We all want to know how to be healthier these days. But with so much varying nutrition and fitness info out there, it can be hard to know which diet to try or which exercise plan is the best for you. Counting macros? Doing a HIIT workout? What do all of these things even mean?
Among all of the overwhelming info, you’ve probably seen the term “intermittent fasting” being thrown around in there too. It’s a relatively new term, but one that’s gaining much popularity in the health and wellness world.
What is intermittent fasting?
Just what it sounds like, intermittent fasting involves periods of fasting and eating. Most typically, intermittent fasting methods require a 16-hour fasts or sometimes even fasting for 24 hours.
There are several ways to go abut this. Here are the three most popular methods:
- The 16/8 method: You also might hear this be referred to as the Leangains protocol, the 16/8 method means you eat for eight hours a day, but not right when you wake up (say bye to breakfast). A typical time is 12-8 or 1–9 p.m. Then you fast for 16 hours in between this.
- Eat-Stop-Eat: This involves fasting for 24 hours, once or twice a week. Most people do this by skipping dinner the first day and then not eating until dinner the next day, but you can customize it as you see fit.
- The 5:2 diet: This method requires you to limit your calorie intake to 500-600 calories on two non-consecutive days of the week (so a Wednesday and Saturday or a Sunday and Tuesday, etc.). You eat as you normally do the other five days of the week.
What are the benefits of intermittent fasting?
These methods might sound a bit extreme, right? But they actually do have a wealth of benefits, evidence has shown. Here are just a few of them:
- Weight loss. One of the biggest benefits to intermittent fasting is paring pounds. Because intermittent fasting changes your hormone levels, a study published in the American Journal of Physiology showed that this type of short-term fasting can increase your metabolic rate by 3.6–14 percent. Another study in Translational Research showed how quickly the weight can come off: People lost 3–8 percent of their loss and 4-7 percent of their waist circumference over the course of 3–24 weeks.
- Heart health. Studies have shown that intermittent fasting might reduce LDL (“bad”) cholesterol, blood triglycerides, inflammatory markers, blood sugar and insulin resistance. These are all risk factors for heart disease.
- Disease protection. As powerful as it sounds, intermittent fasting is said to help fight diabetes by lowering blood sugar and fasting insulin levels, according to a 2014 review of studies. Additionally, it helped reduce the risk of cancer in rats in a study published in Cancer Investigation.
Additionally, research suggests that intermittent fasting can keep inflammation at bay, regulate brain health, and even boasts anti-aging effects.
It’s important to note that most of the research on intermittent fasting is still preliminary; many of these studies are small and some, as noted, were done on animals.
Also know that intermittent fasting isn’t for everyone. Fasting can cause numerous adverse effects on your body. It isn’t dangerous, but it can cause you to feel weak, not be able to concentrate well, and, well, it can make you kind of hangry (hunger + anger).
You definitely want to speak with your health care provider before trying it out, especially if you have some kind of health issue, are underweight, or are pregnant or breastfeeding. Your doc should be able to tell you more about it, answer any questions you might have, and how to get started, if you do decide you want to give it a shot.
Have you ever or would you ever try intermittent fasting? If you have, did you reap any benefits?