A Beginner’s Guide To Intermittent Fasting (I.F.)


Intermittent fasting (IF) is an eating pattern that cycles between periods of Fasting and Eating. I.F protocols are primarily based around the “eating window”, which then puts your body into large periods of fasting and this has powerful metabolic and biochemical effects within the body. 


Fasting has been a practice throughout human evolution. Ancient hunter-gatherers didn’t have access to readily available food sources, as we have today.  Many times they didn’t even find anything to eat for days together.  As a result, humans have naturally evolved to function without food for extended periods of time. Fasting from time to time is more natural than always eating 3-4 (or more) meals per day. Fasting is also commonly followed by certain religions.

What happens while you fast?

Several things happen at the cellular level that causes hunger and fatigue during the initial stage of fasting. When you are eating regularly, your body breaks down glucose to get the energy it needs to function properly. While you are fasting, your body needs to produce glucose to get the energy, so it begins a process called gluconeogenesis. During gluconeogenesis, your liver converts non-carbohydrate materials like lactate, amino acids, and fats into glucose. At this stage, you may feel drained but you will regain your energy soon. 

Optimal Utilization of fat

When you consume a typical diet of carbohydrates rich foods, your body breaks down sugars and starches into glucose. However, when you fast or go into ketosis, availability of glucose becomes limited, and your body must turn to fat stores for energy. Your body fat breaks down to glycerol and fatty acids. The liver synthesizes ketones using glycerol. The glycerol is broken down by the liver for additional glucose, and finally, those ketones are used by your brain as glucose becomes less available.


Health Benefits

There are many studies on intermittent fasting, in both animals and humans. These studies have shown that it can have powerful benefits for weight control and health of your body and brain. Intermittent fasting is also said to be helpful in reducing the risk of type 2 diabetes, one of the biggest killers of modern society. It is believed that it may even help one live longer.

Following are some established benefits of Intermittent Fasting:

  • FAT LOSS: Intermittent fasting when combined with Nutritional Ketosis (NK) is the most effective at Fat-Loss. On the other hand, fasting can extremely be challenging on a carb-rich diet, even if it is a high-fibre diet consisting of salads, veggies and fruits. 
  • INSULIN RESISTANCE: Intermittent Fasting can reduce/prevent insulin resistance, lowering blood sugar by 3-6% and fasting insulin levels by 20-31%, which should protect against type 2 diabetes.
  • INFLAMMATION: Several studies show large reductions in markers of inflammation, a key driver of most chronic diseases, including heart disease and Alzheimer's.
  • BRAIN HEALTH: Intermittent Fasting increases the brain hormone BDNF and may aid the growth of new nerve cells. It may also protect against Alzheimer’s disease. 
  • HEART HEALTH: Intermittent Fasting helps reduce “bad” VLDL cholesterol, blood triglycerides, inflammatory markers, blood sugar and insulin resistance – all risk factors for heart disease. 
  • CANCER: Some studies suggest that Intermittent fasting may prevent cancer owing to low inflammation within the body and glucose-deprivation to potentially malignant cells. 
  • ANTI-ageing: Studies show that intermittent fasting can extend lifespan in subjects. 
Intermittent Fasting Methods:


  • The 16/8 Method: Fast For 16 Hours Each Day. 

The 16/8 Method means fasting every day for 14-16 hours and restricting daily eating window to 8 hours. You can include 2, 3 or more meals within this eating window. This is also known as the LeanGains protocol and was popularized by fitness expert Martin Berkhan. This is said to be the easiest approach for following Intermittent Fasting as it can be as simple as skipping breakfast directly having lunch after 12 noon and getting done with your dinner by 8 pm. So, technically it will be fasting for 16 hours from your last meal of the day to the first meal of the next day. It is generally recommended for women to fast only for 14-15 hours because they seem to do better with slightly shorter fasts. You can drink water, coffee and other non-caloric beverages during the fast; it will also help reduce hunger levels. It is very important not to include junk food or excessive amounts of calories.

  • Eat-stop-eat: Do A 24-hour Fast, Once Or Twice A Week.

Eat-Stop-Eat means a 24-hour fast, either once or twice per week. This method was popularized by Brad Pilon and has been quite popular for a few years. Water, coffee and other non-caloric beverages are allowed during the fast, but no solid food. 

The problem with this method is that a full 24-hour fast can be fairly difficult for many people.

  • Alternate-day Fasting: Fast Every Other Day. 

Alternate-Day fasting is a planned method where you fast or starve for 24hours followed by 24 hours of normal eating without binging on food. There are different versions of it where some allow 500 calories on the days of fasting where others stick to non-caloric beverages. Alternate-Day Fasting seems to be a bit unsustainable in the long run as becomes difficult to go to bed hungry for several times in a week. 


  • The Warrior Diet (20:4 diet)

It involves eating small amounts of raw fruits and vegetables during the day, then eating one huge meal at night. Here you fast whole day and feast during a 4-hour window at night. It is all about eating small amounts of vegetables and fruits during the day and then eating one huge meal at night. Warrior Diet was the first popular “diets” to include a form of intermittent fasting. It was popularized by fitness expert Ori Hofmekler. Food choices in this diet are quite similar to paleo diet i.e. unprocessed, whole, natural food sources. 


Type of Intermittent

Fasting

1st Meal

Time

Last Meal

Time

Fed

State

Post

Absorptive

State

Fasting State


Star rating in terms

of fat burning

20:4


12 pm


4 pm


4 pm - 9 pm


9 pm - 4 am


4 am to 12 pm

( 8 hours a day)

*****


Alternate day

(Day 1,3,5,7 will be Feasting days and

Day 3,4,6 will be Fasting days)

8 am

(Day 1)

8 am

(Day 2)

8 am - 1 pm

(Day 2)

1 pm - 8 pm

(Day 2)

8 pm - 8 am

(12 hours each day,

3 days a week)

****

16:8


12 pm


8 pm


8 pm - 11 pm


11 pm - 8 am


8 am - 12 pm

(4 hours a day) 

***


Eat/ Shop/ Eat -

One day a week fast

8 am

(Day 1)

8 am

(Day 2)

8 am - 11 am

(Day 2)

11 am - 8 pm

(Day 2)

8 pm - 8 am

(one day a week)

**



*Fed State – Starts when you begin eating, lasts till 3-5 hours


*Post Absorptive state – It is 8-12 hours after the last meal, in this state body is not processing a meal


*Fasting state – Natural fat burning state, it is 12 hours after the last meal


Intermittent Fasting has an outstanding safety profile. There is nothing dangerous about not eating for a while if you are healthy and well-nourished overall.  However, if you belong to any of the following categories, you should consult a physician before considering intermittent fasting :

  • Are you pregnant or breastfeeding?
  • Are you a woman with a history of amenorrhea?
  • Are you an athlete with specific performance goals?
  • Are you chronically underweight?
  • Do you have Eating disorders?
  • A woman trying to conceive?
  • Have low blood pressure?
  • Have diabetes?
  • Have a problem with blood sugar regulation?

The ideal form of Intermittent Fasting would be when combined with Nutritional Ketosis (NK) to help reduce inflammation and burn body fat. Which protocol you choose from the ones mentioned above would depend on your lifestyle, fitness goals and general metabolic condition. All said, with hundreds of thousands of people taking to I.F across the world, one thing is for sure; Intermittent Fasting is not a fad diet. It is here to stay.

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