at 9:00 PM, you can eat for 24 straight hours. Make sure not to overeat. Stay within your caloric intake.
You will not start your next fasting day until Thursday night. That means you eat whenever you want on Wednesday.
On this day, you can eat whenever you want until 9:00 PM. At this time, you will start a 24-hour fast. That means eating nothing and drinking nothing but non-caloric drinks until 9:00 PM on Friday.
This is your last fast day for the week. You will eat nothing until 9:00 PM. At that point, you can go back to your standard eating practices. Repeat this schedule every week, and you’ll be using the eat-fast-eat method.
Things to Think About
A 24-hour fast can be fairly tedious. You should pick your busiest days of the week to fast so that you can keep your mind off of the fact that you haven’t eaten.
If you also make use of a workout regimen, make sure to schedule your workouts on days that you eat. Trying to work out while fasting for 24 hours is exhausting to say the least.
The next variation we’ll discuss is the OMAD Diet. OMAD stands for “One Meal a Day,” and it’s about as simple as it sounds. You quite simply eat one meal throughout the entire day. All of your day’s calories are pushed into one large meal. There is no 4-8 hour eating window in which you can consume food. Just sit down, eat your meal, and wait 24 hours until it’s time for your next meal.
A huge perk of this intermittent fasting variation is that you can eat, within reason, whatever you want. This means that you can eat junk food every night if you desire. Of course, this doesn’t mean that you can overeat. You still must stay within a reasonable caloric intake.
You eat your first and only meal of the day at 9:00 PM. You will now wait 24 hours until your next meal. The only thing you should consume in the meantime is water and other non-caloric liquids.
You will fast all throughout the day until 9:00 PM. When 9:00 PM arrives, you can eat your meal. Consume all of your calories in this one sitting. By repeating this same process every day, you will be engaging in the OMAD Diet.
Things to Think About
Even though you’re not supposed to eat any food when it’s not meal time, this doesn’t mean that you should let it affect your general health and alertness. If you’re starting to feel exhausted, eating a piece of fruit can help to give you a much-needed shot of energy.
If you’re looking to build muscle while using this technique, you might be disappointed. Building muscle requires you to eat quite a few calories. By only eating one meal, you might have trouble getting in enough calories for the day. Typically, this type of fasting results in decreased calorie consumption.
The 5:2 Diet
Very similar to the Eat-Stop-Eat variation, the 5:2 Diet is another variation that has shown positive intermittent fasting results. It differs from the Eat-Stop-Eat variation in just one small way. With the Eat-Stop-Eat, you fast completely for 24 hours two days out of the week.
With the 5:2 Diet, you eat 25 percent of your typical caloric intake on fasting days. It also requires two days of fasting, and 5 days of normal eating. This form of fasting results in a smaller caloric intake without requiring you to sacrifice too much in the ways of meals.
You ate your last big meal on Sunday at 9:00 PM. You know won’t eat another big meal until Monday at 9:00 PM. However, before 9:00 PM, you can consume up to 25 percent of the calories that you would consume on a normal eating day.
So, if you typically eat 2,500 calories on an eating day, you would eat 625 calories on a fasting day. On Monday, until 9:00 PM, you won’t consume any more than 625 calories.
On Tuesday, you can eat whatever you want as long as it stays within your set caloric intake.
Wednesday is another eating day. Again, you can eat whatever you want as long as it stays within your caloric intake. Your next fasting day will start at 9:00 PM on Wednesday. Once 9:00 PM hits, you will have a 24-hour window in which you can only eat 625 calories.
This is a fasting day until 9:00 PM. Keep your caloric intake at 25 percent of your typical caloric intake. At 9:00 PM, your eating window will open up again. By repeating this pattern week to week, you will see some fantastic intermittent fasting results.
Things to Think About
As with all forms of intermittent fasting, you will see the best intermittent fasting results by drinking plenty of water and getting plenty of sleep.
If you’re going to exercise while using this variation, you should try your bests to exercise on eating days. You won’t have the energy to exercise on fasting days.
Alternate Day Fasting
The last variation of intermittent fasting we’ll talk about is alternate day fasting. This is a very simple form of fasting.
To utilize this variation, you simply fast every other day. On eating days, you can eat whatever you want (within reason, of course). This form of intermittent fasting results in weight loss as well as increased energy.
Monday is an eating day. Sunday was a fasting day. You start Monday out by eating a meal at 7:00 AM. From this time until 7:00 AM on Tuesday, you can eat anything you want. Keep in mind that you shouldn’t just stuff your face for the sake of it. The point is to cut calories and not to make up for calories missed on fasting days.
