Intermittent fasting is the new Keto! In other words, right now it is one of the most popular diet trends in the world. People adopt it to lose weight and improve their health while simplifying their lifestyle. Yes, this diet is not at all difficult to follow and many studies show that it can be very beneficial for the body. It can even help us live longer! Here’s how to make the most of it…
What is Intermittent Fasting?
Intermittent fasting is a kind of eating program that alternates between periods of food stoppage and crusting phases. Most often, they alternate within the 24-hour framework two or three times a week, but other variations are also admissible. Given that this nutrition schedule does not prohibit specific foods or set quantities not to be exceeded, it is not a diet in the conventional sense of the term. But why this new fashion?
In fact, fasting is not new. Ancient hunter-gatherers did not have supermarkets, refrigerators, or food available year-round. Sometimes they couldn’t find anything to eat for long periods of time and they evolved from being able to function by fasting. When you think about it, fasting once in a while is more natural than consuming 3 or more meals a day. It is also practiced for religious or spiritual reasons in Islam, Christianity, Judaism and Buddhism. But today we will not talk about Lent.
Which method to adopt?
There are several ways to practice intermittent fasting, all of which involve dividing the day or week into eating and fasting periods. During fasting periods, you do not consume anything and you only drink water, tea or coffee without additions. A popular interpretation of the idea is to fast for 24 hours once or twice a week. Another variant, 5:2, proposes that we consume only 500 to 600 calories on two non-consecutive days of the week, eating normally the other 5.
But probably the most practiced intermittent fasting is the so-called 16/8. It is also known as the Leangains protocol and it aims to limit our eating period to 8 hours. For example, we eat 2.3 or even 4 times between 1 p.m. and 9 p.m., but then we fast for 16 hours. According to many practitioners, the 16/8 schedule is similarly the most beneficial and the easiest to stick to in the long run.
What are the health benefits?
Many studies have been done on intermittent fasting, both in animals and humans. Research has shown that it can dramatically improve your health, including brain health, and can be a powerful ally in the so-called weight loss battle. Not only does it have the potential to speed up a sluggish metabolism and add years to our lifespan*, it can also:
- fight abdominal fat accumulation without restricting calories too much
- lower blood sugar by 3-6% and fasting insulin by 20-31%, protecting us against type 2 diabetes
- fight the inflammation behind many chronic diseases
- reduce “bad” LDL cholesterol and improve our overall heart health
- prevent the formation of certain types of cancer cells
- stimulate the secretion of the brain hormone BDNF promoting the growth of new nerve cells and protecting against Alzheimer’s disease
*Clinical trials (second link at the bottom of the page) have shown that intermittent fasting can extend the lifespan of rats by 36-83%!
16/8 intermittent fasting and weight loss
Frankly, weight loss is the most common reason people try intermittent fasting. Not only does it lower blood sugar and insulin levels, which can be beneficial for weight loss, but it also increases the release of norepinephrine, a fat-burning hormone. But just because you don’t eat for 16 hours out of 24 doesn’t mean you’ll automatically lose weight… What you eat during the other 8 hours is just as important, if not more so. So what would my typical intermittent fasting schedule look like? What foods can you eat almost without moderation?
First meal, around 12 p.m.: quality meat of your choice accompanied by seasonal salad, integral pasta with pesto sauce, a Buddha bowl with homemade hummus, avocado and raw vegetables or lentil soup with a few slices of ham of turkey on the side. These are just a few examples of the delicacies you can enjoy without remorse after your fasting period.
Snack, between 3 and 4 p.m.: nuts, dried fruit and seeds, plate of vegetables and fresh fruit, seasonal fruit smoothie, Bulgarian yoghurt with cereals, etc.
Dinner, around 7 p.m.: salmon and sautéed vegetables, spinach omelette, broccoli with cheese or large quinoa salad with avocado and fresh vegetables, among many others.
Sources used: www.healthline.com