An Introduction to Intermittent Fasting

An Introduction to Intermittent Fasting

Two common-sense principles have long dominated the diet conversation: (1) always eat breakfast and (2) eat many small meals spaced evenly throughout the day. The justifications for these two facts are related. Eating breakfast is said to "kickstart your metabolism", which will help you burn more calories; and it may prevent you from overeating in other meals. Similarly, eating many small meals - up to 6 - per day will ensure that your metabolism roars throughout the day and helps with portion control.

A new diet pattern called intermittent fasting is challenging this conventional wisdom. Intermittent fasting is not really a diet since it does not tell you what to eat, but rather when to eat. And it stands as an alternative to the two views above.

Background

Intermittent fasting is a diet plan that incorporates intentionally skipping meals. This means you'll get calories only during specific, controlled times of day. One popular method of intermittent fasting is the following: Regularly eat only during a set time period like 2-9PM; have lunch at 2, some snacks, and dinner around 8PM. A more intense version would reduce the eating interval from 7 hours (2-9PM) down to 6 or even 4 hours. This is a variable that you will have to adjust based on results and what you feel you can sustain.

How does it work?

The effect of intermittent fasting is best described by first describing the effects of eating several small meals throughout the day. In this latter plan, your body constantly has energy (from food) to fuel its everyday activities: walking to work, working out, etc. However, with intermittent fasting, there is a long period of the day where your body does not get energy from food. So it must rely on fat stores in your body for energy. Thus, every time you perform an activity, you're burning body fat.

Drawbacks

Although intermittent fasting can be highly effective as a weight loss tool, it does have its drawbacks. Going without food for extended periods of time can, predictably, lead to fatigue and feelings of hunger. But any weight loss diet should lead to fatigue, since only in a fatigued state will your body start burning body fat for energy. However, this effect is much more pronounced when you start intermittent fasting. You'll get used to it. For this reason, we recommend gradually adjusting your eating patterns to an intermittent fasting schedule. For example, try pushing your first meal back 30 minutes per day for a week or two.

Health Considerations

As with any major change to your diet, you should consult a physician prior to starting the plan. This is especially true with a plan like intermittent fasting, and is absolutely necessary if you have issues managing blood sugar, cholesterol, or diabetes.


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