Starting at 7:00 AM on Tuesday, your fasting day will begin. On this day, you will consume no calories. Of course, you are allowed to drink water and other non-caloric beverages. This fast will last until Wednesday morning at 7:00 AM, at which point you can begin another eating day. Simply alternate days like this for the rest of the week.
Things to Think About
While using a full fast on fasting days is recommended, you are allowed to eat small amounts of calories if you wish. Play with your caloric intakes until you reach a point where you feel comfortable.
If you’re going to exercise, make sure to do it on eating days. You will not have enough energy to get through a legitimate workout on a full fasting day. If you want great intermittent fasting results, you need to conserve your energy.
Intermittent fasting results advice
For some, especially those who are just starting, intermittent fasting can be a little difficult to follow through with. Not eating has a way of grating on a person’s nerves, causing a great deal of psychological distress. Fortunately, there are some things you can do in order to see positive intermittent fasting results. They are as follows:
Drink a lot of water – Perhaps the most important thing you need to do when making
use of an intermittent fasting diet is to drink a lot of water. Water not only physically fills up your stomach, but also gives you the psychological feeling of being full. While it’s not ideal, you could also drink other non-caloric beverages like diet soda.
The key to getting positive intermittent fasting results is to only intake calories when you’re supposed to be intaking calories. Cheating, and eating even small meals will all but ruin the effects of the diet. Drink water to keep yourself hydrated and to sate your hunger while you’re waiting for your opportunity to start eating again.
Start slowly – Though you eventually want to get onto a set schedule in order to achieve
maximum intermittent fasting results, it’s important to take it slow when you’re first starting. Slowly build up your tolerance to fasting, allowing yourself to grow accustomed to the feeling of of hunger.
For instance, if you’re attempting to fast for 24 hours straight, start out by fasting for just 16 hours straight. From there, you can slowly work your way up to a 24-hour fast. Not doing this might prompt you to just give up intermittent fasting altogether. Don’t let that happen and be sure to start slow.
Don’t overeat – Once you’ve gotten into your routine, and you’re operating on a set
schedule, it’s important that you’ve also got set caloric intakes. Just because it’s your eating window doesn’t mean that you can just stuff your face with anything in sight.
The point of fasting isn’t so that you can just overindulge when it comes time to eat. In fact, the entire point is to reduce the amount of meals that you have so that you don’t consume too many calories. Be sure to eat within your caloric intake.
When you do eat, eat right – Just as you can’t overeat while using an intermittent
fasting diet, you also can’t just eat anything you want. You still must maintain a healthy diet filled with all of the proper vitamins and nutrients. Keep junk food to a minimum, and keep calories within a reasonable parameter.
While intermittent fasting provides numerous health benefits, all of these benefits will be canceled out by the consumption of poor quality food. It is very important to watch the food that you are consuming.
Keep yourself occupied – When you’re hungry, your natural instinct is to eat. But if
you’re looking for the best results, you must resist this natural urge. This, of course, can be difficult. The best way to resist these urges is to keep yourself as busy as possible.
If you’re exercising, playing video games, drawing, working, or doing anything else, you won’t even have time to think about how hungry you are. You’ll have no choice but to focus on the task at hand. This is exactly what you want. The more you can forget about your hunger urges, the better chance you have at not giving into them.
Exercise – Believe it or not, exercise has actually been proven to decrease hunger. So, if you want to see excellent intermittent fasting results, you might very well want to consider engaging in regular exercise.
Regular exercise can include a 30-minute walk, a 15-minute run, a weightlifting routine, and more. The point is to get your body moving and to get your metabolism firing on all cylinders. Plus, exercise will only help you lose weight. Coupling this diet with exercise makes for the absolute best intermittent fasting results.
Get plenty of sleep – It seems the one thing people forget to do when trying to be
healthy is get enough sleep. They eat the right foods, the perform the right amount of exercises, but they don’t get enough sleep. If you want to see ultimate intermittent fasting results, you must get plenty of sleep.
It’s recommended that you get at least seven hours of sleep a night, though eight or nine hours is ideal. Sleep helps the body to rest and also helps to burn off quite a few calories. If you try intermittent fasting while not getting enough sleep, you are going to feel sluggish, aggravated, and exhausted. Get the best intermittent fasting results by getting enough rest.
Why is intermittent fasting a great diet choice?
While there are tons of different diets that you could try, intermittent fasting offers more benefits than all of them. Not only does it promote weight loss, but it also improves brain, heart, and overall health.
It can be a little difficult to get into at first, but once you’ve gotten into a groove, it’s a very simple diet to carry out. In addition, it also offers you much more freedom in what type of foods you can eat. To put it simply, intermittent fasting results in a body and a metabolism that is always fired up and ready to go.