To understand all about the health benefits, you first need to know the intermittent fasting meaning. So basically, intermittent fasting requires you to not eat for a period of time every single day or week. This fasting method isn't about starving yourself, but it's about cutting down your calorie intake for short periods of time. You become satisfied with smaller portion sizes while reducing your cravings for unhealthy foods when you practice intermittent fasting.
Benefits of Intermittent Fasting:
Now that you got an idea of what intermittent fasting means, here are some health benefits of it that you might not know of.
1. It Helps You Shed Some Weight:
One of the greatest benefits of intermittent fasting is that it can help with weight loss. This is because this type of fasting makes you eat fewer meals while enhancing hormone function to facilitate weight loss. Intermittent fasting to lose weight works well as it boosts your metabolic rate and reduces the amount of food you consume (1).
2. It Helps Improve Insulin Resistance:
One of the intermittent fasting benefits is that it can aid in decreasing fasting blood glucose and improving insulin sensitivity through lowering the concentrations of leptin - a hormone that is produced by fat cells to regulate hunger. It also increases adiponectin - a hormone that is vital for glucose and lipid metabolism (2). So people who practice intermittent fasting usually experience lower levels of blood glucose which can in turn help diabetes prevention and management.
3. It Can Aid in Reducing Oxidative Stress and Inflammation:
The one major thing that contributes to ageing and other chronic illnesses is oxidative stress (3). It involves unstable molecules that are known as free radicals. Free radicals have the ability to react with other important molecules like protein and DNA and damage them as well (4). One of the benefits of intermittent fasting includes enhancing your body's resistance to oxidative stress. This type of fasting can also help with fighting inflammation which is another key driver for many common diseases.
Types of Intermittent Fasting:
Once you understand the intermittent fasting benefits, you need to know about the different types of the same. There are four main approaches to intermittent fasting:
1. Daily Time-Restricted Fasting:
There are two methods for this approach - The 16/8 method where you can eat normally but only within an eight-hour window every day. Which means you only eat between 10 am to 6 pm. The 14/10 method is where you only eat your normal diet between am to pm. You can repeat either of these methods as often as you'd like or even once a week, however, you prefer it.
2. Alternate-Day Fasting:
This means that you consume a normal diet one day and either completely fast or only have one small meal which is less than 500 calories the next day. For instance, you need to limit your calories to about 25% of your normal intake or 500 calories a day on the days you fast. On non-fasting days, you can eat a healthy normal diet as per your liking.
3. 5:2 Fasting:
This one includes eating a normal diet five days a week and fasting for two days a week. This intermittent fasting type concentrates on capping your calories at 500 for two days a week and during the other five days, you can maintain a healthy and normal diet. It's important to focus on high-fiber and high-protein food items that will help you feel satiated and keep calories low when you're fasting. You can choose two fasting days and keep a non-fasting day in between them.
4. Eat-Stop-Eat Fasting:
This method of intermittent fasting includes fasting entirely for 24 hours. Usually, it's only done once or twice a week. Most people prefer fasting from breakfast to breakfast or lunch to lunch. This version of intermittent fasting can have side effects like fatigue, headaches, hunger, irritability and low energy. When you follow this method of intermittent fasting, you must return to eating a healthy diet on non-fasting days.
Food Items to Eat on Intermittent Fasting:
When you start practising any of the above-mentioned intermittent-fasting types, there are certain food items that will help.
1. Cruciferous Veggies:
Veggies like cauliflower, Brussels sprouts and broccoli are loaded with fiber. When you eat during certain intervals, fiber-rich foods help the most to keep your bowel movement in control. These fiber-rich vegetables can also keep you feeling full for longer hours which is great if you're only going to eat again after 16 hours.
As avocados have high unsaturated fat content, they can keep you feeling full during long fasting periods. Adding just half an avocado to your lunch can keep you satiated for a longer duration.
3. Beans and Legumes:
This could be your favourite addition to your diet as beans and legumes can keep you perked up during fasting time. Foods like black beans, peas, chickpeas and lentils may aid in decreasing body weight even without calorie restriction.
When you have one large egg, it can provide you with 6.3 grams of protein (5). And as mentioned earlier, getting as much protein as possible during fasting can keep you full and build muscle, especially when you're consuming less food. So if you're looking to eat something during fasting periods, consider eating hard-boiled eggs.
5. Fish and Seafood:
Fish and other seafood items are rich in healthy fats and protein and are also loaded with vitamin D (6). If you're eating during limited windows, you'd want to eat something that gives you more nutrition. To top it all, there are several ways to cook fish, so you'll never get bored of eating the same thing.
Other than natural foods, you can also try some slim meal shakes to keep you satiated for longer durations. We recommend you try the Saffola Fittify Hi-Protein Meal Replacement Shake - Assorted Pack. This assorted pack contains flavours like Cookies & Cream, Pistachio Almond, Alphanso Mango and Swiss Chocolate. This high-protein slim meal shake is a healthy and delicious shake that is formulated with a beautiful blend of the best-in-class whey and casein protein that supports lean muscle building. It also contains natural dietary fiber, 26 vitamins and minerals and 5 superfoods like moringa, amaranth, chia seeds, quinoa and turmeric - all of which help you manage weight.
Side Effects of Intermittent Fasting:
There are some challenges that some people might face while practising intermittent fasting (7). These side effects include:
1. Cravings and Hunger:
This is one of the most common side effects of intermittent fasting. There are two main reasons why you might feel hungry or crave certain foods - if you aren't eating enough calories and if you're addicted to eating a lot of carbs.
2. Lightheadedness and Headaches:
These two are common to experience when you just starting off to practice intermittent fasting as the first few transitional days are difficult. Mild headaches and lightheadedness are due to low blood sugar and withdrawal from caffeine.
3. Constipation, Diarrhea, Nausea, and Bloating:
All of these are also common digestive symptoms of intermittent dating that can occur when you're transitioning into fasting days. These side effects are noticed due to two factors - electrolyte imbalances and dehydration and dietary changes that are associated with intermittent fasting.
4. Mood Swings and Irritability:
When you cut off the constant supply of sugar, it can trigger withdrawal symptoms that can include anxiety, mood swings, irritability and difficulty in concentrating. These side effects might subside when you start to feel a sense of achievement, self-control and pride at the end of your fasting periods.
5. Bad Breath:
Bad breath while you're fasting can occur due to an increase of acetone, dehydration, reduction of salivatory flow and changes in your microbiota. You might experience nail polish kind of breath as your body increases fat metabolism as a result of carb restriction.
Now that you have the entire guide to intermittent fasting, you might have understood all that it's good for. While there are some side effects associated with intermittent fasting, they aren't extreme and can be taken care of if you know how to follow your fasting methods and the kind of foods to eat. Don't be too hard on yourself just while you're starting with intermittent fasting. If you fail, it's alright, you can always start over.
How safe is intermittent fasting?
Intermittent fasting is quite safe for a lot of people, but again, it's not for everyone. Skipping meals might not be the best idea to manage weight if you're pregnant or breastfeeding. If you have kidney stones, diabetes or other medical issues, you need to talk to your doctor before thinking of practising intermittent fasting.
Can I exercise while doing intermittent fasting?
Yes, it's alright to work out while you're fasting as the key to managing weight and muscle gain is not only to cut down calories through food but also with exercising. When you combine intermittent fasting with sprint training, it can benefit you on a whole different level.
Will I feel hungry while intermittent fasting?
When you're starting out with intermittent fasting, it might make you feel hungry or crave food as your body is still getting used to the fasting periods. When you reduce your calorie intake or go long hours without consuming any calories, you may experience increased hunger.