Intermittent fasting is a dieting pattern that cycles between periods of eating and fasting. It is an umbrella term for various ways of eating that restrict food intake to a certain time window during the day or week.
There are different types of intermittent fasting, but the most common one is the 16:8 method. This involves fasting for 16 hours a day and eating during the other 8 hours.2
Despite its name, intermittent fasting is not a diet. It’s more of a way of structuring your eating schedule. And like any other way of eating, it has both benefits and drawbacks.
The Benefits of Intermittent Fasting
1. Weight loss: One of the main benefits of intermittent fasting is weight loss. When you’re in a fasted state, your body burns through its glucose stores and starts burning stored fat instead.3 This can lead to significant weight loss over time.
2. Improved insulin sensitivity: Insulin resistance is a major risk factor for type 2 diabetes and heart disease. But studies show that intermittent fasting can improve insulin sensitivity by up to 3 times and reduce the risk of developing these diseases.
3. Increased lifespan: Studies have shown that intermittent fasting can increase lifespan by up to 40%.6 This may be due in part to the fact that it reduces inflammation and oxidative stress in the body.
4. Reduced cancer risk: Cancer is characterized by uncontrolled cell growth. Studies show that intermittent fasting can help reduce cancer risk by suppressing cancer cell growth and inducing autophagy (a process where cells break down and recycle their own components).8,9,10,11
How to Start Intermittent Fasting
If you’re interested in trying intermittent fasting, there are a few things you need to know before you get started:
1. You don’t have to fast every day: You can start by fasting just 2-3 days a week until you get used to it. Then gradually increase the number of days until you’re fasting every day.
2. You don’t have to fast for 16 hours: You can start with an 8-hour fast if you’re not used to fasting or if you have a lot of weight to lose. As you get more comfortable with it, you can gradually lengthen the fasted period.
3. You don’t have to eat all your food within an 8-hour window: You can spread out your food intake throughout the day as long as you stay within the 8-hour window. For example, you could eat three meals within a 6-hour window and then have a snack later in the evening.
4. You may experience side effects when starting intermittent fasting: These side effects are usually mild and disappear after a few days or weeks. The most common side effects are headache, fatigue, constipation, and dizziness.
If you experience any serious side effects, stop intermittent fasting and consult your doctor immediately..